By the time kids announce their first runaway from home at age five or six, most already have backpacks. A generation or two ago we made “hobo poles” by wrapping up belongings in a towel or handkerchief and tying it onto the end of a stick to be slung over the shoulder.
Most parents will delight in recalling their son or daughter’s early childhood brush with independence.
Most parents assist with bagged sandwiches, flashlights, and fruit snacks – some include a favorite toy or storybook.
One jokester friend of mine told me how he included a whistle in his sons luggage. It was for protection. Against ghosts, monsters, and the occasional wolf.
Some kids outright change their minds at the door, while stories abound of snickering parents peeping from slits in curtains at their children sulking in the yard sitting on stumps or lawn chairs or hiding behind trunks of trees in the driveway until they change their minds.
Teaching a child respect can get dicey when you have given a child perhaps too much, by treating the child as an adult. My son stays astounded at a high percentage of teachers who seem “out to get him” and who fail to answer his questions when voiced in an even toned rational query.
After warnings, parent teacher conferences, in and out of school suspensions, and some valiant efforts to pull up slews of zero’s on un-submitted assignments to passing grades, I decided to stop driving three hours to his mother’s house for conferences. This year my son and I agreed that he would come live with me and that we would both work on our past errors. He is fourteen and enrolled in an “award winning” high school as a ninth grader. Having learned to value rational thought, and compose logically reasoned homilies concerning various issues (usually pertaining to his liberties), it was not long before my own powers of persuasion became outgunned. The fine line between respectful disagreement and arrogance has eluded the boy.
So I demanded he write the sentence, “Because I said so is reason enough to obey,” one hundred times.
He complied. By texting my phone. Fifty six times. Then twenty times more.
My bad. It was late and he promised to finish the final twenty four in the morning.
In the morning on the surface he was composed. Underneath he seethed. He refused to complete the assignment. He called his Mom.
Since my son’s mother has legal custody, she decided that home schooling will solve the problem of an angel child being forcefully metamorphosed into a mindless conformist robot by educational automatons.
So I called her bluff. “If the teachers who teach each of six subjects are not as well versed in their fields of expertise as you are” I told her, “then have at it – you teach the boy.”
So a sandwich, a flashlight, a change of clothes, and just for fun, a whistle await the boy. Not really. Actually a pretty fair alternative awaits him. The guidance counselor at the high school I withdrew my son from assures me that the new online cyberschools can and do turn out well educated students.
My son will sink or swim. No lectures to pay attention to, he will read everything he needs to know instead of having it explained in class.
And all my love, advice, discipline, and camaraderie?
I’ll phone it in.