Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Buddha Goes to School

Last week I forgot that I was a Buddhist.

Instead of being an impassioned, detached observer, I lost my head and thought I could control things. All I had to do was post lists of rules, yell a lot, and keep my nagging at a constant and steady rate.

Have you ever lived with a twelve-year-old boy? I know many of you reading this have, and so you have felt my pain. Try getting a twelve-year-old out of bed in the morning, especially one who spent the summer sleeping until noon. Try getting him fed, clothed and into the car by 7:40. Try making him floss his teeth.

Oh, Lord, try making that child floss his teeth.

Well, I tried. I nagged. I lost it. And then I gave up. Here's what I have had to tell myself: I can't make Jack happy. I can't make him organized. I can make him turn off his lights at night, but I can't actually make him fall asleep.

What I can do is make him suffer. Er, I mean make him suffer the consequences of his own actions. If he oversleeps, he gets to school late. If he doesn't do his homework, he'll get bad grades. If he gets bad grades, his computer will be taken away from him until his grades come up.

My problem is that I'm afraid. I'm afraid my very bright twelve-year-old son will end up living in a basement apartment with stained wall-to-wall carpet, surviving on bowls of dry cornflakes. The only light will be from the glow of his computer, where he spends all his waking hours playing World of Warcraft. He never bathes, and his breath is so toxic moths who get too close flutter to their deaths.

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I really fear this.

Still, what I know for sure is that nagging doesn't really work in the long run, and yelling doesn't do a thing but make everybody upset. I yelled at Jack on Monday, and it ruined the rest of the day for both of us. So no more yelling, no more nagging.

That's why, when Jack was doing his French homework in the car this morning, even though he'd told me last night he'd finished all of his homework, I didn't say a word. Didn't mention that children who want to go to Harvard (which is where Jack says he wants to go) tend to get their homework on time and do the extra credit. I didn't take away his computer time or threaten to throw his iPod out the window.

I just drove calmly on and, loving mother that I am, hoped he wouldn't finish it in time.

Let his French teacher nag him. Me, I'm done with all that.


Betty The Wood Fairy said...

This is so like us - I have a 12 yr old same problems and I don't shout and nag anymore but I do remind him and tell what the consequences could be of not brushing, teeth, getting sleep, completing homework, and - as you rightly say - then leave it to the teacher! we can only guide our children in life, not change them but it is hard to watch them learn from their own mistakes.

magsmcc said...

I'm a French teacher!! Well, a French teacher who doesn't teach- but that's not his story! WELL DONE! I have fears and mine concern younger boys again. Bet his French was fab. And on the subject of foreign languages- as seen on Angela's comments- what are baggies??

Tracy said...

I have an 11yo boy....After waking him nicely the first time, I then stand at his door (the floor is covered with rubbish) and demand he get out of bed. He does. He's not 12 yet.

The 13yo daughter on the other hand. Ugh. I wrote her a schedule and told her I would never speak to her again about what time we leave the house. If she can't do it she'll walk. 7km. No footpaths. Big hills.

She's been out the door every day since.

victoria said...

Hmmm, I sympathise. I now live with a twelve year old girl, which comes with it's own complications.... oh, nearly teenagers!!

Angela said...

Hang in there. In fifteen years time, the teenage angsts will seem a distant memory - and you will look up to that strapping young man and think "Wow! did I really give birth to someone as cool as that?!"
But yes, you are entering that dark phase which can only be compared to one of Dante's circles of Hell. My prayers are with you, sister!!
blessings x

Pom Pom said...

Oh, Frances! You are so funny!
I had an epiphany when Brad (about 12 years old at the time) said, "Mom, maybe if YOU didn't care so much, I'd care more." Yikes.
I am cracking up at school when kids do the "look through the binder" trick. I say, "Do you have your take-home test?" and they start doing the "I might find it if a miracle occurs" fake look through the sections. Turns out the test or whatever is home on their desk. Right.
I'm betting on Harvard.

Amanda said...

I have a just-turned 13 and an almost-15 -- boys. My problem is that if I try to keep my mouth shut in these situations, they can still tell I'm seething inside. But even my extremely irresponsible eldest is showing signs of finally getting his act together. I'm excited!

Gumbo Lily said...

Twelve year old boys do not floss their teeth. Nope. I love how direct you are, Frances. You've hit the nail on the head, just like you always do! It will get better.


Ali said...

Mine is about to turn 11. Is it wrong to not be looking forward to the next few years much? Especially with my dire track record of not nagging/yelling.

wayside wanderer said...

I have similar fears for my 16 year old boy...a life of eating brown food spent shooting imaginary people and never leaving the house which means never finding a wife which, frankly, is one of my most fervent prayers for this boy other than turning out to be a somewhat normal, contributor to society.

But every now and then I glimpse the man he is going to be, and the older he gets the more glimpses I see and it these are GOOD GLIMPSES (well, except for the eating of brown food...I have not yet glimpsed vegetables ). Thank the Lord because it inspires HOPE in my heart, especially as his mother AND teacher. =)

The dB family said...

Oh I hear you! Right now my grade ten student is playing some Wii game. Somehow, I think there may be some French homework involved in there somewhere.