Why Do I Let Myself Worry

It’s been a hard week for Thomas and a hard week for Tina and me. On Monday, I received an email from his Advanced Literacy teacher saying that he had fallen behind in his homework again:

Here is what he is missing:
Greek Gods Packet (in folder)
Greek Gods Note sheet (from book)
Nature Myths Note sheet (from book)
Cupid and Psyche Summary
Cupid and Psyche Analysis
Packet #1 East
Packet #2 East
Packet #3 East

To say we were surprised would be a vast understatement. We ask him nearly every day if he has homework and he never gave us the impression that he was behind. This is not the first time this has happened, though, as we have continued to struggle with him to keep up on his homework. This particular class has been the main thorn in his side so I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was. After we got the email, we informed Thomas that he would not be able to attend a Scouting function this weekend unless he caught up on his homework. He agreed to this and worked out a plan to do enough homework each night so that he would have it all done by Friday morning.

The Scouting function this weekend is called Camporee and only happens once a year. Thomas’ troop takes it very seriously and even holds a practice camput a few weeks prior each year. Because he was elected Patrol Leader by his patrol, it was very important for him to attend. When he fell behind on homework before, we made him stay home one weekend when his troop was camping. That time he got sick, though, and apparently did not learn his lesson because he would have had to stay home anyway.

In addition to other factors, his poor sleep habits have proven to be his biggest obstacle. Like me, he is what my mother calls a “night owl.” It’s difficult enough getting him to go to sleep at night but he has been prone to falling asleep after he gets home from school or shortly after we finish dinner. If we let him sleep, he will wake up before midnight and won’t be able to get back to sleep. Waking him up, however, is incredibly hard. Either way, it screws up his sleep for that night and he is equally hard to wake the next morning. Of course, it also makes him more likely to fall asleep after school the next day. It’s a vicious circle that we have been trying very hard to break.

Despite our efforts, twice this week we were faced with this problem of him falling asleep early. After I arrived home from work one evening, I was faced with trying to wake him once again. I went to his room and told him that he had to get up and warned him that I was going to “get the water” if he didn’t wake soon. He grunted his acknowledgement but made no movement to waking. I went to the kitchen and filled a glass about half full of water and returned to his room. I gave him two more warnings to no avail and then delivered on my threat by throwing the half full glass (less than a cup I would estimate) across his chest and face. He immediately reacted hysterically and continued to be hysterical for at least the next 30 minutes. Once the deed was done, I nearly immediately regretted it. Although it did wake him, he was so upset that he was mostly useless for at least an hour after.

The other problem, as I have mentioned before, is getting him to stay focused on the task at hand. He rewards himself with breaks that sometimes stretch past an hour long despite our nagging that he really should be getting back to his homework. In the past we’ve micro-managed his time to some degree by nagging him every few minutes until he starts on his homework again. Clearly, that’s not working very well so we have lately tried hard to let him learn how to manage his time on his own. We continued that this week only telling him occasionally that he would miss out on Camporee. Each night, though, he would tell us that he was on track to have it all done and we reluctantly went along.

Sure enough, when Thursday night arrived, Thomas was hardly within striking distance of finishing. I went to bed at midnight and he was blearily continuing to believe that he would finish. Neither Tina or I believed him, so before I went to bed I advised him that if he couldn’t do a good job, he should just go to bed because his teacher wouldn’t accept it if it was poorly done. Evidently he continued to work well into the night, reading over 80 pages and doing the related work.

Surprisingly, after some last minute drama that I won’t go into here, he did finally catch up literally minutes before his Scout troop departed for Camporee. I would be willing to bet that he fell asleep during the 45 minute drive there and also fell asleep early Friday night. His troop finished in first place among all the troops that were there this weekend and he contributed quite positively to several of the competitions. Nevertheless, the Scoutmaster made sure to take him aside and tell him that if he was going to miss Scouting events because of school, he would no longer be in the troop. I hope he takes it seriously.

I’ll be glad when this school year is done.

2 Replies to “Why Do I Let Myself Worry”

  1. Aahhh…the wonderful world of middle school, mixed with puberty, and so many other things. I recently had the same issue with Taran, and threatened to NOT take him along to a motocross race/camping weekend unless he got his late assignments turned in. Right down to the wire, but he got it done. However, he is still failing reading….so he may not be going this weekend! Of course, we’ve been having this battle since he was in 1st grade, so count your blessings that it’s just beginning for you! 🙂

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