If the generation gap was a toadstool that could be jumped with a skateboard; we might not have a problem. Photo: Su Leslie 2011

If the generation gap was a toadstool that could be jumped with a skateboard; we might not have a problem. Photo: Su Leslie 2011

The boy-child was in a bad mood last night. He’d been sent to the principal’s office for not having a required text book. This is week three of the teaching year and it’s not like the class is still colouring-in name badges and doing introductions. The kid’s actually been coming home and telling us cool stuff he’s learned.

The reason he didn’t have the book was that he hadn’t gotten around to walking to the bookshop (a whole five minutes away) and buying it.  This is despite several conversations with me that went kind of like this

Me: did you get your history text book?

B-c: Not yet, I’ll do it today.

Me: well text me from the bookshop and I’ll transfer the money into your account.

B-c: ok. Will do.

Me: Did you get your history book? You didn’t text me.

B-c: I, well I was pretty busy today. I’ll do it tomorrow.

Me: Don’t forget to get your text book.

B-c: I won’t

I even sent a couple of reminder texts. All of this goes against my principle of not being the kid’s brain / memory, but I figured he’s been on holiday for a couple of months and needed a bit of support.

But of course he turned up at class yesterday without his book and the inevitable followed.

And … this is the bit that I’m not getting  … he’s annoyed with the Principal for a) wanting to see him about it, b) being annoyed with him, and c) giving him a detention – which frankly I think has more to do with his attitude of blaming others for his problems than the actual lack of a book.

Now I feel really fortunate that the boy-child does actually tell me stuff about what’s going on in his life, and I don’t want to sever that line of communication, but I felt completely unable to sympathise with him over yesterday’s events.

So we had THE CHAT … about how his school has a very strong philosophy of freedom and personal responsibility, and how he can’t really enjoy the freedoms without taking responsibility. About how what’s happened at school is very similar to what happens at home and that while I love him unconditionally, the same isn’t true of the Principal or his History teacher. And about how, if people don’t take responsibility for their own actions, governments (including the Principal) will impose rules. And boy, does my kid hate rules!

I don’t know how much of any of this has sunk in. It seems to me that my child operates in a very different universe to the one I know  – one in which time has a purely personal dimension. He is amazingly good at achieving the things he wants in a very short time-frame, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that others’ time might not be infinitely elastic. I don’t think he’s deliberately selfish, just massively largely unaware.

And this is the same child who, only minutes after the CHAT, remembered that I’d just come from a meeting and took the time to not only ask meaningful questions about how it went but also display an understanding of the issues and politics.

I wasn’t expecting that.

If only I knew what goes on in the brain of my funny, loving and utterly infuriating son. Photo: Su Leslie 2012

If only I knew what goes on in the brain of my funny, loving and utterly infuriating son. Photo: Su Leslie 2012

This post was written in the countdown to my son’s sixteenth birthday.  Here’s what’s gone before:
















On time-management, authority and the generation gap

4 thoughts on “On time-management, authority and the generation gap

  1. Hi Zimmer (can’t call you “b***ch) LOL I found your post very interesting, from both parent and teacher’s perspective. Firstly, I’m intrigued that he had to buy his own History text book – in my case, the school provides them. But maybe it was a special book. I think sending him to the Principal was an overreaction, but then I am a bit too lax with things like that and only reserve the “big guns” for heinous crimes (such as rude to teacher) 😀 I realise kids must be organised and independent so they’ll grow into responsible adults but they have so much to juggle in their busy lives. The fact that he made sensitive and interested comments to you about your day/meeting is much more important than a silly, old textbook! (in my not-so-humble opinion)
    My own teen, Poppet, is a last-minute kind of a girl…leaving all school work and study (what’s that??) to the night before. She’s been able to get away with it so far but won’t survive senior high school or uni unless she mends her way.


    • Hi Lee-Anne. Thanks for your comments; it’s really good to get another perspective on things. Parenting is such an isolated and emotional job!

      My son goes to a very liberal school which only teaches the last three years of high school, so the kids are generally between 15-18 and the school emphasises its role in preparing teenagers for adulthood. My son is quite young to be there because he skipped a year of school earlier, but this is his third year at the school, so he should “know the drill.” The philosophy is very much one of personal responsibility; it’s more like a pre-university than a regular school. There is no uniform (which is rare for NZ), kids are free to come and go outside of classroom time, they have lots of free periods within their weekly schedule so they only have to turn up when they have classes, etc.

      There are a great many freedoms. The flip side is that they are expected to take responsibility for their learning. If my son had just forgotten to take his book, then it wouldn’t have been a problem. The issue was that he was turning up to class inadequately equipped to learn (and I suspect he probably tried to justify himself by suggesting that he didn’t actually need the book or making excuses for not getting around to it).

      It’s a private school that teaches quite a wide range of subjects – with widely varying numbers of kids in classes year on year, so it’s expected that the kids buy their own textbooks (which they can – and often do – sell to other students the following year).

      I’ve noticed that at the beginning of each year, there is a bit of a drive to “help” kids understand the school rules (i.e. infringements are dealt with to the letter of the rule). This tends to disappear as the year progresses.

      I should also say that my son has traditionally had an excellent relationship with the Principal – who is very approachable and makes an effort to get to know all the kids. I’ve watched the two of them riffing off a private joke that obviously relates to some previous meeting or interaction and felt quite envious that a teenager would feel so comfortable around an adult with such obvious authority!

      I do take your point about kids having so much to organise. I really struggle knowing how much to “help” and fear that I have tended to do too much; which then leads me to beating myself up that I’m denying the boy-child opportunities to take responsibility, etc. AAAAGH … sometimes I think that if I’d known how hard parenting would be, I’d just have got a cat.

      And you are right; his kindness and willingness to engage in my day makes up for a lot. So on second thoughts, forget the cat.

      Thanks again; I so need reality checks on this particular part of the journey. 🙂


  2. Hi Lee-Anne. Thanks, it’s the first school that’s really been a good “fit” for my son (and if I’m truthful, the first that’s been a good fit with my values too). I know his school wouldn’t work for lots of kids, but it does seem to (generally) inspire good things in him. 🙂


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