Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Report Card

Yesterday, I came home around lunch time for, oddly enough, lunch, and saw that Sabrina's report card had come in the mail. She had been telling me for weeks that she was worried that she might not be in her customary place on high honor roll, but I wasn't too worried about it, because this quarter, in the 10-week class slot, she had replaced Art (with its attendant witchy teacher; bottom line is, if you've grown tired of dealing with kids, you really should find another line of work) with a home-ec class that she both liked and was grading well in. And so it turned out; she actually ended up with a 96 average, a point higher than last quarter. And the comments were uniformly excellent.
And I gave thanks again that while she looks more like her mother than me, in important ways my genes seem to have bubbled up to the forefront. Yesterday morning, I noted that her now-18YO half brother was posting on Facebook that he was outside Manley's at 3:30 AM on a Tuesday morning; he has just become a train wreck in the last couple of years, allegedly preparing for GED but mixed up in all sorts of worrisome things. Her younger brother is even more of a mess, and in another time and place probably would have been institutionalized. Her two sisters have also inherited their father's academic aptitude; I admit that it is a little unsettling seeing, vicariously, what I was actually capable of if I had tried harder when I was younger, because all three of them sport higher grades than I had. Rachel, of course, is on track to be valedictorian at Johnson City this year, Jessica is on high honor roll, and Sabrina's 96 has got to be one of the higher averages at West. While I did well enough when I was in school, I didn't score on that level, and that was because I didn't put the level of work in that they do. Every Sunday when Rachel and Jess come here, they bring their backpacks and do copious amounts of homework, and Sabrina, too, spends a lot of time every day with her work. I honestly don't remember ever doing homework on weekends before dark on Sunday nights, and judging from the amount of television I can remember watching, I didn't exactly spend hours each night studying.
But there is something I am even prouder of. Given what I do for a living, I am well aware of what can happen with teens of these ages. I am profoundly glad that Rachel has never gotten caught up in the drama that some circles seem to be suffused with. Jessica is less mellow than Rachel, but not to the point where she is in the vortex of major problems. And Sabrina resolutely avoids getting dragged into a lot of crap that is washing through West. She told me yesterday that one of her friends, who has had problems controlling her temper for two years, is in even more trouble because the last kid she got in a conflict with, who is an even closer friend of Sabrina's, fabricated an entire fake Facebook page of the kid, and used that identity to post threats to herself and of course has alerted school officials; and enlisted another of her cabal to stay home from school claiming she was afraid of the kid with the temper issue. This is the kind of crap that Sabrina has shown, repeatedly, since early grade school, no tolerance for. She says she is starting to avoid the fabricator, and very visibly refusing to reject the temperamental kid while at the same time not condoning violence. She has grown closer to a few kids this year that are part of this neighborhood, and I simply don't see any real danger signs about the way she conducts herself in the mini-society at school (boys are another matter; she seems to have an affinity for older boys that does worry me. But that's the price of having an intelligent and relatively mature kid, too; emotionally she is more akin to 16YO boys than those her own age).
And I certainly am more grateful with every passing day that I moved to the West Side before middle school. I hear reports from some of the parents of kids she went to Roosevelt with regularly, and see the status reports of some of her friends that now go to East, and without being overly cruel, East is a zoo compared to West. Many more of her friends from elementary school are having problems academically and socially; there's one that is regularly posting things like "I want to die" and "Fine, I'm never talking to [her parents] again." I am not gloating, don't get me wrong. But I am also aware that there are reasons why my kids aren't doing things like that, and that the way I have chosen to parent--not only with discipline and boundaries, but the values I exhibit every day and the way I live my own life--has turned out to be a better way for my adolescents.
And I also have a reminder that anything is possible. Sabrina cannot go to the first scheduled school dance of the year on Friday, not because of any issues with her mother or I but because she was suspended for that one day back in September for that stupid pranking incident on the recess playground. She is grumbling in a major way about how "unfair" it all is, but also recognizes that ultimately, it is a price she is paying for a very poor decision. Rather than catching a main resentment, she has used it as motivation to make better decisions in the future--just the lesson a parent hopes that they take from such experiences.
It's nice to see that my own decision-making processes over the years have been validated in such visible and rewarding fashions. But even more so, I am very happy that my kids have decided that the responsible and hard-working way they have chosen for themselves is the way they want to be, because it is not the way of instant gratification and it is not the way that most of their peers have taken. All the guidance in the world is beside the point if the kid themselves decides they'd rather go in another direction. So far, at least, that has not happened with mine, and I am grateful and happy that it has not.

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