Teacher trumps mom!
I want what’s best for him. I know what’s best for him! You see that boy sitting in front of all those other amazing kids? That’s my Antonio, my oldest son, and one of my most important inspirations in life. I would never lead him down a path of self-destruction. Or, would I? Of course not, but recently a teacher trumped my mom card and decided to evaluate things for himself, instead of just taking my word for it. The teacher wasn’t swayed by my mom title. You all know that I love kids. I especially love the kids my own kids have known for years. Should time, distance, or the natural course of adolescence cause separation between them, I’ll still hold every one of those kids dear to my heart! I want what’s best for all of them. People who know me believe that. When it comes to my own son, mama knows best, right? Well, not according to some very important people at my son’s High School.
So, there I was sitting in the
Principal’s Guidance Counselor’s Office, and it felt like I had been summoned to the Principal’s Office! It all started when I approached the Leadership Teacher (we’ll call him Mr. Sugar) on back-to-school night. Last year, I made a point of introducing Antonio to him during the Open House for Middle School students and their parents. When Antonio started High School this year, his schedule did not include Leadership. It’s a hard class to get into because it’s one of the most desired classes with very limited space. So, I made a quick dash to see Mr. Sugar during the five minutes I had between classes while I lived out Antonio’s daily routine in a mock school day schedule during the back-t0-school night event. It was simple! I reminded Mr. Sugar that he met Antonio last year, and I would be very happy if he’d add Antonio to his Leadership class because I know my son and it’s what’s best for him! I probably used some extra words, convincing facial expressions, and perhaps a whiny please, oh-pretty-please tone. Antonio would make a good Leader, right? I’m trying to raise a Leader, right? It will look good on his transcripts, right? It can only help him, right? So, Leadership must be right for him, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong! After repeatedly calling the Guidance Counselor the following day, he confirmed that Mr. Sugar was happy to…
Schedule a meeting?!
Whoa. Wait. What? A meeting? I couldn’t believe my ears. This was not going to be simple. Before Mr. Sugar would even consider adding Antonio to his class, he wanted to discuss it with me, Antonio, and the Guidance Counselor. That was not my plan. Did it. Done. That was my plan! I wasn’t mad. I was just really caught of guard. I was also very nervous! In my heart, I already knew it was over. You know, the mommy-can-fix-everything era. As it should be, I suppose, that dwindles away quickly when a child enters High School. Trust me, if you haven’t already experienced it, High School is a slap in the egotistical-mom-face! Kids are exposed to so much more than they ever were, and it is not under mom’s watchful eye. Mr. Sugar got straight to the point and so did the guidance counselor. They weren’t at all convinced that Antonio belonged in Leadership. Imagine a grand entrance into a ball room, with the guest of honor making a graceful entrance while cascading down the spiral stairs. It’s perfect, until oops…. The guest of honor falls down the stairs, crashing, bumping, colliding, and eventually skidding across the floor at the bottom of the stairs. That was pretty much Antonio’s entrance into High School.
So, the powers-that-be had questions and concerns. My plan was for Antonio to add yet another class, starting much earlier in the morning, in order to make his schedule work to fit in Leadership. English has been one of Antonio’s best subjects, always. One month into school, he was doing so-so in his English class and I confess to embellishing on the so-so. Mr. Sugar asked Antonio about that. Antonio fumbled and said some contradictory things. In case you haven’t already guessed, Mr. Sugar doesn’t sugarcoat anything. That’s why I call him Mr. Sugar. He has such a sweet effect on the kids, minus all the sugar and processed ingredients. He looked Antonio straight in the eyes and Antonio shifted his head down, trying to escape the inevitable locked eyes. “You like to read? You don’t like to read? You couldn’t find a book? You couldn’t find a book that you like?” He repeated all of Antonio’s responses back to him. Then he told Antonio that he didn’t have time to decipher his answers. He needed to trust Antonio and that in Leadership, if a student says something is green, it’s green. Period. He doesn’t question them because they already know that the most important part of their relationship is trust. The guidance counselor also had that look on his face. It was that look of seriousness you see in the great movies that depict a special teacher or staff member who turns the lives of their students around, through tough love, high expectations, and the truth. The ugly, uncomfortable, make you squirm in your chair, truth. The meeting went on for over an hour. At one point, I offered to leave the room, in case Mr. Sugar and the guidance counselor thought Antonio wasn’t speaking freely. Mr. Sugar looked at me, smirked, and said, “well, I could leave the room too, but my son would still know what to say.” Antonio, probably thinking it would help his case, mentioned that I’ve been telling him about Leadership and like-programs since before he began Middle School. That was probably only more alarming to our meeting hosts. If mom wanted her son in Leadership more than the son wanted it, that simply wouldn’t work.
Mr. Sugar spelled it out.
I’m his mother, but the teacher didn’t care. I probably shouldn’t say he didn’t care. Actually, he did care. In fact, he cared so much that he considered it at great length. He considered that the Antonio I know, may not be the Antonio teachers know. He considered that Antonio may want to make me happy, despite his own different preferences. He considered that Antonio is on the path to his own life, and mom can’t be the sole decision maker along the way. I am a good mom. I know these things, but it struck a chord with me to see a man we’ve just met, jump in and trump my long reining fix-it powers, by having the final say in how this would all play out. My thoughts, input, and wishes were only a small part of the equation. I don’t have the final say anymore, ya’ll! Lucky for me, I truly do want what’s best for my son and welcome teachers like Mr. Sugar into Antonio’s life. Lucky for Antonio, Mr. Sugar’s final decision was to “take a chance on Antonio.” He was limply apologetic about his choice of words, but made it clear that it’s exactly what he would be doing.
Let your children find their own mentors.
There is a lesson in all of this. Trust. Mr. Sugar took a chance on Antonio, trusting him just enough. In taking that chance, that meant Mr. Sugar was also willing to explain himself to the rest of the already cohesive class. We have to trust in ourselves, and our parenting, that so far, we’ve done enough things right. We have to trust that our children will too, and won’t tip the scales to the no-turning-back side of wrong. We have to trust in the Mr. Sugars, that if they question us, it’s only with our children’s best intentions at heart. We have to trust that people have made it through adolescence for centuries, and our children will too. I’m not suggesting that we leave the parenting to the Mr. Sugars of the world, or that we stop parenting altogether, catapulting our children into adulthood, unprepared. We just have to trust that things will be okay, because we’ve done a good job so far. We have to trust that our children will pick out the right mentors and continue to build their character in a way that will make us proud. We really have to trust that what feels right for us, may not feel right for our children. The older they get, the more complicated the decisions are when it comes to guiding them. If we have the opportunity to include people we respect who might have a different perspective into the decision making process, we should. As heartbreaking as it is, most of the decisions regarding parenting teens are decisions we must make with them, and not simply for them.
Dedicated to all the Mr. Sugars of the world!
By: Alicia Gonzalez