My son, recently..made a true effort to get my undivided attention in December. First, let me let you know how our relationship is. Being my first born son comes with the usual proud Father as well as getting him into sports at an early age of 7. He excelled at sports; baseball, golf, football. We were close. Then, I got divorced and his emotions became withdrawn unless he was really moody or poked (his mother) into saying something. He was 8 years old when we got divorced and he will turn 16 very shortly…in that short time (seems short to me) he’s taller, bigger (not fat) and has more hair than me. His academics are true ‘doesn’t care’ about grades attitude and has been an issue for 4 years now. It’s not that he’s dumb, he simply doesn’t care about ‘good’ grades but rather just enough to get by/passing. This has put a hamper on our relationship as my expectations for him are high, in reality my expectations are only well intentioned wishes for him to succeed (that’s how you spell the word by the way…) in this cruel world of ours. He see’s me as a nagging Dad who all he cares about is grades. Nags him about homework, missing assignments and gripes. I don’t want to be that Dad. I tried many variations of motivation for his school work but none have worked. The most recent one is to not barrage him with questions but rather, simple 1-2 times a week ‘How’s School?’ – ‘Missing a lot of work’ ? And letting his answers be the final answers. I have the ability to check his grades online and while I did check 3-4 times a week the first Quarter I now check once every 3-4 weeks. It irked me to the point that it would ruin my day seeing all his work missing, low test grades…It would piss me off for the entire day/night.
His intelligence is above average as proven through the state tests they take twice a year. ALL and I mean ALL his teachers love him and comment on his wit, kindness and respectfulness in and out of class. However they ALL admit he doesn’t focus in class. Has 1000 excuses for missing work, skips pre-determined make up classes (UGH!!). I can only hold his hand for so long before I let the cascade of failure fall on him with his grades. So, now I’m more hands off. Less verbal.
In this change in my attitude his seems to be changing too. Albeit he makes up his work at the last minute under threats of grounding from his beloved PS3 & Phone…I only hope he comes around sooner than later to the benefits of ‘good’ grades. And don’t think I’m some Grades Warmonger – by good I mean ‘C’ student in Math, CA and Science. Core subject should be C and above. He does excel in Music and Art. Go figure. He is also exceptional with Piano and especially Guitar. He is self taught on both and makes his own music up and is able to ‘learn’ a song/melody simply by listening to it a few times.
So, back to the subject at hand. Our relationship would be called typical. I’m the mean old Dad and he’s the don’t care teen. Typically when I get home he’s sleeping or playing PS3 (Black Ops) with his friends. I check in and ask how his day was then go upstairs into my little world. I see him when it’s dinner time – but even that is closed in that most of the time he takes his food to his room. I then say good night by visiting his room along the night or text him. Yes…I text my son who is literally 25 feet away.
Recently – my son took the initiative and downloaded Magic the Gathering Online for the PS3. He grew up around me playing, collecting and having friends over for gaming time. He’s traveled with me to Missouri States a couple times when he was 5 or 6…so he knows of the game. I say initiative because to me he was making an effort to ‘be’ with me. To share a common interest. He asked me to teach him a real game. I gave him some cards and told him some basic deck building ideas.
Low and behold we had a match a couple weeks ago. MtG does take some time to learn the rules and spells and isn’t something you can learn in an hour. So, he continued to play the PS3 version on his own. In this time we talked Magic. His likes of Red and Green and Black. His dislikes and annoyances of Blue and White. I was warm inside each time he came to me. Me.
He actually got me the full version of the game and himself one too so we can play eachtother online…tho honestly I prefer LIVE in your face Magic Games. We played 5 matches over Christmas break and had a great time.
Another move he made was to make an entire Star Wars Little Big Planet level and he asked me to come see it. To those who don’t know what Little Big Planet (LBP) is it’s a PS3 game that is the most original fun game mirrored off of the traditional ‘save the princess (mario)’ genre game. Making levels is very very time consuming. He spent hours and hours on it and in my deep seated egocentrism believe it was for ME. He wanted to share this with me. I thanked him and was again…very happy inside…and I gave him a big manly hug for his efforts.
I sincerely hope this continues as he approaches being 16 just around the corner. Shit…I need to take him on the road again for lessons. We did several times this past summer…and it was…ummm…hair raising. Not for the feint of heart. At least I drive an automatic.
I plan on making 2011 a year of ME making more of an effort to be a part of my son & daughters lives.