My son ran away, but he ran back.

So this week I had the evening of yelling about homework, ranting and raving, and being voted Most Unpopular Mother. I had told them there would be CONSEQUENSES! I didn't know what, but I would THINK OF SOMETHING if they didn't knuckle down and GET WITH THE PROGRAM!!

So Sam spent the rest of the week being World's Most Studious Child, hopping in the car and announcing "I don't have ANY homework, I did it all!" (they can do that, if they have time.) his brother, in the front seat, rolled his eyes to the heavens mouthing "bleh, bleh, bleh". I glared at him out of the corner of my eye.

"Wow, Sam, that means you can play all afternoon! Lucky you!" (bleh, bleh, bleh) (glare)

For the rest of the week, they appeared to be working hard and getting all of the homework done in a timely, if grouchy, manner. I breathed a small sigh of relief. And then on Friday I went in to school (Friday is a very sociable day at school!) to help out at the weekly snacks sale, and there was a son sitting in the Deputy Headmistresses office, finishing homework with another boy from his class. He had not done his math corrections from the previous day's work, and the school's homework policy is serious. The DH came, waving her hands in anguish, and wailing about these two brilliant boys, giving no end of homework trouble. The other Mum admitted to being a homework hoverer, and I admitted to not.

I didn't say much about it. "I forgot!" "Mmmm hmmmm." My eldest is outdoorsy, highly energetic, and unfocused when not interested.

On Saturday morning, the boys were supposed to fight in a Taekwondo tournament. It was all they could think about. They were looking forward to it. And on Saturday morning I told him that he would not be attending the tournament.

My Worst Mother Ever award is certain, folks. Give up, all you other hopefuls.

He was furious. He announced that he was NOT eating breakfast (fine by me), and furthermore he was LEAVING and NEVER coming BACK! (okay, bye)

I left a delicious breakfast covered up on the kitchen table, notified my parents next door of the conditions of engagement, and left. "He'll soon get hungry and come home" I prophesied.

Sam had a wonderful time at taekwondo, getting soundly pounded by his opponent. He enjoyed himself! He hung out with his friends, and we headed home happy and tired.

His brother had pitched a tent in the forest that is our backyard, caught a tilapia in the pond, cleaned it, and baked it in a cast-iron skillet with thyme and cilantro from the backyard. Then he'd picked portugals, citrus fruit like tangerines, and eaten those. Hmmm. So much for my starvation tactic. I went to visit him in his camp and asked if he was ready to talk, and he climbed a tree.

Time for drastic measures, I thought. I got out a box of Blueberry Muffin Mix, and began to brew my Mom-Potion. Mashed bananas in. Added some spelt flour. Then Max buttered the muffin pans, and licked the bowl (and his buttery fingers!) Into the oven went my magic muffins, and the smell wafted out of the window, across the lawn, through the bushes and trees, and into the exile's tent. It tapped him on his shoulder and beckoned.

The exile stamped into the house, opened the kitchen cupboard, took a can of Vienna Sausages, and stamped back out again. He was weakening, I could tell.

Before too long, the muffins were cooling and he was back again. We talked about responsibility, attitude and respect. And did some homework.

He invited his brothers to come and see his camp, and off they all went armed with sleeping bags, torchlights and blueberry-banana muffins. They decided to spend the night in their camp. Max lasted fifteen seconds, and the others came in about an hour later. They all went to bed.

Has my son learned his lesson? Is there anything else I can do to help him to SPEED UP and FOCUS on his work? (We already have a quiet "homework time" at the kitchen table, complete with a mug of warm cocoa as a treat, and I am available if help is needed) Will he one day drop out of normal society altogether and become a bushmaster? Why does my supposedly "brilliant" son have to plug away for hours at boring long division and object pronouns, when he speaks perfect English, reads voraciously and can work complex math out in his head? Will we survive until the 11+ exam? Am I right to put him through this extremely competitive exam? My heart was breaking to ban him from the tournament. Was I too harsh? He is as stubborn as they come, a complex person who I seem to be in a constant dance of compromise with. He is a wonderful, exuberant, loving, communicative boy who will work really hard when he is interested. He would like to do Marine Biology and robotics, and knows that he will have to stay at school for a long while yet to accomplish that. I want to help him...

But somebody better help ME!

More on this topic: Why do teenagers act like toddlers? How can we get through to them?

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Ndinombethe said…
You don't need help Nan! You could write a book on how to do it right.

Don't worry. I know you were gutted about the tournament, but when you run out of consequences (and don't have TV, which is usually the first privilege to be taken away) then something's got to give. There'll be more tournaments, and he may just have learned his lesson.

See you on Wednesday.
Unknown said…
You are a MOM. You are my Hero (for today, anyway.) The whole problem for him is that his head is doing 100 miles an hour but homework tries to slow him down to 20. He's distracted and distractable. He has yet to truly understand that the things that interest him are inextricably intertwined with the things that bore him. That he needs to be able to do both equally well.

I have three like that. The youngest is still in school. And he is still a work in progress. Just like yours.
Unknown said…
Awwww, Nan! I know that was incredibly hard, but I'm so impressed with how you handled it. Hang in there, you're doing the best you can for his very best. It'll be worth the hassle when he's grown and is pursuing his dreams with a solid foundation that you've helped build.
Anonymous said…
My 13 year old drives me batty bonkers about homework. He will tell you it's done, you can check the backpack/notes/homework and yet he still has assignments missing. Growl.

Wow, and you have a Viagra Spam comment. You rock!
Nan Sheppard said…
Yes, folks, get your vi@gra here! I will delete that one, soon as I get home...
Theresa said…
I could think of a million things worse to be than a bushman... like a CEO of Enron or AIG for example. You are an amazing mom Nan. It sucks that society today makes kids do everything they have no interest in. Choosing to do otherwise is a tough decision and will be met will little support. And that sucks as a parent who knows what her child loves doing and excels at. I know my day will come for those decisions to be made too.

I remember running away from home, and how utterly sad I felt. Your method of dealing with it was wonderful.