Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mean, Mean Mom

Tonight is one of those nights when it really stinks to be a parent.  I decided to write this post because I am just laying in bed looking at the ceiling wondering how I got to be such a meanie.

Gabe has had a busy Sophomore year.  He even was listed in the newpaper for being one of a handful of students that has participated in 3 sports during the school year.  First football, then basketball, and now track.  That is one reality of living in a small town, you can participate in most things you'd like.

We have always had a verbal agreement that you have to be able to maintain good grades in order to participate in extracurricular activities.  All three of our older kids have come really close to losing that privlege.  But when the grades drop, they have been able to pull them back up without having to miss anything.

Until tonight.

And man is it awful, awful timing.

Gabe has been struggling with his grades for the whole track season.  Here's how it goes every few weeks.  I ask to see Gabe's grades.  He prints them out for me.  I freak out because they are not where they need to be.  He reassures me that they aren't an accurate reflection of his true grade.   He also reassures me that he is getting tutoring, extra credit, or make-up work and all is well.  I calm down and wish him well at his next meet.

Two weeks ago, we went through this same routine and just as expected, Gabe assured me that his grades were really quite good.  I really try to do the whole parenting thing where you make your kids own their problems by framing it like, "What's that Gabe? You are planning to go to a track meet?  Are you able to do that because of the good choices you have made in school?"   You are helping your children see that it is up to them to see to it that they have earned the privledge of participating in sports.  It's all very love and logic-y.  Natural consequences of their own choices.  Clear expectations to be able to partake in the extras.

At least that's how it goes in my mind.

Tonight it all got shot to heck and I pretty well fumbled all of my parental verbal efforts.

Back to 2 weeks ago.  Gabes grades stink.  He tells me he will be getting better grades than what is on the computer (teachers sometimes forget to put in stuff).  I let him go to the track meet.

Then last week.  It is the League meet in Grand Junction.  I ask about grades.  They are still not where they need to be.  But here is where I make a parenting blunder.
                                     
I feel bad for Gabe. He is such a good boy.  He works hard and helps me out a lot with John gone so much.  I want him to participate in track.  I know he loves it.  He is good at it.  He has worked hard at it.  His team is counting on him.

So I let him go to League.

Sidenote: Congratulations to Gabe, who won league in High Jump.  He also took 2nd place in Pole Vault.  He scored a personal best in High Jump by clearing 6'1".  He thought he qualified for State with that jump.  Shortly after, he was sad to learn that enough boys jumped 6'2" to bump him out of State qualifying range.  But sure enough, him attending the meet earned his team many points.

I was glad he was jumped so well, though I was not pleased that he would have to miss even more school to go to Denver for State.  And oh ya, how were his grades?  But it didn't matter, because he got bumped out and would be able to focus on bringing those grades up in the last weeks of school.  It was now a non-issue if he couldn't go with his team.

Then Gabe got a phone call yesterday from his coach.  Several boys in other schools dropped out, Gabe qualified after all.  I asked him about his grades and he pretty much blew me off.  It was late on a Monday night and he told me that the computer wasn't accurate anyway.

And in poor parenting fashion, I got distracted.  And that was the end of it for the night.

Which brings us to tonight.

Gabe got home even later than I did.  (Tuesday is our Jackson to Scouts, J&J to piano, Seth to basketball, and Elise riding along while we stop in to see Grandma between stuff, day).Gabe had attended a track dinner for all State track kids.

I asked him again to print out his grades.  This time he got really mad and left the room.

Not good.

John went into the office and talked to him for a long time while I stayed in my room fretting about what to do as a parent.

What was the long perspective here?  I didn't like what I thought I needed to do.  Frankly, I hoped John would just step in and tell Gabe his grades were terrible and there was no way he could go to State.

So you see where this is all going right?

I am fretting.  John is talking.  Gabe is stewing.

I also need to point out here that John has been gone. A lot.  While I keep him somewhat appraised on what is going on in the kids life, I have been left to do all parenting for a while now.  In fact, John has been working so much, I have really not given him many details because we don't talk all that much while he is away.

So I knew I had to get into the conversation and I just didn't want to.

My lack of committment to good parenting over the last several weeks was now culminating in a really unpleasant conversation that I felt I had to have.  I don't like being the mean mom. I like it when I can be the fun mom, or the nice mom, or the pleasant mom. But that mom got me where I was now, and frankly, she was the selfish mom that wanted to see her kids happy in the short term, and not have to cramp anyone's track style.

I said a prayer in my heart and walked slowly into the room where Gabe and John sat talking about how grades matter in the long run and how you have to have good ones to get into college, blah, blah, blah.

I sat down and looked at the grade print out.  I asked Gabe if these were grades that entitled him to participate in track.  He knew they weren't, I knew they weren't, and John knew they weren't.

This is when mean mom had to show up.  John actually got up and left the room because he did not agree with where I was going.  That made it even worse.  I tried to be really calm and empathetic with Gabe. I apologized for letting it go this far letting him think that it was alright to have the grades that he did and still be able to participate.  I think that was really lame of me as a parent.

But as Gabe and I sat in the silence (neither one of us wanted to say what this all meant), I kept thinking and wondering if I was doing the right thing.  I don't know if there is a right thing in this situation, but I kept asking myself what I was trying, ultimately, to teach Gabe.  What would matter 10 years from now.  What were my governing principles and did I have the courage to let those guide my parenting?

Well, the answer was yes, then no, then yes, then no. Then I felt like I just wanted to leave the room too.

I tried to just be still.

I told Gabe that I loved him and hoped he would understand this someday.

That was all I needed to say.

We both knew he wouldn't be going to State.  He hadn't earned the grades to get himself there.  He knew what was expected of him, but I felt cruel being so late in the game to remind him of it.

He didn't answer and left the room.

In fact, he got dressed and left the house.

Just before midnight, he came back in and went down to his room.

He is really upset.

Really upset.

But I feel peace.

I feel like my poor choices made this so, so much harder for Gabe than it should have been.  It seems really unfair that he told his teachers today that he needed his school work so he could go to Denver for State, and now, tomorrow, he will be in class.  It will be hard.  But it is the right thing.

John still doesn't agree with me (he let me know this by not saying anything about it), but he is deferring to me because he hasn't been here.  Part of me (the selfish mom part that wants Gabe and I to skip around holding hands chasing butterflies and rainbows) wishes John would just say this is ridiculous, and of course Gabe needs to go to State.  Then Gabe won't be mad and I won't be the mean one.  But I think I hear John snoring, and the bus leaves in the early morning.

So I will be the mean mom.  It's hard.  But this time, I think that this is the way it has to be.

But it still stinks.

And I like butterflies.