The last 10 weeks of the school year were so frustrating.
I wanted the judge to order my son to go to school and I hoped it would be enough to have him make a real effort. But, it didn't seem to make any difference at all to him, and I was still the only one who took it seriously. I know I should have just backed off and let him handle this all on his own and I did do that to a point, even though it may not seem like it. When he wouldn't get up for school, I would try to reason with him a couple of times and then I would just walk away.
There were just an excessive amount of days that he claimed to be too sick to go to school. By the end of the quarter, he was hardly attending at all.
I am sure that he was probably legitimately sick for a few of those missed school days. And, some of the days, he may have experienced side effects of medication changes that made him feel weird. But almost every single missed day of school was a day that he really could have attended and chose not to.
The problem for me was that I did not feel right about calling the attendance office every time to excuse him. It wasn't true and I didn't want to keep making excuses for his behavior.
It drove me crazy to see him sleep all morning, claiming to have "thrown up all night" and then get up and start making himself a big meal right about the time that school would be getting out—as if he knew that there was no way I could try to make him go at that point. Or, he would stay home all day and then want to go somewhere with his friends, or pester me to take him to a movie, or to take him out to dinner.
As if, there should be no consequences for just refusing to go to school.
As the end of the quarter and another court date drew near, I decided to send this letter to his probation officer:
“I just wanted to let you know how things are going. I am not trying to get him into more trouble, I just don't know what to do with him anymore and nothing that we have done so far has made any difference in how he acts.
I liked how the judge told him that he wanted to see him making the changes that he needed to make until they became a habit, not that he was just making them until he got out of the court system.
But, to us, as parents, we don't see any of the changes becoming a habit and honestly, his behavior has gotten worse since we went to court, than it was before. As we walked out of the courthouse this time, after he had been given the breaks on community service and told that if he passed his classes and got decent grades, he would get more community service hours, he said, "Well, I am screwed on community service."
We said, "What are you talking about? You just got a bunch of your remaining community service hours handed to you on a platter. You can easily pass your classes and could get good grades in them if you start working a little bit harder." But, he was certain that it was impossible.
And since then, he has still continued to miss 2 or 3 days of school a week. He has complained of feeling sick to his stomach and of throwing up on most of those days. Then, usually in the afternoon, he feels a whole lot better--until the next morning. And, he never seems to feel like that on the weekends.
This game has gone on for too many years. I know that if he just bucked up and set his mind to the fact that even if he feels a little nauseated in the morning, he could still go to school and still accomplish the things he needs to--but he won't. If I try to make him go to the doctor to find out why he is sick, he won’t go. His psych nurse practitioner thought that maybe, for a few of the weeks, it was a side effect of a new medication that she was having him try, but for the two or three weeks before he was on it, and the last two weeks or so, he hasn't been on that medication anymore and he still claims to have this problem.
My husband and I think that part of his problem is his eating habits. He eats ALOT, doesn't eat healthy food, and eats big meals at 10, 11, or 12 p.m. almost every night. When we try to explain to him that eating a full meal at bedtime, playing the X-Box right up until he goes to bed, not getting enough exercise, etc. affects his sleep, he tells us that none of that makes any difference and that we need to stop telling him the same thing over and over again.
Last week, when I checked his school records, I saw that he had a few too many unexcused absences. When I don't think he is really sick, I don't call in and excuse him. If he refuses to go to school in the morning and then wants to go to Nickelcade, or Sizzler, or to a movie in the afternoon, then I don't really think I should have to excuse him for being sick. But, when I saw that he would have to go to attendance school or he would have "no grades" in the classes that he was actually passing, I called and excused the absences so that he wouldn't have to go to attendance school. He had already stated that he wouldn't go to attendance school and he didn't really care if he passed or not because school is not worth his time right now and that he is not going to graduate anyway, so what difference does it make? But, of course, I want to give him a chance to pass and I just keep hoping that somehow, something will encourage him to strive for being the best he can be instead of just not striving for anything at all.
His therapist told me that I should try to reward him for going to school for the last part of the quarter to see if that would provide some motivation. I tried that, and it still didn't make a difference. He missed the next two days. I don't know what, if anything, makes him feel bad in the morning, but it sure seems to be something that he could work through and get on with his day.
When I told him that he probably had not been sick at least 50% or more of the time, he got very upset with me and said that I was calling him a liar and a faker. If I try to explain to him that he really needs to do what the judge ordered him to do, he gets really mad at me and tells me that school is his responsibility, not mine. I am so tired of being told to shut the f*** up and that I am a f****** bitch, and that I should never talk to him again-- just because I try to help him, and try to fight for the best for him.
I am not going to do it anymore. If he won't get up in the morning, then I am not going to try to make him. I am not going to excuse him and I am not going to feel bad when he gets "no grades" in his classes. He could have passed Algebra, Language Arts, History, and Guitar, but whether he does or not, is all on him from now on.
Today, he said that most of his classes were showing movies and he seriously wanted me to call the school and tell them he was sick. I wouldn't and then he fought with me about it. I told him that movie days are the best days to go to school because you get credit for being there and you don't have to do anything. But, not for my son. No day is a good day to go to school.
I hoped that having the court order him to go to school would make a difference, but it hasn't. Nothing has made a difference. He won't go to school; he won't do community service; he won't call you on Fridays (even though we remind him to); and he won't act decent towards us.
Last night, on the way home from our weekend at our cabin property, he complained that we had forced him to spend the weekend with us against his will. We pointed out that he seemed to have a good time with his cousins and he replied that it was better than hanging out with us. My husband told him that it was good for him to get out of the house and good to see him having fun. He came back with the statement that he would get out of the house and go have some fun a lot more if we would just give him all the money he needs to be able to do that.
We told him that he needed to get a job and that he could use that money to have fun and to get the things that he wants. And, he said, "I don't HAVE to get a job just because you tell me to get a job. There are no jobs to get anyway."
I told him that there are 100 businesses close to us that he could apply at. He said that I was wrong about that, especially because he would not not work in fast food.
I am dreading the summer. I am dreading every day of him getting up and asking me what we are going to go do for fun today (which he does all the time). I keep telling him that if he doesn't do what he is supposed to do, if he acts like a jerk, and if he talks to me in the disrespectful way that he talks to me, then, I am not going to go do fun things with him. He tries to put all the blame on me and tells me that it is just because I don't want to spend time with him. He is right about that in a way because when he acts like he does, I don't want to spend time with him. If he acted decent and tried to do what he was supposed to do, then I would be more than happy to spend time with him. And, occasionally, when I do decide to go to a movie or take him to get something to eat, he rewards me the next day with a super bad attitude and terrible behavior.
My husband and I are tired of the school battle. He can go to school his senior year if he changes his mind about it and wants to, but if he doesn't, we don't want to have to spend another year trying to force him to do what the school system and the court feel is mandatory for him to do. We really just want him to get a full time job or two part time jobs and work so that he is doing SOMETHING.
Right now, he doesn't do anything and his days are like this:
Go to school once or twice a week, or sleep until afternoon.
Play the X-Box or computer games.
Sometimes takes a break and plays the guitar.
Pesters me about going to do something fun.
Once a week has therapy, and some weeks has doctor appointments. And that is it. He rarely hangs out with real friends in the real world--only those who he is talking to while he plays games over the internet.
He can't stand his parents and finds something to argue about with us almost every single day.
He has to bring his community service hours to you next Tuesday and probably only has about 10 more hours completed. They are mostly therapy hours and a couple of AA hours. He has made no efforts to do any other service and I haven't gone out of my way to find any for him. Before we came to court at the first of this month, almost every service opportunity that my husband and I presented to him was met with a no.
The more we try to encourage him, help him, and give him chances and opportunities, the more he defies us.
To end this long email, I would just like to ask that you find a time this week to talk to him about how it is going without revealing too much that you heard from me. He will really let me have it if he finds out that I have shared all this with you.
I know that the kinds of problems that we have are probably the same as a lot of parents have with their kids, but since our kid won't even make much of an effort to do what you and the judge have required of him, I thought you should know, so that maybe we can figure out how to get him on track.
As I said, I am not trying to get him trouble. I just don't want him to get in MORE trouble. I feel like we are running out of time. He is 14 months away from 18 years old and then he plans to leave home and go do whatever he wants to do.
That scares me to death.”