Friday, October 5, 2007

Getting a Handle on High School

My oldest son is through the first six weeks of high school, and I've been trying to get a handle on it. Most of the time, he seems to have it firmly in hand, and yet I can see that he is still trying to get a handle on it, too. The thing is, we're not partners in the process like we were in elementary school and middle school. He's in charge. Or, as the wonderful Michael Riera puts it in his books about teenagers, I am no longer my son's manager but his consultant, available to listen and sometimes offer suggestions and advice, but only when asked.

A huge part of his experience is that he made the cuts for the soccer team, so he is practicing every day after school until 5 pm or has a game until 5:30. Like the rest of the team, he wears his jersey to school on soccer game days--a little PR and display of pride for the team--even if, as a freshman, he doesn't always play. He listens to the banter of the older boys, and gets a ride home sometimes with a senior who drives. When he does talk about the team, it's usually about what one of the older boys said or did. One of them, a junior, was the object of my son's hero worship when they were both in the same class in elementary school, a mixed class of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders. I see this older boy now on the field, man-sized and with sideburns, and have to search hard to see the charismatic 3rd grader my son admired. But I can still see him.

My son begins school at 7:30 am, and sometimes when he comes home after soccer he falls asleep on the couch. Then he has to get up to eat dinner and do his homework. He's working on getting a handle on that, too. Other than asking "How's the homework?" and "How was the biology test?" I've been trying not to breathe down his neck, but it's hard. The other day he brought up the impending report card for the first grading period. "I don't think I'm going to have a very good GPA," he warned. I blinked. "Well, that wouldn't totally surprise me," I told him. "You're still figuring out how to manage everything." (Now I'm wondering just how bad it's going to be.) But he went on to tell me how he's figured out that he needs to study more for tests, and not focus mostly on homework like he did in middle school, since in high school tests are a much bigger part of his grade. And so that strategizing that I've heard so much about begins. But that's what he's supposed to be learning.

Now if I can figure out how to keep being available for that kind of talk--really him doing the talking and me doing the listening without giving in to the temptation to give advice--then I think I'll do okay in high school.

1 comment:

Marmee said...

Welcome to the world of high school! I love your concluding line and appreciate your concerns. Many parents, and even teachers, express dismay that parent participation is much more difficult at this level.

I know you will keep the doors open for communication and encourage you, as I did the parents of my own students, to remember your high school student still needs you. Sometimes our culture is unfriendly to adolescents' parents (restricting parental notification, etc.) and misleads them to believe their teens are all grown up. He may look like a man (as did the side-burned soccer player), and he most certainly won't want to be thought of as a child, but some part of him longs to know he has parents supporting and guiding him. Though he might not say so for several years, I firmly believe he is grateful to have such a mom who expresses her love and care in the many ways you do.