“Do you need me to hook my computer up to the printer?” I asked my son.
“Okay, will do.” I breathed a silent sigh of relief.
I had been awake since before 5:30 a.m. wondering if he had actually finished his paper.
I originally thought this paper was due the previous Wednesday (as most logical people would) when he told me, “Dang, I guess we had a paper due today.”
I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t worried about doing it that night, or why he didn’t know about it to begin with.
“We’ve had MCAS. I haven’t been in class. I’ll do it tomorrow, he told me, before he went to bed.”
I obsessed a little about it.
Thursday I asked him about it again. I imagined he’d be working on it in between napping and Xbox. (His baseball practice was cancelled that day.) I got some sort of “yeah, yeah, yeah” response.
The next morning, Friday, I asked him, “How’d your paper come out.”
He grumbled something as he shuffled out the door to the bus stop. It was 6:30 a.m., but still…
…all of that made me feel uncomfortable, so I decided I’d email his teacher and find out what the whole story was. I hate going behind his back like that but I felt like I had somewhat of a rapport with this teacher after having our conference a couple of weeks ago.
The teacher emailed me back, “I just looked and he didn't turn it in yet, he can pass it in on Monday without points off because the 10th graders had MCAS last week.”
So there we were on Monday morning after he’d postponed writing the paper until Sunday night. I had probably spent more time worrying about him not doing the paper during the previous four days than he had even spent writing the paper. But it was done. He was going to print it out. And since he forgot to sign out of Google docs, I read it. It was pretty good. (It was the first I saw of it, since 2/3 of my kids don’t ask me to review their writing.)
For those four days I obsessed, I was so sure if it were me, I would have written the paper the day I realized it was due. (Not entirely true in retrospect – sometimes I NEED a deadline in order to be compelled to write something I’m less than enthusiastic about.)
But it wasn’t me!
It was my son.
Clearly he manages his time differently than I would. His grades are fine and he’ll be taking two AP classes next year, so it really any of my business?
I don’t think so. He’s almost 16 years old.
I had a friend tell me a couple of years ago that once they’re 16, that’s it. I didn’t get it at the time because I was thinking the magic age is 18. But now I see. My teens have pretty much developed their habits – good or bad – and they’re going to need to be accountable for their own decisions.
You can’t make it to baseball practice?
You tell the coach.
They need to advocate for themselves.
You don’t understand a grade?
Go talk to your teacher about it.
You need a day off from work? (Or, you need a reference for a job application?)
You talk to your manager (or you learn how to write a polite email message, because contrary to the belief of snapchatting and texting teens everywhere, the rest of the world does use email, phones, and voicemail).
As hard as it may be for me to let go of the fact that my kids' priorities don’t align with mine, I have to.
They have to learn time management, personal responsibility, and owning the consequences of their decisions to be fully functioning adults.
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