A Test of Wills

I don’t know if it was the onset of his teens years, high school, or something he ate or is taking which has transformed the 14 year old into an individualistic and hard headed child into an incorrigible and rebellious young man. This time last year, we were having our issues in dealing with his newfound desire for more independence, but we didn’t have to play mind games and go through the mire of lies that we are now faced at every turn. More significantly, he gave it the effort to maintain a clean front to others outside the immediate family, specially in the eyes of my in-laws who adored the 14 year old to death. In the last quarter of 2004, he has managed to turn all this around and show them how difficult he can be when he sets his mind to it. Forget that his aunt had given him an i-pod last Christmas, or that his grandmother would buy him anything his heart desired — because they all came down hard on him for failing all his subjects in his freshman year two periods in a row, they now joined his immediate elders (Dad, Mom, and step parents) who have been declared persona non grata.

Is it because he is looking forward to transferring from his current high school to our zone that he has all but given up hope of passing even just Health Ed? He continues to cut class and not submit homework. He must have heard a dozen iterations of the theme of how he is throwing away his own future, doing what he does. Any way you put it, he has wasted a whole grading period and will in all likelihood be throwing away a full year. At his current age, granting that he does not repeat any other grade level, he stands to graduate from high school just before age 20. We have spelled this out to him in plain English, and have made examples of the stock clerks in all the retail outlets. The Aunt who is in the field of Human Resources has even told him even if she wanted to, she wouldn’t be able to hire him if he weren’t a high school graduate. To all this he just gave us his usual hand under the chin stance.

The other night, he threw both households into a panic when he did not come home at 9. Mom and Dad burned the lines and tried to get his friends. When no call from the police or any hospital came at 10PM, his Dad knew he was just in someone’s house and staked out the living room. At 12:40MN, the 14 year old started creeping up the stairs and Dad was there waiting for him. Both his Mom and Dad tried to talk some sense into him. The 14 year old was not even remorseful. He was at a friend’s house, playing video games — saying he simply wanted to have fun. The following night, 9PM came and went again with nary a sign of the kid. So Mom and Dad started calling each other, not knowing what else to do. Perhaps in her frustration, the Mom suggested to the Dad that perhaps he should beat him up to drive some sense into his head. With 911 out there, this was totally out of the question. And at this point, the Dad had given up on even raising his voice, believing that calmly talking to the 14 year old would make him get his message across faster.

At around 10:20PM, the 14 year old arrived. When asked what had happened, he plainly replied that he was at his friend’s house again. He just wanted to have fun. We told him that in this house, he cannot come home at just any unholy hour he wishes. He has not even abided by our 6:30PM curfew since he got to the house, but to blatantly go against the rules and come at all these ungodly hours was just too much. I calmly told him that the next time he does this, we will lock the doors and not let him in. He said “Fine.”

I lost my cool. I didn’t want to get involved and wanted my husband to resolve this his way. But the kid’s nonchallance and the arrogance just blew me away. I don’t know if that had done damage or had gotten our point across. As a non-parent, I feel sometimes that he listens better to what I have to say than to what his Dad says simply because with me, it comes from a “stranger”. Even my mom noticed that when I talk to him, he responds, unlike when it’s his Dad talking, he gives his Dad the silent treatment.

I once saw a therapist who told me I must always think in terms of the capacity of his brain. Think like a 14 year old? I remember when I was 14 myself — I had my own rebellious streak, but I knew when to pull back, when to stop pushing the envelope, and when to simply admit I was wrong. For some reason, nobody bothered to teach the kid the virtue of accepting one’s fault, be it partial or full. He cries for independence yet shirks away from showing any signs of responsibility.

I just pray my own son doesn’t do the same number on me 14 years from now. I’d like to think he will be raised differently. But that’s thinking way too far off in the future. For now, I pray everyday that the 14 year old realizes his folly and does something about it before time completely overtakes him. It seems as though everyone but him is trying so hard to help him cope. In the end, if he doesn’t want to help himself, all our efforts will be for naught. For now it all boils down to a test of wills — neither side is giving in, and the one who is losing is him.

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