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Mom's Time Out

Getting their heads on straight

Mary Angel

(10/2017) I have spent many articles explaining to everyone how different my children are. Obviously the boys have some similarities, as do the girls. There are also some things in common between the first born girl and first born boy. Other than a few more parallel personality traits they are all as contrasting as they come. So when my first child excelled in school and always did his best and stayed on top of things we were a bit spoiled. My second son has managed to ground us in this area.

Our 16 year old has always been of the mindset that as long as he does what he needs to get by then all is right with the world. We have spoken to him at length about wasting his talents or squandering his potential and it has gone in one ear and out the other. Many times since he entered high school his grades (not report card grades, but those in between grades that you see on line) have dropped so low they were almost in the negative. Low and behold he ended up with nothing below a "C" and several "A’s" and "B’s". Obviously the ability is in there, however, the drive has been absent for a while.

Move forward from freshman year to sophomore year and he loves marching band and is slightly more motivated since he knows a bad grade would make him ineligible to participate. Although there were still a few scares he managed to mostly keep his grades in the "C" range and above more consistently. Still we would talk to him about his GPA and putting in more effort and committing to exceptional instead of mediocre. Not much changed or got through his thick skull that year either. At this point his future was pointing toward him being an elementary school teacher. After an introduction to early childhood development he decided that might not be the right path for him. He knew he loved working with kids but couldn’t figure out what that meant in his future career path.

Now it is the summer before his junior year and his older brother is heading off to college. His brother is able to go to the college of his choice because he got some scholarship based on merit and auditions. He will still have a great deal more debt than any of us would like. All of this has been discussed at length and in front of the 16 year old. Somehow the 18 year old going to college (remember he is our first and take pity on my naivety) snuck up on us. Maybe it was hearing his older brother commiserate that if he had only gotten 70 more points on his SAT he would have gotten more money in his merit scholarship, or maybe it was finally realizing what he wanted to go to college for (and where). I am not sure what spurred his change of attitude but I know it happened the summer he was headed into his junior year.

At the end of sophomore year he decided he wanted to be a high school music teacher. There was no doubt in his mind. He also decided that he wanted to go to James Madison University in Virginia. When it was time to make his schedule for his junior year he took as many classes as he could that would point him in that direction. When school let out for the summer he started researching JMU and found out that it was way out of his price range and would require a miracle. This was the lynch pin in his behavior. He started attending an SAT study group and looking into community college and then a transfer to JMU. Before school started he asked for an agenda book and some organizational school supplies.

Since the school year has started he has been filling in his agenda book, studying for tests, and completing his homework on time. The biggest miracle for this child (a little dash of sarcasm), is that he has not only completed his homework on time, he has also turned it in on time! In addition to all of this I am receiving a weekly announcement from him on where the on-line grading system says he is. I am informed when a quiz is about to happen, how he feels he did on the quiz, and the actual grade he got when it was returned to him. He is using the study mod at school the way it was intended as well. Whether it is to study for a quiz or test, to practice his instrument, meet with a teacher to ask questions, or he will do his homework for the next day. So far, and yes I know we are only four weeks into the year, so good.

Although I am super excited about this change in attitude, I am not so naVve to think it couldn’t change back. After all, his enthusiasm for school has run the gambit of emotions. This time does seem a little different and his motivations are certainly not like any other he has ever had. My hope is that if his passion seems to be wavering that I will notice it soon enough to encourage him and build him back up. I realize he is only human and can lose sight of the prize when it is so far away, but I know he has a bright future ahead of him if he can just stay the course.

I am not sharing my excitement about my son to brag or get anyone’s children in trouble for their lack of enthusiasm or focus. My purpose is to give hope to those parents who have worried like I have. My goal is to shed light on the fact that kids mature at different rates. Some kids are like my first son and for the most part do what need to be done and try to do their best. Other kids need time (hopefully not too much time) to get their heads on straight and reach for the stars!

Read other articles by Mary Angel