You know that thing you did when you were a kid, the thing where you try to slide in bad news with good news so your parents wouldn’t get mad? My eldest son tried to play that trick on us this week.
For the most part, John is a good kid. When he steps out of line it’s in normal teenage ways. While usually irritating, he’s not malicious. He doesn’t talk back much. He doesn’t yell at me when he’s angry or slam doors or do any of the other unpleasant things I sometimes hear about from other parents.
John is also an extremely bright kid. He could, if he applied himself, get straight A’s in the most difficult classes. We tell him this all the time, but he doesn’t believe us. We had a couple of years when grades were really an issue. We had to clamp down on him to get his work turned in so he could get credit.
Turning it in was the issue. He would do the work, usually correctly, then lose it or just not turn it in. We went to conferences one semester and sat there as he pulled all the missing work, crumpled and disorganized but complete, out of his binder. It was mind-boggling. He was doing the work, just not turning it in.
Why? Why would anyone ever do that? This was the same year he almost failed gym because he didn’t want to dress out. There was a whole group of boys that just decided they weren’t going to dress out anymore. They would participate in gym, but they’d only get half credit because they weren’t dressed out. He almost failed gym because he didn’t want to change his clothes. He almost failed gym. Seriously.
But, things have changed. He’s doing much better in school. He’s interested and even excited about his classes. He participates and turns in his work. Monday at dinner he told us he had A’s in all but two classes. One class was a B and the other, “was probably a D or an F.”
Umm, excuse me?
We don’t push the kids too hard. When it comes to grades, it’s up to them. We help in any way we can, but they have to do it. The only rule is nothing below a C. Below a C, they start losing privileges. In John’s case it’s soccer. This is hard for me. He loves soccer. He eats, sleeps, and breathes soccer. If he’s not playing it, he’s watching it, if he’s not watching it, he’s talking about it. Sometimes I think it is the only thing that keeps him on the straight and narrow. He made a commitment to his team and we made a huge financial commitment to them. To take that away would be devastating.
But, rules are rules. I struggled with it for days. I was genuinely upset, not just that he had a failing grade but that I was going to have to follow through on a severe punishment. He was angry too. The tension between us was high.
Last night, before heading to his school to hammer it out with the teacher and see what assignments he was missing, what he could make up, and if he could manage a better grade in the next quarter I looked his grades up online. I don’t usually follow their grades online, it’s their responsibility. I wanted to know how bad it was, how many assignments had been missed or tests had been failed.
One missing assignment. One bad test grade, but it had been dropped.
He had a B.
A high B, practically an A.
I’m honestly more mad at him for the stress he caused me than I was for the bad grade.