Why Can’t You Just Let Me Fail?

The rule for Memorial Day weekend was that Dylan have his homework done before having his girlfriend over to his house. I left town, leaving Bill in charge of the kids, and gave instructions to both Dylan and Bill about the rule.

Apparently, my instructions were not specific enough.

Dylan told Bill that his homework was done, and Bill told him that would be checking the homework when I got home. The girlfriend came over, they had a great time, and then I found an envelope from his science teacher on the floor.


It turned out that he still had a ton of incomplete work. So I sat down with Dylan’s binder to go through it. Papers were shoved in upside down and backwards. English was in with Algebra, and letters to parents and school pictures were haphazardly shoved in with classwork. And his “ready to turn in” section was crammed with garbage.

Dylan simply has no organizational skills whatsoever. Nor will he follow a system – any system – of organization. We’ve tried color-coded folders, a separate folder for homework, new binders, different kinds of agenda books, and (highly unsuccessful) color-coded, labeled dividers.

Yet, Dylan’s response to my help – and my husband’s help – was to scream at us:

“Why can’t you just let me do it MY way?!?”

“This isn’t going to do any good! Nothing you EVER do does any good!”

“For 13 YEARS, all you’ve done is HELP ME and it’s not helping ANYthing!”


Dylan did not seem to appreciate our input.

Bill offered an elaborate metaphor about standing by and watching a friend who was about to burn himself on a hot stove, then doing nothing to stop the friend from getting burned. I thought it was particularly effective, but Dylan seemed unphased and continued fuming at us.

After sorting through a few sections of Dylan’s binder, I allowed him to sort the other sections. He did this with a venomous rage, slamming every single page down onto the floor, one by one. His behavior was the equivalent of a very tall two-year-old.

(I couldn’t help but wonder about the new pill, which he is not taking on weekends. Withdrawal, maybe?)

He growled and stomped about for half an hour, causing the dog to run upstairs with her tail between her legs. His brother, who had been happily listening to music, was forced to take his music elsewhere and try to ignore the absurdities. Bill and I exchanged shrugged shoulders, and did our best to remain calm.

When the binder was done, I threw a piece of peanut butter toast on the table, along with some blueberries and water.

“Dylan, food!” I yelled.

He scarfed it down without a word. Then he started singing. Singing is his normal modus operandi, so I knew the raging was over.

He came in to see me, spinning the plastic blueberry bowl on his fingertips.

“I was just hungry,” he said in a completely normal tone.

I explained that the consequences for his actions still stood: he wouldn’t see his girlfriend and he needed to finish his homework before he did anything else.

“Okay,” he said. He came back about ten minutes later.

“I’m sorry for whatever I said to you,” he said. “I didn’t mean it.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said. And he went off to finish his homework.

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