Father Knows Nothing

I Hate Tuesdays

2013-05-24T00:00:00Z 2013-05-28T15:27:03Z I Hate TuesdaysRick Kaempfer nwitimes.com
May 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When I was still working in morning radio in Chicago, I always dreaded Tuesdays. Getting up at 3:00am on a Monday morning was difficult, but not impossible. I was usually well rested from the weekend, and eager to start a new work week because I truly enjoyed the process of creating a morning radio show.

On Tuesday mornings when that alarm went off at that godforsaken hour AGAIN, however, it was a different story. I knew I was literally going to be dog-tired every second of every day for the rest of the week, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I’m no longer getting up at 3:00am (and don’t miss it a bit), but in my house, Tuesdays are still the worst day of the week for me. Tuesday night is when our high school calls to let parents know their students are struggling. I’ve been getting these phone calls nearly every Tuesday now for the last three years, so I can tell you exactly what that computerized voice says…

“Dear parent or guardian. According to our most recent academic record, your son or daughter (insert name here) is near failing D or failing F in the following courses…”

I really really really hate that phone call.

I hate everything about it. I hate the computerized voice. I hate what the computerized voice is saying. I hate that my boys are forcing that computerized voice to call me up. But what I hate most of all is how I react to it. Even though I know the call is coming (I can look up their grades on line), and I know exactly when it’s coming (it comes at the same time every week), I still can’t stop my blood from boiling when the phone starts ringing.

After the first ring, my boys slink in their chairs and brace for the fallout. They desperately avoid eye contact—but they cannot avoid their fate. I usually grab the phone, stick it up to their ears, and say the words along with the computerized voice to accentuate the message…

“Dear parent or guardian. According to our most recent academic record, your son or daughter (insert name here) is near failing D or failing F in the following courses…”

I don’t want to react that way. I hate that I react that way. But I can’t stop myself because my frustration level reached a breaking point a long time ago.

If they were struggling because they were having trouble understanding the material it would be a different story. If they were struggling, but working hard, it would be a different story.

That’s not what’s happening. One of them has gotten an A on every single final he’s taken in high school. That’s doubly frustrating. That means he has learned the material, knows it incredibly well, and is still getting phone calls every week because he isn’t bothering to turn in his homework.

That’s frustrating with a capital F, if you know what I mean.

The other one doesn’t get an A on his finals, but when he’s quizzed or tested about the subject matter, he seems to understand the material. If he spent any time at all studying for the tests, it’s obvious that he would also do very well. But he doesn’t study. And he cannot be convinced that he needs to do so.

Bridget and I contacted the school counselor to ask for advice because we’ve tried everything to address this problem, and nothing has worked. The counselor told us that, unfortunately, this lack of concern about grades is a very typical issue with high school boys. He sympathized with our plight, but also let us know that it’s not something we can fix through sheer will or parental advice.

When the problem is motivation, no amount of parental digging, prodding or poking can unearth that motivational on/off switch. The boys have to find that on their own, and they eventually will. We just have to be patient and let them discover the consequences of their actions.

When I heard that, I knew he was right. Of all the people in the world, I should have known that all along. How could I have forgotten that it also took me a very looooong time to find my motivational on/off switch when I was a teenager? And my parents certainly pushed me every bit as hard as I’m pushing my boys.

Now that I know how it feels from the parent’s perspective, I should really call my mom and apologize for putting her through that.

I think I’ll do it on Tuesday night.

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Rick Kaempfer's business card says author/writer/blogger, but his real job is "stay-at-home-dad."