Month: January 2016
Shane was sick, and missed school, for two days.
Most of his teachers put an “X” in his grade book, meaning that his missing assignments were “eXcused.” It’s a good system, although Shane would still have to make up quizzes or tests from his absence.
His math teacher, however, put huge, glaring “ZERO”s in the grade book. She explained to me, early in the year, that otherwise, she would forget to make sure he does his work.
His grade plummeted from a high “B” to a “D” because of his two-day absence.
I sent her two handwritten notes and two emails, begging for an “X” in place of some of the zeros. I begged for her schedule, so that he could work with her to get caught up. She never responded, except to say that she was sick on Sunday so she couldn’t meet with him on Wednesday.
WHAT?!? That was totally unrelated to what I’d asked.
Shane talked to her, though, and she finally agreed to meet with him – five days later – for 45 minutes after school.
I was incredibly frustrated. He had three quizzes, two homework assignments and two days’ work to make up.
So on the day he stayed after school, I went to pick him up. Furious, I went inside with the Wicked Witch of the West theme music blaring behind me. Shane had way too much to do to be given no leeway. And I had way too much to do to be ignored for a week!
My cell phone suddenly rang, catching me off guard as I ran smack into Shane’s teacher in the hall.
“Oh, it’s you,” I said, barely recognizing her, the Wicked Witch theme suddenly dropping away. “Where’s Shane?”
“He’s right there,” she said, pointing down the hall. Shane was trotting toward us. “He did some great work today. He got two of his three quizzes done, and all of his homework. His grade is now a 90% – an A!”
I was stunned. “He did all of that in 45 minutes?”
“Yes,” said the teacher. “I wish all the students could do that much in 45 minutes!”
I found myself thanking the teacher profusely for spending her time with him, all the anger completely deflated.
And Shane actually brought up his grade.
I had just dropped off some stuff at the high school, and was walking out the door. It was early morning, but the busses were gone. Some late stragglers were coming in, being dropped off by their parents.
One such straggler was heading for the front door of the school as I was coming out. But he was stopped cold in his tracks by his mother’s voice behind him.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” she shrieked. “WHY DID YOU SLAM MY DOOR?!”
I hadn’t heard any door slam. I was right there, but I hadn’t heard anything at all. Until the shrieking.
I couldn’t hear the boy’s mumbled response. He was tall and thin, with dark hair and a tired face.
The boy walked back to the small, red car. The passenger side window was down.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!” came the deep, growling voice from inside the car. “YOU CLOSE THIS DOOR PROPERLY!”
How much control do you need? I thought. He’s a teenager. How much longer do you expect him to be closing the door the way you want him to close it?
The boy opened the car door. Then he slammed it as hard as he could, and walked toward the school.
Good for you! I thought. At least you’re standing up to her!
“DON’T YOU SLAM THAT DOOR!” his mother growled. “JACKASS!”
I felt a pit rise sharply in my stomach. You’re calling him names? I thought. That is your BABY and you’re labeling him forever as a jackass? Do you really believe that your baby is a jackass?
I know having a teenager is frustrating. And I know how it feels to be out of control. But screaming uncontrollably in the parking lot about a slammed door? Swearing and name-calling? Is that really something you have to do?
Where will it end?
I was headed an entirely different direction in the parking lot, but I wanted to walk up to her car. I wanted to say, “Is this boy really your child?” Because I didn’t believe that someone who gave birth to a precious little baby boy could be so heartless. How could she not see what she was doing to him?
But she didn’t let up, not for a moment.
And she was still screaming. As I was getting into my car, the boy who had slammed the door was rethinking what he’d done, and walking slowly back to the small, red car.
And there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing to stop her from ranting and shrieking and screaming for control. Nothing to alleviate her fear. Nothing to bring back the tenderness she needed to move forward, to bring back the love she drove away, nothing to help her find peace.
Most importantly, there was nothing I could do to help that boy.
She’ll just keep screaming, until he’s gone.
“It’s weird that everyone celebrates New Year’s Eve,” Shane said. “But nobody really celebrates New Year’s Day, and that’s the real holiday.”
“That’s true,” I laughed. “Maybe we should celebrate New Year’s Day. What would you like to do to celebrate?”
“I don’t know,” Shane said. “Maybe we could have all of our friends come over and have a huge party.”
I imagined the hung-over parents’ glee at dumping all of their kids at our house. Then I imagined trying to put together a party for a dozen kids in two days. We didn’t have nearly enough pizza.
“That might be nice another year,” I said. “But for now, let’s just figure out something special to do – maybe something new for the New Year.”
We came up with the idea that we could go to the movie and, since Shane wanted to see The Road Chip and I didn’t, I came up with the idea that Shane and Dylan could go to the movies on their own for the first time.
Dylan liked the idea, with one caveat. “What if I want to go to Ben & Jerry’s, too?”
“I will pick you up at Ben & Jerry’s,” I told him. The ice cream store is right next to the theater.
So the kids were in – a new thing to do, perfect for New Year’s Day.
On the way to the theater, I handed out discount cards and lots of cash. I put Dylan in charge of tickets, and Shane in charge of Ben & Jerry’s. I gave instructions for 15 straight minutes.
The kids were joking around during my instructions, and I got more and more panicked, thinking I wouldn’t have given all of my instructions before we got to the theater. My voice started rising with the panic.
Dylan said, “Mom, do you want to come with us? Because it seems like you’re the only one who’s worried.”
“No,” I said. “I just want to be sure you’re safe and happy.”
We arrived at the theater. The kids got out, laughing and excited.
I took a deep breath and drove away.
Everything went fine.
For New Year’s Eve, we decided to watch the appropriately named Tomorrowland on DVD – the boys’ favorite movie. It was a special “movie night” for the family, and a calm, quiet time for me.
Then, for the first time, both boys were allowed to stay up until after midnight. Dylan’s an old pro by now, since he’s stayed up till midnight nearly every night since winter break started, but it was Shane’s first time. Last year, Shane went to bed (as usual) and we woke him up to watch the ball drop on TV. He was awake for a few minutes, then went right back to bed.
But ushering in 2016 was different.
At 9:00 – the time Shane usually gets ready for bed – Tomorrowland was over and the ball-drop event was on TV. Dylan disappeared; Bill disappeared. I was ready for bed.
“So you’re just going to sit here for three hours and wait for the ball to drop?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I’m going to do other things while it’s on.”
Then Shane went upstairs to gather supplies. He came downstairs with his new cell phone, some books, pencils and a writing tablet. I hopped on the computer for half an hour, then heard a song I like on TV – so I rushed back in to watch Elle King sing on the New Year’s Eve show.
“What are you doing now, Shane?” I asked.
“Abstract drawing,” he said. And he showed me some abstract art.
Half an hour later I wished him a happy new year and went to bed. Bill, Dylan and Shane all watched the ball drop together. I was zonked out shortly after 11:00 – but awakened when the power blipped (off and on) at – I assume – midnight.
I lay awake for an hour, trying to get back to sleep. By the time I did, everyone else was asleep, too. I could tell by the silence.
In the morning, I asked Shane about the ball drop. “So what happened at midnight? What did you do?”
“We all said, ‘yay!'” he told me. “Then we went outside and did some sparklers. And then we went to bed.”
“What time did you go to sleep?” I asked.
“About 12:15,” he said.
Apparently the celebration was rather short.
But I bet it’s one he remembers for his whole life.