The Notebook

I don’t know when, exactly, my little boy decided to grow up. I’ve been busy trying to keep him from growing ahead of God. I’ve tried to slow him down, afraid he’d stray too far, too fast. But my need to protect and shelter has been tempered by his rapidly growing need for independence.

Over the summer I repeatedly reminded him how much more responsible I expected him to be this school year. Of course, shiny new pencils and unmarred notebooks inspire delusions of grandeur. It’s been seven weeks. Already he can’t find his erasers. And so the dread begins.

After the first full week of school, I was tempted to go back to my old ways- checking and re checking homework, reminding him to pack his lunch- including a napkin (!), and handing him his belt on the way out the door. I’m sure he expected me to revert, too. But I didn’t. I inquired about his day (every day), asked if he needed help with any homework, stayed away from football practice, and stuck to the plan: hands off. He knows the order of priority; it hasn’t changed: God, family, schoolwork, sports (football, duh).

By the time we reached the final week of the grading period, he’d received field time in three football games. He was physically active, eating well, sleeping very well, and happy to go off to school each morning. After his team’s first victory, we celebrated with ice cream and video highlights, and then he went off to bed. He’d tossed his notebook onto the couch, and I called myself “straightening up”.

I opened his notebook. All I saw was red. Literally. Red ink and corrections covered at least half the assignments. I spent over an hour digging through it, and matching up assignments with corrections. It irritated me to look at what was clearly a half-hearted effort. I asked my mama for feedback, and vented (just a little) about my disappointment. But she did reassure me, and advised me to stick with the plan: hands off.

If you know me, you know that I am an unapologetic control freak, and that my son is already responsible for quite a bit more than his peers at home. I came up with twenty (or forty) very good reasons to throw out the plan and resume control of all school responsibilities, thinking how badly it would reflect on me when he didn’t live up to my standards academically. Smoke pouring from my ears, I started working it all out, hypothetically. I could change up my work schedule, to be there for homework, football practice, dinner, bedtime, and breakfast. I could review his notebook every night, and drill him before every test. I could give up both my volunteer responsibilities altogether. Mamas are supposed to sacrifice everything for their children, right?? I went to bed feeling resigned and defeated.

I had to work the following night. I actually enjoy my job; it’s a welcome distraction. But as usual following the University’s graduation cycle, our unit has several new employees. I am not comfortable in a mentoring role, so to compensate, I talk. Normally, I just chatter, about nothing concrete or deep, nothing that might cause me to feel connected or invested. In my randomness that night, I told one of my new colleagues that I’d obviously missed my calling in life. I was meant for law, or detective work, not for influencing new moms and babies, especially since I’d never had one of my own.

I should’ve known I’d met my match. (I fully intended to dislike her. Met my match there, too.) She assured me that wherever I am, is right where God intended for me to be. Then she said if I still have unfulfilled dreams to pursue them, that I’m never too old to achieve. She also said if my volunteer work makes me happy, is serving God, and is giving back in a way I find meaningful, then by all means, keep it up. Yeah, yeah, but what do I do about my son?? “Well, you let him grow up.” Dang it. This chick sounds JUST like my mama.

So, I said nothing, at all, about the notebook. A few days later my normally smiling child brought home his report card, unopened. He’d never brought a report card home unopened, before. We both knew once I actually saw it, I would be forced to act, positively or otherwise. He looked like he was going to faint as I pulled it open. Six A’s, three B’s. All B’s were within two points of an A (A >/= 91). I was…um…surprised. Pulling from my quote bank, stocked by Mama and Meir, I started to speak. He didn’t let me start. My son sat down, looking embarrassed. He mumbled, but I heard him.

“I gave away twenty five points for my notebook, by not writing down every assignment, and not correcting my work. Twenty five points would’ve made an A. And I lost one of my papers. I could’ve just recopied it, but I didn’t. I found it under the rocking chair and turned it in late. It was my test review, so then I got a 60 on my quiz. If I’d handed it in and studied, that B would’ve been an A, too. I am on electronics restriction, now. I know you probably want me on football restriction, too. I know I really didn’t do my best.”

What was I supposed to say to that??  The consequence was his own, as is the remedy. His self imposed electronics restriction will be lifted, in phases, after he completes the corrections in his notebook. Not for his teacher, but for himself. I have to say, I’m impressed, and very, very proud. In the end, I decided not to place him on football restriction, but we did discuss it. I’m trusting him to honor his commitment to me, to God, and to his teammates. He’s growing up, despite my best efforts. And I guess I may as well let him.

Be blessed, Y’all.


 It is not what you do FOR your children,
but what you’ve taught them to do for themselves,
that will make them successful human beings.
Ann Landers
The greatest contribution you make to the Kingdom of God
may not be something you do,
but rather, someone you raise.
Andy Stanley


copyright notice