I started this past school year with the mindset that it was time to let my son fail.
If being totally honest, it didn’t feel like a “big” decision or groundbreaking idea, but rather one that would be most necessary in helping him truly embrace his responsibility as a student.
I’m an “old school” mom, in many ways. So many of the tools that children and families now have did not exist when I was growing up. To put it plainly, going to school, doing well and delivering good grades was my job. There was no financial incentive for a good report card. There was no Aeries system for my mom to monitor and double check that I was keeping up. Goodness, my mom worked full time and commuted, so talk of my studies was minimum at best.
That being said, you best believe, I was raised with the fear of God and my mother when it came to expectations and the last thing I would be brave enough to do was slack off.
So as my son concluded his sixth grade year and looked ahead to junior high, I took a bit of a step back and got real with myself and him. His elementary educational career was stellar, much of it because he is a bright young man, however mom made sure to follow up quite a bit.
As I looked to his junior high experience, I realized e-mailing/texting or side conversations with teachers needed to be curtailed. Oh sure, if I had a true concern, indeed I would use these resources, the overall responsibility however needed to shift to him.
I also recognized if there were ever a time to let him fail, junior high should be that time. It’s a transition time after all, a time of hormonal as well as academic transition. Last summer, I still recall sitting in the office of an administrator I highly respect and speaking of the “differences” in students from when we were young.
Hearing I was going to let my son fail, came with a long pause and a “that might be a big risk you’re taking on, he’s a bright kid.”
My reply simple, “Yes, he is, but he must learn. I won’t be going with him to college and junior high won’t follow him as high school will. It’s time.”
And so, at the start of the school year I shared this with my son. I acknowledged the lesson that was to be gained and that I had faith he could handle the responsibility of his education. In short, he was given freedom. Freedom from a hovering mom, a freedom which was his to lose and … he did.
By March of the second semester in his seventh grade year, a progress report arrived in the mail. His freedom and lack of helicopter mom landed him an F, a 48 percent in one of his classes. Culprit of this well-earned grade – missing assignments.
To say I lost my head a bit at seeing such a grade under the name of my Presidential Honor Roll student would be a bit of an understatement. But ... this was my experiment, my bright idea and now his tough lesson. Suddenly he found himself spending hours doing past due work for half credit (yeah, that hurts), but he had no choice. His freedom was gone and helicopter mom had landed with pressure fully intact.
In short, a lot of hustle, a few late nights and consistent communication saw him to a year which ended with a solid B in the class. More valuable than the B grade, however, was the lesson.
As the school year came to a close, I asked him what he’d remember most from seventh grade, his answer simple, “To do my work.”
As I laughed at his answer, I also acknowledged the truth of it all. I questioned if he realized how hard he had made it on himself, by simply being lazy. His response, affirmative.
In truth, I have no idea what his eighth grade will hold for us. What I do know however, is that this was a lesson neither of us will forget. Just as I must show up to be the best mom I can be for him, it is likewise his job to show up on his respective campus and be the best student he can be. Failure, not an option.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.