Learning to adapt to the different personalities of my children is often a struggle for me. I'm just me, and it's natural, when certain situations arise (like when shit isn't getting done that needs to get done!) to react the same way with each child. In my case, I fire off orders like a drill sergeant and expect them to be followed. Surprisingly (sarcasm) this strategy doesn't always go over so well. It may have worked on one child, but it can backfire on another.
On Tuesday night, Jake had a chorus concert. He performed a duet with a friend to the song "Remembering Sunday" by All Time Low. I wish I could describe how it felt to watch him up there. He walked to the front of the auditorium stage with his friend, stood there and belted out this song. Jake's done performances before, he sings sometimes at church, and has performed the Star Spangled Banner with friends before high school events. I've seen the boy sing, and have always enjoyed it. He sings in the shower, and as he does the dishes. The kid has a nice voice. But on Tuesday he was clear, focused, and natural as he sang. He sounded so great, but what struck me was how poised he was up there. No longer the awkward, self-conscious boy, he's truly growing into a young man.
It gave me one of those mom heart attacks. The "I'm so proud, but damnit, why does he have to grow up so fast?" moments.
As I watched this nearly six foot tall kid singing on the stage, I kept having flashbacks to the time he sang "You're a Grand Old Flag" at his preschool graduation. The whole class sang it, but at home he would practice it over and over again in an off-key angelic voice. My little blonde guy singing "You're a grand old flag, you're a high-flying flag and forever in peace may you wave." brought a lump to my throat. Seeing the sixteen-year-old version of him up on stage made me swell with pride (although I had very little to do with his musical success) and that throat lump was there again too.
One of Brie's friends was at the concert and he texted her to tell her that he thought Jake sounded great. She screen-grabbed the text and sent it to her brother, showing him what was being said of his performance. His friends and classmates gave him compliments. I could tell he felt proud of his performance, proud of the practice time and work that went into it.
Tonight I had to pull the mean-mom costume out and tell him he couldn't go hang out with a friend after school because he needs to work on a few classes to get his grades up. The act of telling him he couldn't go wasn't where I messed up. It was my delivery. I rattled off all of the things that need to be worked on and my frustration was obvious. We keep going over these things, but I'm not seeing the improvement he's capable of.
It took some time, and a frustrated exchange between us for me to realize that firing demands at him is not the way to encourage him. It was having the opposite effect, and he was shutting down in front of me, crumpling like a paper in an invisible fist.
I didn't notice this until I could see the desperation in his face, so I stopped hammering him and asked him what was wrong. The thoughts came pouring out of him. It turns out that he feels incredibly stressed out after this week. His success at the concert Tuesday night was a double-edged sword. Nice for the positive feedback, but a stressful event nonetheless. This blew me away, because he looked so completely composed and relaxed up there - it didn't occur to me that it would have stressed him out. In the school play, he is understudy to the lead who has been having some throat issues, and he's having to step up to play that lead role at rehearsals (as well as continue to perfect his own role). He's got a fairly tough academic schedule, and to top it all off, he's in driver's ed this month, where they meet for up to three hours a few nights a week.
My attempts to get him to understand what needed to be done did not go over well. He does not handle multiple concurrent deadlines and activities well, he never has. But what's a mom to do to help him see that he will need to learn this skill in college, his future job, his life in general? I'm not sure.
After explaining to me how stressful this week has been, he laced up his shoes and went for a 30 minute run on the treadmill. I asked what he was doing and he said he had to 'get rid of this stress.' So he's learning his own coping strategies. I personally prefer eating half a package of oreos, but hey - different strokes.
I need to develop a different way of getting his attention when I want him to focus on some tasks at hand. I am not a helicoptery parent and I don't track each and every assignment. 1.) I don't have the time for that, and 2.) It won't help him if I'm coordinating everything for him. But he needs a boost - some reminders to focus on that Financial Literacy class that he hates (now that's my kid!) without feeling threatened or piled upon. I've got some ideas to try, but it's new territory for me.
His run is over and he's now singing songs from the musical in the shower. I have a feeling he's going to be just fine in this life.