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Archive for the ‘school’ Category

For the past few weeks, my 16-year-old son has been away in the Adirondacks, working at a family-run lodge on a pristine lake ringed with tall trees and a few campsites. With the other high school and college kids who make up the staff, he helps serve and clear meals, which are eaten family style in an open-air building with wooden canoes hung from the rafters. He splits wood, mows grass, strips beds. He drives a little Deere tractor to take the guests’ luggage to and from their cabins, which are lit only by Coleman lanterns. In his free time, he can go hiking, kayaking or sailing, or stretch out on a couch on the lodge porch to read a book or sleep. What makes it really unique, though, is that he is completely unplugged. There is no cell service and no wi-fi. This means my son not only is having a vacation from the constant lure of Facebook and texting, but is having what I have come to recognize must be a welcome respite from me.

Last spring I spent eight days in Kenya on a business trip. With the time difference and the difficulty of phoning home, communication with my husband and sons was limited to a few check-ins by email. A day or two after I got back, I found myself in the familiar position of standing in the doorway to the den, grilling my son about the status of his homework and suggesting that studying was perhaps a better use of his time than playing League of Legends. He sighed, turned to me and said, “Do you know that the week you were away was the least stressful week I’ve had in months?” (more…)

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Like many women with a less than cordial relationship with her bathroom scale, I’m aware that I have a natural weight, the number my body veers toward when I forget I am on a diet. And now, after 14+ years of parenting, I’ve come to believe that I also have a natural inner parent, the one who I always seem to resort to being, despite my attempts to heed the advice of parenting books and articles, and other apparently “better” parents.

This occurred to me during the past week as I’ve pondered how to motivate my ninth-grade son to be less of what his English teacher calls “a minimalist” and what I call a plain, old under-achiever. With report cards issued and parent-teacher conferences underway, I’ve heard some parents talk about how they react to grades they believe are too low (which is often different from a universally acknowledged “bad” grade).  There are phones and laptops taken away, video game privileges revoked, and even grounding.

I have considered such steps, too, but ultimately I hesitate – and not only because I’m not sure those methods work. I hesitate because after all these years, I’m getting to know myself as a parent. While I might look at other (stricter) parents with envy, thinking that they have the answers to automatically get their wayward teens in line, I know that I can only parent….as I parent.  Which is to say that if were graded on “consistently enforcing rules,” I would get a B-minus, at best. On punishing, I’d probably do even worse. (more…)

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