No Invitation Needed for My Pity Party

In happier times, my younger son goofed around in a ski mask at his iMac.

Earlier this year I wrote about problems my younger son was having dealing with life and his sophomore year of high school (here and here). Perhaps some of you wonder what the outcome was.

Maybe some noticed that after awhile there were no new track photos posted during the season nor did I wax nostalgically about the end of another school year. As a matter of fact, when the last day of school finally rolled around on June 2, I felt like going to my neighborhood bar (not that I have any idea where that would be) and drinking heavily (another round of Diet Cokes, please!).

Is it?

That tiny snowball filled with my #2 son’s emotional, mental, and physical woes started rolling slowly downhill from the top of Mt. Everest at the end of February. By late March, it was huge and causing avalanches in every aspect of our family’s existence. I used to wear those Life is Good t-shirts every day to remind myself that my life really was good . . . it just didn’t seem like it at the time. I felt stripped of my sense of humor and sense of well-being.

Long story short, my son stopped going to high school in April and missed his last two track meets. He literally couldn’t sit through his classes. After learning that nothing was truly physically wrong with him, we decided he’d be better off in our school district’s homebound program. At least he’d stop being truant (he ended up missing about 25 days of school; nine is the limit) and, hopefully, would be able to pass his classes and earn his second-semester credits.

Marc helps my son with his geometry.

But here’s the problem with the homebound program: Imagine that you only have one hour a week to teach your kid a high school subject like, say, chemistry. That would be hard enough, right? I mean, how much can you learn about a complex class in only that weekly hour? Then add into that 60 minutes the need to administer quizzes and/or tests. Think you’re going to accomplish much?

That’s how it is when a student is homebound—the teacher comes for one hour per core subject per week. So even though my younger son was blessed with two gifted and caring teachers in Marc (geometry and chemistry) and Susan B. (English II and world history), they fought an uphill battle for the six weeks he was in the program. Fortunately, my son’s regular at-school teachers helped him as much as possible and were extremely supportive.

I worked with my son’s terrific Business Information Management teacher, Mrs. J., to save his computer credit (electives aren’t included when a student is homebound). Plus I drove him to school before and after classes so he could attend tutorials and take his quizzes and tests. The kid made up everything on time (barely), but it wasn’t easy.

My son had trouble smiling even on his June 1st birthday.

Meanwhile, I was mired in my very own pity party. Life was hard for both my son (who was hosting his own pity party at the same time) and me 24/7. I so wanted him back at school and not missing all that valuable class and social time that I actually would be angry at him and my own inability to convince him to go to school. When he finally agreed to see a psychologist, he didn’t want to talk to him. It was frustrating, stressful, and overwhelming.

Like most moms, I like to fix things when it comes to my kids. Need a folder? Look in the school supply stash. Can’t get iMovie to work? Let me see what I can do. Need a special treat? Let’s bake cookies. But I couldn’t fix what was wrong with my baby, because I couldn’t make him believe that everything was going to be okay eventually.

I’m just glad I wasn’t doing my Photo of the Day project this year, because I’m afraid that every picture would feature one of us with that little, dark cloud over our head like in the depression medicine commercials. Not pretty.

It’s now been two weeks since my son took his last final. He managed to finish with two A’s and four B’s (he did lose the second semester of his Art I credit). He’s doing fine physically, and it seems like he’s also healing emotionally and mentally. It took me about a week to unwind after constantly feeling that I needed to see what assignments were due and to push my son to finish his work every waking hour. Stress definitely is a two-way street.

And what about Monday, August 22? That’s when my boy should start his junior year. Will he be able to go back to high school? Will the end of his sophomore year be just a memory by then?

I sure hope so. Otherwise, look for that pity party invitation in the mail!

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10 responses to “No Invitation Needed for My Pity Party

  1. Cheryl Carswell

    I am so thankful this school year is over for CJ. I hope the new school year brings a fresh new start for him…and you. Thanks so much for sharing this family struggle with all. You are such a gifted writer. But, more importantly you have been so honest with what most people would rather not let the outside world see. The struggles CJ has experienced this year are more common than most people realize yet we often face it alone. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. I agree with Cheryl wholeheartedly! Most people aren’t so honest and forthcoming. We ALL struggle. All kids struggle! You are a wonderful mother and one day CJ will know just how lucky he is to call you mom! As a mother my heart aches for both of you! Just keep telling CJ – It WILL get better! The Hopper/Sternbergs are in my thoughts!!!

  3. EM,
    I am so proud of both you and CJ for finishing up as well as you did. His grades are great and you saved virtually all of his credits. He must know how supportive his parents are of him!! The teen-age years are just so tough. There is just no denying it!

  4. Susan thank you for your openness and candor, your son will look back to his teen age years and wonder what was that all about…CJ is such a great young man, caring about others, life does have its moments….I also admire the mister in all of this, the bond they both share are to be envied. life is good……especially with its ups and downs………

  5. man, my heart goes out to teenagers today, it is so hard. i have several young clients and am respectful of what they go thru. glad you got him help and didn’t pretend everything was hunky-dory. depression is a liar – there is hope. things can get better. good job persevering, sue. and, don’t forget to take care of sue.

  6. Dear Sue, Thank you so much for posting this and sharing your son’s story so eloquently. I agree with Cheryl’s comment wholeheartedly. Being a teenager today in so many ways has never been easier (lots of great technology to help you learn and so many material things) and never been harder (that same technology cuts like a knife both ways when it comes to texting and Facebooking). And what is happening all around them in our crazy world today is affecting them more than we know. Good luck to CJ and the rest of the family this next year. And take care of yourself, too, Sue!

  7. Wow, Sue, that is a lot to go through. You are an incredible mom to support your son the way you did and continue to do. I think there is a lot more going on in the minds and souls of these young ones then we realize often. I hope somehow your are able to get at the root of what is bothering your boy. Schools can be an emotional land mine. It must be scary to see such dramatic changes in someone you love so dearly. I hope he will open up to someone. I think he emotional health will depend on it. It’s awfully hard for boys to do, though. I will be thinking about you guys.

  8. Thanks, everyone, for your kind words and observations and for the reminder to take care of myself (which I do via walking, by the way). It’s much appreciated!

  9. Karen Thibodeaux

    Dear Susan, thank you for sharing your life with us. I feel blessed to know you all these years, and know your family will come out ok because they have great parents! When I was in 8th grade, I failed math and had to do the whole year over. back then it was tough sh…t if you failed. there were no special classes. I went into the 9th grade at Pasadena High School…where I immediately knew within 2 weeks that I could not go to school there. I was horrified. I told my mother if I was forced to go there, I would simply run away. Rather than fight me on this, she let me quit school. I would have killed myself had I been forced to go. When I turned 18, I took the GED, and then went to college which was my choice of college! I had a 3.8 gpa without ever going to high school….just sayin…sometimes a ‘rebel’ like me just needs a break from traumatic things like school. I hope your son keeps on moving forward! hugs and kisses to you both!

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