I'm Terrified My Son Won't Graduate High School

by Kathy Black
Originally Published: 
A teenage boy in a light blue hoodie, studying in his bedroom

I’ve never been one to use the parent portal the schools offer other than a quick check once a month or so. I believe my kids need to take responsibility for their work like I did in school. I don’t believe they need the teachers’ reminders nor mine. I want them to learn how to schedule their time wisely and, for me, that means I take a hands-off approach and let them endure consequences.

Up until last year, my kids were doing just fine without me micromanaging them. We had the occasional missed assignment that they’d scramble to hand in late, not liking the reduced grade that was staring back at them. My plan was working the way I wanted it to — until it didn’t.

When my son was a sophomore, I noticed a shift in his behaviors and schoolwork. Eventually, I got an email alerting me he was failing history class a few weeks before school was out. This wasn’t just from doing poorly on work. It was not doing the work at all. The half-finished assignments were found at the bottom of his backpack and his teacher said it was too late to hand them in. One of them dated back a month.

When I confronted him about it, he acted as if he didn’t care and it wasn’t that big of a deal. His father and I took away his phone and friend time as punishment hoping he’d learn his lesson.

He ended up failing the class and is taking it again this year as a junior.

Because of his rocky conclusion to last school year, my ex-husband and I are on top of things checking that damn portal every day. School started last month. As of a few weeks ago, he was failing three classes.

To say I wanted to lose my shit on him is an understatement. He stared at me blankly as I told him his life would not be pretty if he failed out of high school. He literally couldn’t care less and I’m struggling with how to get through to him.

My son is smart. When he puts effort in, he gets As. Right now, he has an A in chemistry but is failing math, history, and psychology. Again, the reason is because he’s not handing in work and I’m just don’t understand his laziness and the reasoning behind it.

His teacher said to me, “He’s only handed in one assignment out of the seven that have been due this year and got a 40 on the last test.” One. OUT OF SEVEN.

It’s as if he’s working hard to fail, or he thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

He obviously doesn’t realize the consequences. So, I came down hard on him deciding I’d paint a picture of what his life would look like if he didn’t graduate high school.

At 16, he’s anxious to get his license, start working, and buy a car. I told him while he is old enough to do all those things, they are still privileges that need to be earned. The only way he’s going to earn them is to buckle down and get caught up.

He sent in for his date to take his driver’s test — it’s in one week and I told him if he wants to take his scheduled test, he needs to hand in all late work by then. He also interviewed for a job, which he got and is supposed to start very soon. Again, I told him he’ll have to turn it down if he can’t pull it together at school before then.

If he cannot keep up with school work and take school seriously, there’s no way in hell he can handle having a job or driving a car. I can’t in good conscience allow him to work part-time during the school year unless he can keep up with his school work. I am not asking for As; I’m asking for effort and responsibility and meeting deadlines. You know, basic human life skills he is going to learn if it kills me.

He was pissed and stormed around for a day. Then I picked him up from school last week and he said he talked to his teachers. He got his assignments and is working to get them done.

But I’m still worried. I’ve lost sleep and can feel the tension in my whole body. While other parents are bragging on their kids about college visits and AP classes, I just want mine to fucking graduate. I want to encourage him and send the message that he can do this, yet I feel like I need to threaten to take away his privileges so he knows how serious this can be. I hope it works.

Just like every new obstacle we face as parents, all I can do is my best and hope it all falls into place. However, this is our biggest one yet. It is impacts his whole life.

I have to believe in him though. I have to believe in his stamina, and I have to believe in mine.

In the meantime, I’ll be momming my ass off trying not tear my hair out. I don’t want to be the “mean mom” and take away his teenage freedoms — like a job and his driver’s license — but I will. It is truly might be the only way he’s going to earn that diploma.

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