I’ve been building to a snarling discontent about Michael’s schooling. Six years ago he decided that he wasn’t having fun, but couldn’t find the motivation to deal and complete his schooling anyway. This was during the beginning of his mother’s and my divorce, so it was understandable. Then I was gone, and his mother was an absentee at best, willing to ignore him if he would repay her by not being too troubling.
Then he came here, after fighting it for a year. In a year’s time he has turned around six years of bad habits, and done it all on his own. Amazing feat. Unfortunately, one does not overcome six years of the consequences of one’s effort in a single year.
Last September we discussed his possible avenues to graduation. Most of them required at least another year of school. There was one magic-door-to-freedom; someone could shell out $2,500 in fees for a correspondence course that would grant high school credits, he could complete those concurrently with his senior year, and in June all his actions would cancel one another out, and he wouldn’t have to face the consequences of his five year, ah, self-exploration period. If the money was available, if we started right then, if it was accepted by the school, if if if if. The harsh reality was that he would be attending some form of school for another year…but could shorten that with the correspondence courses.
Money, however, was short. When child support kicked in, then we could give it a try, if he was doing well in classes, if he was doing well in the self-paced Options make-up course at the school. Around January, his success at school became more moderate, and his success at Options disappeared. He had, I believe, lost faith that his magic fix-it was still in the works.
Money finally became available for the first of his courses in March, but by then he had gone three months without any progress – at all – in his Options course. I was more than a little hesitant, and dragged my feet. Michael hadn’t found out if the correspondence courses would be accepted by his school, hadn’t talked with the counseller about it, hadn’t made progress in Options…hadn’t done his portion.
Then Shannon lost her job. Money, again, was tight.
But for five months, every progress report from Options shows exactly the same progress as the last one. For three months, he has not completed a single assignment, as far as I am able to tell.
I think he’s given up hope of a quiet, gentle cruise through school, and the despair has entirely demotivated him to make extra progress.
And, y’know, I’m fine with that. I understand it. I went through it. I am, in fact, a high-school drop out.
But I’ve been getting angry about it.
“His problem,” I say, and know that I’m right. “His behaviors. His payoff.” I nod. I agree with me. “Not about me,” I continue.
And I get angrier. I fuss, fume, I fulminate. And didn’t nod.
This morning on the way to work, I ranted at Shannon. “His behaviors,” I snarled. “His payoff. His,” I spat, yes, venomously, “problem. Not. Mine.
“So why,” I asked through clenched teeth and curled lips, “am I so angry about this, if it isn’t about me?”
Shannon, sleepy, watched, knowing that if I’m talking that I already have all the help anyone can give me. She stood ready to poke me if I went quiet, or kick me if I turned stupid. Or to grab the steering wheel if I was so rant-y that I forgot to steer.
“If I’m angry, it must be about me.” Hm. Consider. A thought struck, and I spake it, trying it on for size. “He was ignored with his mother, and failed where I couldn’t save him. He got here, and is stalling out again because he’s finally decided that nobody is going to wave a magic wand and undo all of his actions. Nobody dished out the money to make it easy. No one saved him. And so he’s fussy because he has to live with the consequences of his actions.
“If he had come down here a year earlier instead of fighting it, he would have graduated on time. If he had put forth huge effort in Options this year, he could at least walk through graduation. But he didn’t. And he didn’t. He wouldn’t let me save him, and then the only way I could save him was to drop cash I didn’t have or divert it from everything else that I want to do, and I didn’t save him.”
Shannon said, “When did it become your job to save him?”
“It’s not my job. I want to save him. But I don’t want to give up everything that I want, anymore, to save anybody, and that little bastard wouldn’t cooperate and let me save him any other way, and now he has to live with the consequences of his actions and he doesn’t like it and I don’t like it and we both just want all of this to go away but he still needs saving and I CAN’T and I’m mad at him for not letting me save him when I could have and I’m mad at me for wanting to now and mad at me for not giving up everything to save him and –” I took a breath “– I guess it is about me, after all.”
I checked my palms. No holes.