Only two years left!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some tangible motto or quip that I might share with my eldest son as he enters his last two years of high school.
As a mom of a boy, I’ve learned how important it is to economize my words.
In his elementary years, I realized my ranting and long-winded explanations to him about making his bed and brushing his teeth — all in the scurry of the morning rush — were only making me frustrated.
I figured out all those words in one clump were overwhelming him so much, he couldn’t pick out the important ones.
And, therefore, he just stopped listening. So I simplified: “Bed? Teeth? Clothes?” This trick worked marvelously.
Over the years, I’ve adapted this streamlined communication with him in his different stages.
Now that he’s a teenager, I say the same thing to him when I pick him up from school: How’d it go today?
He then proceeds to tell me the highlights of his day and what he’s learning in his classes. (He’s a verbal processor.)
Then I ask: Whatcha got tonight?
In my mother’s head, this translates roughly to:
Have you made a list of all of your classes and what homework you’ve been assigned today that will be due tomorrow?
Do you have any upcoming tests or projects for the week — and do you have a study plan to incorpo- rate them into your day?
And, by the way, did you get your grade for that history test you took last week?
This fall, he’s beginning his junior year. And we’re both conscious of the same things:
Only TWO more years?!
Will his grades be high enough for his college aspirations?
Is he ready for the SAT?
What college will he/we choose in two years (when he won’t be under my roof anymore)?
I’ve told myself I can’t let my worries for every stage on the road to his adulthood get the best of me.
By doing so, and letting them fall out of my mouth uncontrollably, I end up inadvertently doing two things — totally stressing him out and accidentally telling him, I’m worried you can’t do it.
I don’t want either of these messages to come from me. The cause of my concern is really just my profound hope that he does well in life.
The reality of the workload
The beginning of a school year is exciting, but also daunting.
Two years of high school have shown him he’s not in Kansas (middle school) anymore.
He knows high school is hard.
He’s seen what happens when you decide to skip a big project (or not turn it in on time). He’s learned that 10 percent of a homework grade can make or break your final outcome.
And he’s discovered that cramming for a test the night before isn’t all that effective.
If he decides not to take these lessons into account — or has weeks when he doesn’t — he’ll face some potentially steep consequences.
Of course, he’s expected to balance this workload with daily football practices, twice-weekly choir practices outside of school, social stuff like dances and bonfires, and, oh yeah, time with us, his family.
So I’m back to where I started: How do I honestly tell him how to do all of this?
Last year, I found myself advising him during those especially tiring and commitment-filled weeks:
Work hard. Take the three hours of work you have and be diligent and honest with yourself about your focus.
And: Take breaks. If its 30 minutes of TV with your feet up, or 30 minutes tinkering on your guitar, enjoy it. Fully engage in your rest. Play hard.
When it comes to football, hit hard. At choir, sing intently. At bonfires with your friends, laugh loudly.
I’m not a philosopher.
But I’m hoping these mom mantras — that have evolved out of everyday parenting — actually stick.
I also hope they tamp down my mom babble.
Work hard. Play hard.
Now it’s time I follow my own advice!
Jennifer Wizbowski lives in Excelsior. Send comments, questions and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.