I was talking to a couple friends of mine last week about my son and his high school career.
The first friend and I both have children in the class of 2012. We often commiserate about their at-times lack of focus. We share about the missed assignments, the triumphs of an accomplishment, and the overall trials and tribulations of high school. And we reassure each other that they will be juniors next year and hopefully we won't have to feel like we are back in the hallowed halls of adolescent knowledge.
My other friend hasn't even been to kindergarten yet with the kids. They are still in the oooh and aaah stage of child rearing, the most stressful thing is getting them to daycare in time for their busy careers. This friend told me that I shouldn't have to hourly monitor my son's studies because I'm not the one in high school. I silently laughed and said, oh, just you wait, your time is coming.
We, my other high school parents and I, monitor our children's progress and study times because we know how easily they can be distracted with all the things vying for their attention. We also understand how crucial it is and really, truly, how fast the four years of high school zoom by like the trains that cross the middle of Kirkwood. It is only a blink. I have a son who is in the Navy in Japan and I remember him sitting at the dining table trying to keep up with his demanding schedule to maintain his 3.5 GPA. It can all come crashing down in one semester if the kids do not stay focused and ready for the assignments.
So it is this knowledge of how important it is that keeps us moving, going, and drinking a lot of caffeine along the way. We set up study sessions for finals, check in with the teachers, provide study aids, and lots and lots of paper. Their journey is only beginning and since most of my friends and I have advanced degrees, we also know that it is crucial they set up good habits now.
My friends and I comment about how different it is now than back in our day. I mean, my sophomore son is taking Algebra II and Honors Chemistry, classes that were not part of our radar screen until senior year. The stakes are higher, it seems, for them to take the Honors and AP courses to get into college. We are not those parents that write their child's college admission essay or hound the Harvard admissions counselors, but we are parents who want the best for our children and want them to be able to have options when May 2012 rolls around.
I remember being in school and my parents' evening ritual of reporting. Each of us had to speak about our classes, our grades, and our activities. It was check-in time. Grade reports and research papers were placed on the dining table between their spaces. My dad and step-mother read everything and demanded answers from us as to why we got a C. If we were truly giving it our best (I was not that good in science), then they gave us encouragement. But if we were just slacking off (Ds and Fs were not acceptable under any circumstances) then we were reminded about expectations.
My house was filled with books and the Encyclopedia Britannica. We also had medical dictionaries and yearly updated volumes about the world. There was never an excuse to not do well on a research paper as they gave us access to their friends who read and critiqued each paper. I guess, we are doing the same thing with our son now.
My son sometimes feels like we are too hard on him and too much in his space, but I secretly believes he appreciates it. He has the dedication of both his parents. He has access with me working at home and he has the benefit of parents who place a high priority on learning. His father often sits with him until 1 o'clock in the morning while he is plowing away at some chemistry calculation or editing another version of his English research paper. Both of us are in email contact with his teachers and take advantage of the high schools Pinnacle system that gives us an hour-by-hour update of his assignments and grades.
High school is foundational. That is why we sit with him. It is why, even with the car breaking down twice in the rain, I am sitting in the quiet room of the library, watching him study, silently giving him assurance that it all matters. He is working away on some calculations and giving glances to the table of snacks. And in the end, it will all be worth it.