Just Please Be Happy Again.

Dylan has not seen his girlfriend all week. So when he had four things to finish last night in order to see her for a few hours on one day, I thought for sure, he’d get them done.

He studied his science with his father. He studied his social studies with me. He planned to finish his science project during lunchtime today.

But where was his missing English paper? It’s worth 25 points and exams start today – so he’s out of time.

“My teacher took it,” Dylan said. “I told him there was nothing on it, and he told me I had to give it to him anyway. I am so mad at him!”


It turns out that Dylan’s teacher – after a full year of chasing after him to turn in every, single assignment – finally showed Dylan what 8th grade is going to be like.

It’s not done? You turn it in anyway. It’s totally blank? You turn it in anyway. You lost it? You get a zero. No retakes. No late fees. And no begging Dylan to get it done and turn it in.

When I told him he couldn’t see his girlfriend again, Dylan fell to the floor, writhing in agony. My heart ached for him. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scoop him up and say, “Forget it, Son. Go see your girlfriend. You don’t need school. You don’t need to go to college. Just please, be happy again!”

But I didn’t. Instead I said, “This is what it’s going to be like for every day of 8th grade, if you don’t learn to do your work and turn it in.”

He went to bed furious at me because I enforced the consequences of the rules. He went to bed mad at me because I made the rules. It never occurred to him that all of this could have been avoided if he’d just done his work in the first place, and turned it in on time. So he went to bed mad at me.

I went to bed with a pit in my stomach, wanting to make everything all right and having no idea how to do that.

On the way to school, I said, “Next year, all of my nagging will magically disappear, like fairy dust in the wind.” I wiggled my fingers to show him how it will dissipate. “All you have to do is turn in your work. I won’t ever have to think about it again!”

I tried to sound like Scarlett O’Hara for that last part.

And off went Dylan, who will hopefully finish his science article and turn it in, so that he can finally see his girlfriend over the weekend.

And off I went, to give my emotions a much needed rest.

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