Who Said Not Graduating Was an Option?!

by Tracy Milam

Who Said Not Graduating Was an Option?!

This was supposed to be a very busy week . . . so busy that I arranged to take the week off work to watch as my three children all graduated from different levels of their early education. The eleven year old moves on to middle school, the fourteen year old takes on high school, while my eldest, at eighteen was supposed to graduate high school. What was supposed to be a very busy week was a less busy week due to the fact that my first-born failed to graduate. He has officially earned himself a spot as a fifth year senior.


In the eighteen years I have been a parent, being involved in their very busy lives, I knew there were many things I would have to worry about, especially in the teen years. I assumed they would be tempted with drinking alcohol, having sex before they were ready, and possibly even experimenting with some assortment of drugs before their high school years were over. It never dawned on me that one of them might not graduate high school. I never even considered it an option. Why didn’t I think of it? Why didn’t we push him harder? Why was I charmed by the fact that he was so smart, he didn’t have to try very hard? While this is a viable option in sixth grade . . . not such a good approach in high school.  Why didn’t I kick his ass once in awhile? Why didn’t someone kick mine for not seeing what was happening?


The past five years have brought a lot of changes all starting with my husband being injured and losing his job. As a result we moved from California to Texas. This move provided him a chance for his body to heal and to take care of his elderly mother, who truly needed his care and attention, in a state where we could actually get by on one income. I remember family members saying, Don’t worry, kids are resilient, they will go where you go and be fine. Truth is, my oldest was never fine there.


We originally moved to a very small-minded small town . . . this is where my mother-in-law lived. My son struggled there as he attempted to right the racial wrongs of the world with his own limited twelve- to thirteen-year-old white boy skill set. He struggled even more when we eventually moved to Round Rock. We thought we were doing the right thing by moving there, away from the small town madness that had taken over our daily lives. My mother in law had been placed in a higher level of care so no longer needed us to be near by twenty-four-seven. I had been spending four to five hours a day commuting to work during our first two years in Texas. It seemed like a good idea at the time. All three kids were in agreement and ready to leave when we put our house on the market.


Three months later our home had been listed and sold and we had rented a beautiful home in a really nice golf course community . . . a house we could never have afforded in California. I was excited at the opportunity to live in such a house, and only ten minutes away from my job. I was also glad to have my kids in such a good neighborhood. They would be safe there.


My son, however, hated everything about it. The neighborhood I was so excited about, was definitely too white for him, too rich, not his style. He chose instead to bond with kids that were living on their own or with single parents in apartments in a questionable part of town. He was also broken hearted at this time after having had to move away from his small town girl friend. After dating for seven months, they chose to stay together and give long distance romance a try. As usual, he chose the hardest way, the hardest possible path . . . this seems to be a pattern he continues to follow unfortunately.


For many reasons, Round Rock simply was not the answer I had been hoping for. My job provided an opportunity to come back to California in the summer of 2010 . . . right before my son’s senior year. My entire family was relieved at the chance to come back to California. California has been the right move for us. So much has happened . . . so much good. All of us have been very happy about returning.  My son, even though he is glad to be here, has continued to struggle . . . in school, with making friends, with his place in life.


He has no focus. When things get tough, he clings to that girlfriend 1,500 miles away, even after she cheated on him. The experience of the past five years has stripped him of any self worth he ever had. He feels worthless in our eyes, in the eyes of our family and friends, and worst of all, in his own eyes. My husband and I have definitely had to mourn the person we hoped and dreamed he would be at this stage in the game. He is not going to have the life we hoped he would. In spite of my husband and I having several degrees, being very hard working, always striving to do what’s right, my son is lazy, unmotivated, with no plans at all. Oh wait, I forgot . . . he does plan to be a gangster rapper . . . did I mention my son is very white and cannot carry a tune? He does write lyrics about the hard life and hard streets he has come from. This makes me laugh when I read them, knowing how hard I have worked to ensure this was not the case. Even though his lyrics don’t ring true to me, maybe they do for him . . . and he is actually a decent and committed writer if you can get past all the F words.


I have learned one thing . . . I have no intention of moving again for a very long time. As resilient as children may be, the world brings enough challenges without me adding to their life’s plate. Both the eleven and fourteen year old are very clear that not graduating is not an option for them. 
As for my son, he tells me once again, for the 100th time, Don’t worry mom, I got it this time. I want very much to believe him . . . need to believe him. He needs for me to believe in him, whether he deserves it or not.  No one ever mentions how difficult the transition between childhood and adulthood is going to be. I had a neighbor tell me that God provides these opportunities so we will be willing to let our children go at some point, otherwise we might hang on to them forever. I am ready to let him go, just need to finish up that fifth year. I’ll be damned if I’ll buy him school clothes and a bus pass though!