My 12 year old stood before me at the very start of the weekend and announced quite matter-of-factly, “I’m not going back to school.” I stopped myself from forming an angry retort and decided to ignore the comment. I figured by the end of the weekend that whatever had instigated his remark will have dissipated.
But all weekend long, every time I reminded his siblings to complete their homework, he’d say “I’m not doing my homework, because I’m not going back to school,” or “I don’t have any anymore.” Finally, annoyed by my silence on the subject, he sought me out. “Okay mom? I’m not going. I don’t care what you say.”
My mind had been working overtime since he’d dropped this bomb of a comment, racing to find some response to this most unacceptable course of action that he had chosen. I needed to tread very carefully. While “quitting school” was definitely out of the question, so was forcing him to go. It had to be his decision, and it was equally important that his father and I steer him towards making the right one.
Inside I was raging, but I very calmly stated that I expected all of my children to get a complete education and a college degree. There were no ifs, ands, or buts about that. I could see him preparing to dig his heels in. But my husband and I were ready for him. We told him he could stay home on the condition that we, together, spend the day solving this problem or registering him at a new school.
School is a tough place for kids, especially if they stand out, as my son does. It is important that he feels supported at home, and confident that his decisions carry weight. To insist on my way would mean creating a power struggle between us, and pushing him further and further away from the choice I ultimately wanted him to make. If I blocked his path, pride would stop him from changing his mind. Instead I had to be his ally. By agreeing with him we had adopted his problem as ours and shared the burden of solving it.
The next day he was back at his desk, among his classmates. Crises averted. But I pray always that Allah give me the strength to bite my very opinionated tongue when he drops his next bombshell. After all his teenaged years are yet to come.
Hanan is a mother of four who enjoys reading, writing, and thinking of new ways to challenge her kids.