I’ve been crying so hard I had to quit wearing make-up for the last few days. My will-be-17-on-Monday son simply refuses to do his schoolwork. We saw the counselor, and I thought she had put us on the right track. She told my son, “I know you don’t care about school.” To be perfectly honest, he does care about Woodshop and going to lunch with his friends, just not about anything else. She asked him if he cared about yummy food and he said yes. So she recommended that we pair yummy food with him doing his schoolwork. If he chooses to do his schoolwork, he gets yummy meals. If he chooses to lie and not do schoolwork, he gets peanut butter sandwiches.
He ate peanut butter sandwiches for a couple of days while he completed all of his missing assignments. He was on track for a yummy dinner, and I thought we were home free. I asked him what homework he had for that day and he said none. It was pretty hard to believe that for three weeks straight he’d had no homework in English so I emailed his teacher for confirmation. Sure enough, she emailed back that she had assigned an article for him to read. It was such an easy assignment that it only took him ten minutes to do when he finally confessed. Confessed is probably the wrong word since it implies that he voluntarily gave up the goods. I just showed him his teacher’s email and once again, he was busted for lying in exactly the same way. Crazy lying, the counselor calls it.
After he did the quickie assignment, he had the opportunity to write an essay about why he had lied rather than just do such an easy assignment and get a yummy dinner. He said he doesn’t want to do the work. He hates school and he doesn’t want to do the work. I told him I would give him two weeks after his birthday to show me that he was willing to do the work, or we would take him out of school and he could get a full-time job. What’s the point of keeping him in school if he won’t do the work?
We’ve had eight years of this now, with him lying and sneaking and not doing work, and me pushing him to do it. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t face another nine months of this daily contention and then yet another nine months next year when he’s a senior. I scheduled a second counseling appointment for him and we talked all together. The counselor was very supportive of the plan to take him out of school and asked why we would even wait two weeks? She said if he doesn’t want to do the work, it will be another two weeks of him not doing the work so why wait. I asked him if he wanted to stop at school on the way home and withdraw? He didn’t respond. He had another opportunity to write an essay about dropping out of school and he wrote that he secretly wanted it to happen. He is tired of doing the work.
So we talked about what his life would be if he’s not in school. He’ll have to get a full-time job, probably manual labor since his options are so limited without a high school diploma. He will have to pay rent to live here and when he’s ready (that’s a whole other post since we’re exploring guardianship), he can move out.
Today, all day, he is working (volunteering) at the horse therapist’s barn, picking up manure and mucking out stalls. I haven’t withdrawn him from school yet. I’m hoping against hope that one day of manual labor will soften him a little and make homework at the dining room table look like a better option. The high school counselor said we can withdraw him for a term and then re-enroll him next semester if he’s ready to work, but I’m hoping that even one day will be enough to convince him not to drop out this semester.
I feel so helpless that everything I’ve poured into my son for the last eight and a half years hasn’t made one bit of difference to his desire or capacity for success. The counselor told him he’s now abusing the little boy (inside him) who was abused by his birthparents. I feel so guilty that I can’t do another eighteen months of playing chess with his lying and sneaking to get him to the finish line of a high school diploma. I just can’t. I’m hanging by a thread as it is and I have two other kids. And part of me wonders if he would still find a way to fail a month or so before graduation anyway.
The brutal lesson here for me is he can reject everything and go down in flames if he chooses. And he seems to be choosing. I am just praying and praying that mucking out horse stalls will shake him up a little and motivate him to try again. All he has to do is wiggle one little finger of desire and I’ll do everything I can to help him. I just can’t be the ONLY one making effort anymore.
Photo credit: www.workforceactix.blogspot.com/high-school-diploma.jpg