Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Drug and Alcohol Education – the unofficial kind! August 19, 2011

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bongThis week I attended the Cannabis Education evening at the school of the men-children.  They thought it was a good idea to talk about drug use to Year 9 parents and boys, having covered off Alcohol Education last year.  We had a presentation by the local Drug Support program, and the local Youth Affairs Police Officer.  Little did they know that sitting in the audience was the mother of a man-child whom they had both had the pleasure of meeting almost one year earlier!!

Below I have published the post that I drafted a year ago, when one of the men-children decided to experiment with cannabis (for obvious reasons I couldn’t bring myself to publish it at the time).  Looking back, I am convinced we handled the situation appropriately.  To the best of my knowledge our son has not continued to experiment with cannabis, and I think he learned a lot through the process.

Original Draft Post (November 2010): 

We’ve endured some interesting events on the journey to date that is adolescence.  Parties, gatherings, girlfriends, shoplifting, meetings with the school, smoking cigarettes, sneaking out at midnight, uninvited guests at 3am, and so the list goes on.  With each new event we seem to exhale with a “well that should be the worst of it shouldn’t it”, a glimmer of hope, but a sense of the inevitable.

And so our latest hurdle.  Man-Child II arrived home on a recent Saturday afternoon after being out all day with friends.  He was happily (unusual in itself) sharing details of where he’d been, and with whom, when I noticed his words were slurred, and he could hardly keep his eyelids open.  My first instinct was of course alcohol, but I couldn’t smell it on him at all.  My second instinct was dope – and unfortunately it seems I was right.

Now both alcohol and marijuana are drugs – but one is highly illegal and one is legal (for those of adult age of course).  The use of either by my 14-year-old son scared me, but more so dope, because you don’t find kids “pushing” alcohol to fund their habit the way you do drugs do you?

Naturally Man-Child II initially denied all usage to my face, but claimed he had been with others smoking dope and therefore he smelt of it and was mildly affected – yeah, right!  Seriously, do they really think any parent with a brain bigger than a goldfish would believe that?

He wasn’t in much of a state to talk (yes what you call totally “stoned”), and for obvious reasons wasn’t forthcoming with any associates names, so off to bed he went.  We actually called the police to check what we should do (we were more than happy to haul him down to the local station for a good talking to on the spot).  They were very interested to know his age, and school – no doubt looking for patterns in usage and known users.  They asked us to bring him down to the station at a later date for a meeting, and also advised us they offer a counselling service where they work with young teens to try to encourage them not to use drugs so they would be referring our son to them.  Perfect!

In the meantime, there was instant punishment dealt out (“you can forget the long-planned Halloween party”) and we had to endure 24 hours of pleading, begging, cajoling, crying, tantrums and text messages to try to make us relent.  But we held our ground and he didn’t attend the party – a minor victory for the parents.

I also had a conversation with Man-Child II to actually ask if he knew what effects drug use had (for irregular and regular users).  He was a little vague so I set him straight.  And I also explained how the classic pyramid selling worked, and why people he didn’t know well were more than happy to give him free drugs with a view to recruiting him longer term.   That seemed to make him think.

I am hoping that the meeting will involve the police scaring the absolute crap out of him (a la Man-Child I’s run in with the law over shoplifting) so he’ll be put off for another few years at least, and that the counselling session will have the desired educational effect.  And if I find out who exactly was kind enough to share the drugs with my son, they should be more worried about me finding them than the police.

Post-Script (August 2011): 

Our man-child did meet with the local police officer, and did attend the drug counselling program as instructed by the police.  He was told if he didn’t attend the program there would be serious consequences for him.  To his credit he took himself off for several appointments as required.  He didn’t share what went on at the sessions, and nor did he need to – it was between our son and the counsellor and we were pretty sure he was in good hands.

When I arrived home last night from the school I mentioned the name of the local policeman and the counsellor who had attended the evening.  Man-Child II nearly died of fright when he realized it was one and the same, as he is obviously known to them.  The fact is he has nothing to fear.  He has learned his lesson, and I hope is actually one step ahead of some of his peers, who haven’t yet been given the skills or life lessons to equip them with the ability to make the right choices when exposed to drugs.

You can read about Man-Child I’s brush with the law here: “An Arresting Story”.

 

Mother of a Man-Child: The Challenge of Educating Boys? August 27, 2010

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Most adults understand the importance of a good education.  With hindsight we can all appreciate the value of learning, and the ability to continually learn throughout our adult working life.  No doubt some of us had better school experiences than others, but I’m sure we’d all agree school should be an enjoyable (or at the very least not un-enjoyable) part of your childhood.

And so it is that we are currently facing challenges with Man-Child II.  On the sporting field both our boys are excelling, both at school and outside school, with opportunities to play their chosen sports at elite levels.  Of course we couldn’t be prouder.

Man-Child I has applied himself increasingly well at school this year, following some pretty average school reports, and the results have reflected his improved application.  We are more than happy with this.

Man-Child II unfortunately has not.  He also had some pretty average school reports last year and earlier this year, and to date no amount of threats or other approaches have changed his attitude to school or his results.  He constantly has notes in his school record book about not completing homework, not handing in homework, not being prepared for a test.  And each evening and weekend we ask about homework in a vain attempt to ensure he is completing the work.  Unfortunately it seems this has not helped.  The reason for his attitude?  In short if he finds something boring, he just doesn’t do the work because he doesn’t see the point.

So now we find ourselves with a rather large dilemma.

Questions we are asking ourselves:

  • Is the current school the right one for him?
  • Would a different school be better for him – which one?
  • Would they teach in a completely different way that might engage a 14-year-old boy?
  • Should he repeat Year 8 due to immaturity and the fact he has obviously missed out on learning most of the basics this year (and which I believe are crucial building blocks for following years)?
  • What logic can we use to make him understand there is value in maths, english, history, geography (eg. you don’t know how these might be relevant in later life, it’s the breadth of knowledge and the ability to learn that benefits you, etc.)?

I tell myself the curriculum can’t vary that much from school to school, so if he hates science, english, history, geography etc then he just has to suck it up, because it’s a little hard to not do the basics in Year 8 isn’t it?

We did recently get him a tutor in maths, a subject he reluctantly admitted he was struggling with and falling behind in.  The good news is we have seen results, and it is the only subject that he has made improvements in – credit to his tutor.  But the reality is we can’t have a tutor in every subject – that to me isn’t treating the cause of the problem at the end of the day.

At this point our plan is to seek the school’s guidance and advice – they see 250 boys each year go through Year 8 – surely they must have experience with similar cases?  How have they handled it previously?

Of course the other issue this raises is a rather more delicate one.  What if the school agreed with us that he should repeat Year 8?  How would that make him feel?  Would you move schools to do this (I think yes)?  What is the impact on a 14-year-old boy with a twin brother (probably pretty rough I suspect)?

Not surprisingly the possibility of this infuriates Man-Child II.  We had the conversation just this week following yet another poor school report.  He is adamant he wouldn’t do it – naturally.  Part of me hopes it will be just the motivator he needs to pull his digit out between now and the end of the year, and to save him and us from some hard decisions.

But in the meantime, I think we have our own homework – to seriously consider some options that might help our son, and ensure his school life is both enjoyable, and fruitful.

Thoughts, advice, similar experiences all welcome from the readers of my blog.  Help!