Toward the end of the first week that he was back in school, we had this conversation:
I said, “I just found out that school starts at 8:30 on Fridays.”
“Well, for me, it is going to start an hour and a half later because I am not going to my painting class anymore.”
I said, “You can’t just NOT go to your painting class. If you don’t want to take that class you need to have the counselor move you to a different class.”
“You know what? I am really going to just drop out. As soon as I get done with court on Tuesday, I am not going to school anymore. It is pointless. I can’t graduate. Going to school is a complete waste of time.”
I said, “Go to school now. Pass 4th quarter and all of your senior year. Do packets and then when graduation time comes, you’ll probably only be about 6 credits behind. If you immediately go to the Adult High School, you can probably get your diploma quickly. You’ll have the rest of the high school experience and a high school diploma, too.”
“I just want to quit school. I’ll get my GED sometime if I decide to. I want to work and get money for my band.”
I said, “Employers are more likely to hire you if you are in school. They might not think you have much commitment towards a job, if you couldn’t stay committed to school.”
“What are you going to do – call everyone that I apply with and tell them that I am not in school?”
I said, “In your interview, you will have to answer their questions honestly. If they find out that you lied, they will probably fire you.”
“Are you going to tell the judge on Tuesday that I am planning on dropping out of school?”
I said, “I will answer all of the questions that I am asked honestly.”
“You just go ahead and make my life worse than it is and tell the judge that I said that. Because that is what you like to do—ruin my life.”
It seems like every interaction and conversation just goes around and around like that.
Even after he went to court and was given his sentence, he was not immediately concerned about anything that was said, except for the part that dealt with school. He started an argument with us as we left the courthouse because we asked the probation officer to clarify the school stipulation so that there wasn’t any confusion that would lead to arguments.
This was his sentence:
95 hours of community service completed in 60 days. (Therapy and AA meeting hours would count).
No drivers license for 1 year
5 days in detention, suspended
Drug and alcohol counseling
Meds as prescribed
Comply w/ DCFS
Reside at home
Fully participate in education program
No drugs/alcohol or associates who use
No violence or threats of violence
Random drug tests
The probation officer gave this clarification about fully participating in an education program:
“Your will stay in school until you can provide me with information on another educational alternative that the court will approve of. You need to come up with this alternative plan within one week.”
As soon as we were in the parking lot of the court house, the f-bombs began flying and he took all his anger about the situation out on us and said, “Thanks a lot for asking him that! Now I can’t f-ing drop out of school!”
For days on end after that, there were tirades about parental controls on the computer, about bedtimes, about anything that he wanted that he couldn’t have, and of course, tirades about school. Nothing that we did or said made him happy or was satisfactory to him in any way.
The situation in our home was intolerable and we didn’t know what to do about it.
DCFS was supposed to be helping us with this, but when we had our weekly visits, we didn’t even dare tell the therapist how it was honestly going because of the verbal retaliation we would get after he left.
I e-mailed this letter to him after the next home visit:
“Thanks for volunteering to go the school counselor appointment tomorrow.
I don't know if you felt any vibes when you walked in the door today or not, be we were having a "discussion" before you arrived and he wasn't being very nice. But, I knew that if I said anything to you about it that, it would just get worse after you left.
When we left the courthouse last week, we had just barely walked out of the building before he was f-bombing us about how we had no right to make the probation officer say that he had to stay in school until he came up with a plan that was acceptable to the court for his education. He was planning on dropping out of school the next day and was so mad when we made sure that it was clarified that he had to keep going. We told him we were just trying to make sure he didn't burn his bridges at the high school before he found out whether he had to keep going to school there or not. But, he was livid with us.
He took most of it out on my husband and said that he wasn't his dad anymore and that he never wanted to speak to him again.
Today, after school, before you came, he turned on the computer, then came running to me and said that a new update came out today for Starcraft and that if he buys it this week, it is only $30.00 and he wanted me to loan him $30.00 right then.
I didn’t want to loan him any more money. It’s one thing to do nice things for your child when they are behaving and acting decently toward you. I just can’t do it when he treats me the way he does.
He gets so mad, if I don't give him what he wants, when he wants it. So when I told him I had to think about it, he was ready to fight to the death to get me to let him have the money right then.
He was badgering me and badgering me to tell him exactly when I would let him know if he could have the money because he had to get the update this week or the price was going to go up to $60.00 and that it was stupid for me to want him to have to pay $60.00.
I said that it had nothing to do with my intelligence, it had to do with the fact that I either wanted to lend him the money or not and that the ruder he was to me, the less I wanted to let him have the money. He said that if I wasn't going to give him the money, he had to get a backup plan before the end of the week and I told him to get a backup plan while I was thinking about it. He said that the only backup plan he had was to steal the money and that was why he was not going to give up until I gave in.
At this point, he was starting to get irrational, and told ME that I needed to act like a grown-up, because parents are supposed to want to make their kids happy. He declared that I had taken everything away from him that makes him happy and now I wanted to take Starcraft away from him too.
What have I taken away? He has his X-Box and he can hang out with certain friends, if he wants to. His example was that I blocked Skype on the computer and he says he needs Skype to be able to do live podcasting to people about how to play Starcraft.
I told him that the things that he has had taken away from him have been the consequences of his own behavior. For instance, he was looking at porn on the computer, so I blocked everything that I could to stop him from doing things he shouldn't do online.
He does not have any understanding that consequences are a result of HIS actions. In his mind, all consequences are someone else's fault.
I don't even have a problem with giving him money every now and then to get the things that he needs or wants, but I do have a problem with him demanding that I do it, with him belittling me and being rude to me to try to get what he wants.
As far as school goes, he thinks he will be able to drop out when the next school year starts because he will be off probation by then. He isn't serious about wanting to earn credits or get an education. And as you can see, no matter what we say, or how we try to explain how it is important for him to do it now, he won't listen.
He doesn't even listen to his sponsor (who struggled with addiction well into his 30's). He has been through it all, can give great advice, and knows how important getting an education is. Even though he has been successful enough in his dad's financial planning business to open his own men's sober living house, he is going to night school, too. He wants to get his degree and is paying the price by going to night school, now.
At the beginning of the sophomore year, his sponsor encouraged him to get his diploma and even offered to give him a big fat check and a car after he graduated. At that time, our son was excited about it and wanted to do packets and everything he could to graduate early.
Three months later, he lost his motivation and we are where we are right now with his attitude about school.
I know school is a struggle for him and I know that if he could do it on his own, through self motivation, and desire to succeed, it would be awesome. But, he doesn't have the motivation and even his plan to enroll in school online is just a game that he is playing to make it look like he is complying with the educational plan.
No matter what anyone decrees, or says, or does, he is going to show all of us that he doesn't have to do anything that is expected and that he is going to do whatever he wants to do.
Thank you for all of your help. As you can see, we need it.”
This was the therapist’s report to the probation officer, following the counselor's appointment:
“He did not appear particularly interested in his options. He repeatedly stated he plans to drop out of school in 5 months when he believes court jurisdiction will be terminated. His motivation to pursue an education is quite low despite the fact he could reasonably graduate on time with significant effort. Family relations are strained and he appears intransigent to problem solve when options do not include affording him the opportunity to do exactly what he wants to do.
At this point I would not support him engaging in schooling options that would afford him with less structure, support, and services. I believe that he has the best opportunity to be successful at the high school, if not a Day Treatment type setting.
I am hoping that through the provision of individual counseling he can become a customer and find some motivation to address his needs. I will meet with the family next week to further discuss options, expectations, and his thinking about school.”
This was my son’s report to me after the meeting: “I am f***** until I can drop out in 5 months. I would have done credit recovery on my own at home if the judicial system hadn't f****** up my life.”
He said he would do packets in his CARES class, but that he wouldn’t do anything to pass his other classes. I said, "Why won't you do what you have to do to pass?" And he said, "I CAN'T pass! Where have you been the last 5 years?"
For the last five years, I have been helping and pushing and believing and trying to make sure he would and could do everything that he had to. I know he can do anything that he sets his mind to, so, why would I not think he could pass his classes? He is very intelligent and retains almost everything he hears and can quote it all back word for word.
Of course I believed he could succeed.
But, not much could happen if only one of us believed that.
Around and around we go.