ACT 1

Last week my son got his ACT score in the mail. He got an average score. Although my husband and son were satisfied, I was disappointed. I know he has the capability to do so much better.

I worry about him being able to get into a good college. He got 3 F’s on his report card this quarter, one of them being in band. He wants to go to school for music, that should be an easy A. But he skipped out of some pep band performances which brought down his grade.

In his defense, it seems like band and choir require so much more after school participation than I ever remember. The students are required to be at school in the evenings several nights a week for several months. I think it is a big commitment for a 1 credit class. I probably could’ve sent him with a note excusing his absence, but if he could be there…why would I do that?

Anyway, my son thinks that he can get into college once they hear him play. Maybe, maybe not. He is a very talented musician, I’ll give him that. We have been preaching at him about his grades for years. I’m getting sick of nagging him.

What I really have been concerned about lately is not just being able to get into college, but staying in college. He needs to get through the awful prerequisite classes that have nothing to do with what he wants to do. Without college (and even with), it is going to be hard to get anywhere with a career in music.

My son reminds me of my brother Mark.

Mark is a mechanical/building genius. In middle school, he designed blueprints for a water bed. He built the bed out of wood with his design. He created many things, but that was the most impressive for his age.

Mark struggled with school. Every night my mother would sit down with him and try to help him with his assignments. It often ended with a fight. Mark is very smart, but wasn’t good at school. He had problems reading. Later we found out that he struggled with dyslexia.

As expected of him, Mark went off to college for mechanical engineering and failed miserably. He dropped out by the end of his first semester.

Mark is now employed as a machinist. He is a hard worker and loves his work. Right after high school, he bought a lathe machine so he could work after work out of his garage. He learned everything about machines. Not only does he know how to operate them, he knows how to program, troubleshoot, and fix machines.

Mark has an eye for detail. He painstakingly makes sure things are done right. He was the main visionary for a big remodeling project up north on the cabin that has been in the family since the 1950’s. He created a blueprint to build his own house. He is a mechanical genius, but just wasn’t cut out for college. That’s okay, it wasn’t for him.

Sometimes I wonder if we are taking a square peg and trying to make it fit into a round hole.

But how can someone be marketable as a musician without an education??

Maybe he could work in a music store selling instruments. Or he could learn how to fix instruments. Would he be happy doing that and being a small town musician in the evening?

It is really up to him now. We have given him all the tools for success. We’ll see what kind of life he can build out of it.

A brilliant mind, a truant heart

The other day I got a call from the school, during an office lunch, telling me that my son didn’t show up for school. WHAT???

I was almost done eating when I got the call. Good thing because I lost my appetite after I saw that the school was calling. To think, we were actually having a nice conversation about our children. I smiled and waved at another high school mom sitting with a stranger at the next table. Things were going well. I had a lot of stories to tell.

We were listening to our sales guy tell the story of how recently he made evening plans with his adult son. His son called him multiple times but he did not answer. He was at a sales networking event and forgot his phone in the car. His son thinking his dad may have had a heart attack, tried to enter his dad’s house from the unlocked back sliding door on the deck. His son in a rush slipped on the ice, ended up falling through the deck, and broke his leg.

Then the call came from the school. What? My son is not at school? He left early for school today. Why would he get up really early to not attend? Did he run away? Did he get in a car accident and die? He has to be there. Please check again.

I called my son. He said that the school marked him as absent, so he left. I might as well not be there if they say I am not there. That mentality almost makes sense.

Let’s back up a little more.

My son was working on his solo and ensemble pieces before school. Sometimes his practice would spill into first hour. Music means everything to him. Timeliness, not so much. He was working on some very challenging pieces. Last year he was the only sophomore in the history of the school to ever get a perfect score at state in band for his solo. This year the second chair, a senior, played his solo from last year and totally bombed it. It was too hard. This year he picked a graduate level solo. We were really worried that he took on too much. He was feeling the pressure.

My son has a great passion for music and puts everything into it. Although I admire his dedication, I wish he would save some for math and science.. He barely passes although he has the capability of being a straight A student. It is sooooo frustrating.

That morning while his practice moved into his first hour class, he was marked as having an unexcused absence. This could have been easily resolved at the office with the vouching of his band teacher. But instead, my son walked out.

I remained cool, calm, and collected through the whole incident. Although my son admitted that he made a mistake, he still needed to have a consequence for his behavior. This is where things get tricky. In a few months he will be 18. If we punished him too harshly then he would rebel. If we were too lenient, we would be unhappy. Truancy cannot become acceptable.

We ended up finding the fine line through a lot of thought on our part. He did admit to his mistake and said it wouldn’t happen again. If he didn’t admit to the error of his ways, we would’ve had a big battle on our hands. That would’ve changed things.

That evening we had a very long discussion with Alex about his future. What will colleges think when they look at his transcripts and see bad grades in the core subjects plus truancy? We talked to him about our concerns. Surprisingly, we had a very mutually respectful conversation. It was the best heart to heart conversation in a long time. I’m glad I kept my cool. I think if I didn’t handle it right, we would have had completely different results. It was not easy.

Maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay??

Someday I will look back and laugh at this. Yes, probably when he has teenagers of his own.

 

Rocking the boat

Yesterday I got a call from Sally. I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered my phone anyway. Sally was rather distressed. She is the mother of my son’s good friend Grant.

The first thought that came to my mind was…Oh crap, now what did my son do???!?

Sally told me that everyone thinks she is a horrible mother. Her son got four D’s on his report card. He told her that grades really don’t matter. She said that it didn’t make any sense because her daughter was upset that she didn’t get a 4.0. Thank goodness for our overachieving daughters or we would feel like awful parents.

My son has been struggling with his grades since 8th grade. He simply doesn’t care. We tried everything that we could think of doing. We grounded him from his computer, Xbox and friends. That just made his attitude worse and then he totally gave up. It didn’t work at all. He barely slid by without having to retake some classes in the summer. This semester he only got one D, so things are looking up.

I told Sally that I totally understand and that she isn’t a bad mother.

Look at my son! He has a brilliant mind if he applies himself. My husband Paul is a great chess player. I’ve never seen anyone beat him in person. Paul told the kids when they were little that he would buy them a car if they beat him at chess. Alex studied chess, played countless matches online, did tutorials, and joined the chess club at school. He worked hard and finally beat his dad.

Alex is also great at music. Last year he played an incredibly challenging piece for solo and ensemble. He received a perfect score at state. This year he decided to play a piece that is so challenging that he is having a hard time finding an accompanist to play this piece. One pianist said that the piece he chose would be something a doctorate candidate would play. It is very fast and extremely challenging. This is what he wants to do. But what great music college is going to accept a talented musician that has a GPA of 2.0?

Why doesn’t he take his A game to school with him? He has to decide that he wants good grades or it won’t happen.

When he was little, Alex sucked his fingers. We wanted to break him of the habit once he started school. I tried everything and nothing worked. I tried the spicy finger varnish that went on like nail polish. He stuck his fingers in his mouth and told me that he likes spicy. A couple months later he decided that he wanted to stop sucking his fingers and did.

I would call my son lazy, but I think he is just not motivated.

Both Alex and Grant worked really hard this last summer and made somewhere between $5,000 to $6,000. Sally and I both found out recently that the boys pretty much pissed away all of their money on fast food. There is no doubt that both boys probably paid for their friends to eat as well. Was there a lesson learned somewhere? What a waste!

 

Sally said that she didn’t know what to do. Ever since her son got his license he doesn’t want to hang around home anymore. Grant is her oldest child. What is she doing wrong? How could he do this when she has given him everything to help him succeed? The only advice her parents gave her in high school was not to get pregnant. She didn’t go on to school. She wants so much better for her son.

All of this is scary business for the first time mother of teenagers. I told Sally that everything would be okay. I told her that she is not a bad mother because her son was acting like an idiot.

The problem with being a parent of teenagers is that sometimes you have to watch them fail. Sometimes they make the wrong decisions and end up hurting themselves. It is heartbreaking as a parent to see this. I’m hoping someday that we can all laugh about this…like when they are parents of teenagers..

To think, I didn’t even tell Sally about the party at the cabin last summer.

It’s strange but I was able to use my own struggles to comfort another parent. We are in the same boat, I’ve just been in the boat a little longer to know how to respond to the waves that rock the boat.

 

What to expect when you’re not expecting…

This weekend didn’t go the way I expected it would.

Arabella came home from school early on Friday sick. She had a fever all weekend and has one still. I ended up calling the doctor’s office Saturday night. By the time her Tylenol wore off in the evening, her temp was at 104.1. An hour after I gave her medicine, her temp was still rising and peaked at 104.5. The nurse said she probably has the flu. Thankfully, Paul and I got flu shots for our trip over a week ago. I am hoping that being coughed on, and taking care of a sick child in general, will have no effect on me.

The nurse told me that I should give Arabella a lukewarm bath. I prepared a bath for her and let her get in the tub herself. A 14 year old is too old to be bathed. I felt frustrated when I felt the water after she got out. The water that I added was too cold for her so she added hot water. Eventually her temperature decreased despite being in hot water. I finally felt like I could go to bed without worrying too much, but still got up during the night to check on her..

I am not surprised that Arabella got sick. She gets sick literally every time that she is planning on going somewhere, Paul and I are going away, or if we take a family vacation. This time she was planning on spending the weekend away on a church youth group trip.

My plans really didn’t change much because she was sick. I still blew off that party I wasn’t planning on going to. I finished my fall cleaning. I spent around 6 hours creating the perfect 2018 calendar of all my favorite photos and memories of 2017.

But that is not all that happened this past weekend. I noticed that Alex was acting a little strange. His patterns were off. I asked what his plans were with Baylee for Thanksgiving. He told me that they broke up. What??!??!? They were dating for almost a year and a half. They just went on the same college campus tour last week. I may have mentioned the word marriage last week. I even gave Baylee a fake name on my blog. We really liked her.

Alex seems to be doing well. So this holiday season, both Alex and Angel are single. It will make things a lot easier as far as holiday parties go. Last year they left our Thanksgiving party early to go to the family of their significant others. I could almost understand how the family of divorce feels. My kids shared how much fun they were having with the other family when I just wanted them to be home with me.

Then some other strange things happened. I found a permission slip on the table to join the math club. I automatically asked Arabella about her interest. She said that it wasn’t hers. What?? We both agreed that the Alex couldn’t be joining the math club. Could he??

Alex used to be the grade school math whiz. I had to ask his teachers for more challenging material. Then middle school hit and he barely passed math. The early high school years weren’t much better. My son fell into a rough crowd that was headed down a dark road until he met Baylee. Then he turned his life around, not without a few mistakes. His grades didn’t improve until this school year. Right now he has a B+ average up from a D average. He joined the chess club and now he is joining the math club. Wow! What??

Maybe he is finally growing up!

Then this past week I received a postcard in the mail from Arabella’s biology teacher. It read: Arabela *name misspelled* is putting little effort into biology class. With a bit more effort, she could be doing much, much better. Time management, writing down deadlines and studying outside of class will make all the difference in this class.

I felt rather irritated by the teacher’s form of communication. Seriously, a postcard?? Anyone could read that….her brother…For crying out loud, the postal carrier. Arabella is typically a high achiever. The postcard announced to everyone in bright colors that she was a slacker. How humiliating. She just told us a few days before that this teacher doesn’t like her. Should we be concerned? I wasn’t expecting this about her. She is getting a B in the class…so it must be frivolous??..Right?!??

Change is inevitable….what was I expecting??