The Toughest Love

Following the kid’s freshmen year of high school, I knew some things needed to be changed.  He had not given his best effort at all in school.  Hell, he didn’t even put forth a good effort, according to my standards.  In a moment of defeat, I felt I was losing him to the plagued Detroit Public Schools.  His entire educational career to this point had been filled with above average scores and grades.  So the excuse about high school being a big transition had worn out with me.  This was the school he chose to test in to and passed to be accepted into the math & science program. These grades were that of someone just passing time. I knew we definitely were not passing time, we were here for excellence. What could I do to help him understand the seriousness of this moment? I mean, I had done everything, I thought, from taking the phone away, keeping him in the house and accessing his records to locate missing assignments and poor grades. Next year had to be better than this. Then in an effort to correct the poorest grades on his transcript, he went to summer school. I saw this as the boost he’d need to get him on the right track scholastically. I was wrong again. These grade mimicked those he brought in during the regular school year. Moreover, what was I, the parent, going to do to show him I meant the strictest of business when it concerned his education?

It came to me out of desperation. He needed to see what life holds if you don’t take your life seriously. There was only one option – send him to his dad. This post is not about deadbeat dads, bashing men or the effects of father inactivity. No, no, no! This was about needing a break from the cushy life he has been given, appreciating the efforts I make to benefit him and understanding why I push him so hard. This was not an easy thing to do. We have been together since April 5th 1999. (There’s a story about that but I’ll save it for another post.) I was angry, this was unacceptable. The feelings I had with regard to this issue were disrespectful to me. Never in his lifetime did I think I would need to send him to live with them. (There’s another story here but I’ll tell it to you when I tell the other one.) As I talked to his dad on the phone, I called him my BABY. It was in that moment I knew this had to be done. Here’s a young man 5’10.5″ and I’m calling him my baby. I rushed him in the car and took him to his semi-permanent residence.

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The tears flowed as I pulled away. Had I given up on my only child? No – but the emotions I was experiencing made me feel I had. I returned later that evening to bring him clothes and needed essentials. He apologized and asked how long did he have to stay. My reply was given through tearful eyes, “until you get the importance of education and understand that I am hurt.” He knew I meant business.

The weeks passed and on my off days I would go see my son. We’d sit and talk about what he’d observed, realized and most frequently when was he coming home. I usually got around that question effortlessly. A series of events took place and not to be the one to spread other folks business, I’ll just say – these certainly were NOT the types of things I wanted him around but he learned from them. One morning around 1AM my phone rang. It was my son calling me, crying out of frustration and discomfort from the streets of Detroit. The only thing I could think of was get him back to the confines of the house. In a plea to come home, he told me he understood everything I told him to focus on and vowed to be better. In a sheer moment of stoicism, I told him I wasn’t coming to get him and we were no longer doing what he wanted me to do. From that conversation on he never asked me about coming home again.

The new school year was coming up and he was quite anxious about it. My last visit there I informed him to pack his things up and be ready after I got off work to return home. You should’ve saw the excitement in his face. He didn’t have any idea of what I had in store for him. Check out the Agreement of Achievement I produced.

This contract was my written way of expressing I was NOT HERE for the foolishness he pulled freshmen year. As he sat there and read, he asked questions about different things and signed his name in agreement to all terms.

The school supplies were purchased and I had sent a private prayer up requesting favor on his behalf. In hopes that he was still a member of the MSAT program in his school. The 1st day came and he was ready. His schedule displayed the satisfactory in the delivery of my prayer and he was still registered into those AP classes. The homework was out on the table and he appeared to be more organized.

We’re well on our way to a better year than last. I think there is an external factor I’m not accounting for but I’ll keep my mouth shut on that until I get confirmation. I heard it with my own ears as I was waiting to pick him up from school one day. The young man says, “Hey! I didn’t even know you was back here! What classes you got?” Number 19 says, “Most of my classes with the 11th and 12th graders, I’m really smart I was just clowning last year.” There it was – the truth!

I have noticed a change in him. Call it maturity, fear or an act. I like what I’m seeing so far. The 1st report card will be here in no time and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the results. Some times it’s hard to let your children grow up, chastise them and define their own course for their lives. We never want to be seen through unkind eyes. Moreover, when you know what’s best for them it’s our job to encourage the best from them.

“Men are what their mother made them.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

2 Comments

  1. Yes, Sistah! You took away that comfort zone. I am proud of you for sticking with it, as I have been there, and understand how hard it is to commit to this. I salute you!

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