I believe I am getting very close to losing my chance of ever obtaining the title of “Mother of the Year.” Last night, I was casually looking over my son’s online grades (God love middle school for putting grades online). As I scanned slowly down the list of classes—patting myself on the back for every ‘A’ and smiling at the ‘B’s’—I came across his math grade: ‘F’. We are a family—for good or bad—that doesn’t celebrate anything less than a ‘B’ and this was the first time in my parenting history that I saw an ‘F’ staring at me as if to say, “Ha! Something must have slipped past your high-level parenting skills.”
Something has slipped past my high-level parenting skills—it’s called middle school boy. His ‘F’ was not because he didn’t grasp a concept or has trouble taking tests. It is the result of not turning in homework—homework that has been completed, but somehow never seems to make it into the hands of his teacher. Since I can’t even seem to wrap my mind around this concept, I completely snapped—calling my son in from a late afternoon neighborhood game of football, marching him up to my home office, and yelling at him for being so irresponsible. I can’t even remember everything that was coming out of my mouth. I’m pretty sure some of the standard parenting phrases such as “I am so disappointed in you” and “I know you are better than this grade” were sprinkled in amongst the more immature statements such as “You will never pass sixth grade and will be living in my basement on the couch for the rest of your life.”
My son just stood there looking at me as if my head was getting ready to explode and then his eyes filled with tears. While my daughter is known to turn on and off the tears like a water faucet, my son does not cry. He is the kid that spends most of his time being pounded on the football field or wrestling mat and thinks tears are only reserved for those moments when all other emotions have failed to work. With quivering lips he whispered, “I am so sorry.” “For what?” I snapped waiting for his sarcastic, middle school reply. “For letting you down.”
Suddenly my anger subsided and the ‘F’ that was staring me in the face was replaced by the face of the boy I love so very much—even when his homework is wadded up in the bottom of a locker never to be found again. Although the volume of my voice softened, my son still had to miss wrestling practice in order to get all of his past assignments completed and he was warned that if the grade didn’t turn around by end of week he would be grounded for the weekend.
It is such a frustrating situation as a parent. You constantly feel as if you are balancing the line between inspiring your child to live up to his or her potential and crushing his or her spirit of independence. Time will tell if my tirade of words worked for the good or not. Until then, I have decided that my “Mother of the Year” dreams were pretty much dashed the minute my son walked through the doors of middle school.