My son’s school counselor emailed me a few weeks ago. I knew he’d had a challenging year with COVID-19, and he’d also announced his retirement just before the last few days of school, so it wasn’t a surprise when I received his bizarre email.

As a parent I am sure you’ve gotten an email from school about your child that makes you quit breathing for a second, but with this one, I laughed. Ha. “Ms. Effner it looks like Carson failed ELA for the last quarter. Let me know which summer school session he will be attending.” I smirked as I emailed back that he must have contacted the wrong parent; my son was making straight A’s. I walked to my son’s room, so we could have a good laugh together.

The look on my son’s face when I told him his counselor accidentally emailed me about his failing ELA said it all. As I was looking at my deer in headlights child, my brain exploded with a million thoughts, and none of them were nice. To avoid saying something I knew I would regret, I asked my teenager to give me space for a little while, and I went back to my computer.

I am a teacher. I know teenagers lie about their grades. He failed a paper”I write papers for a living. *Me literally slapping my forehead* Why can’t kids skip from 3-year-olds to adults with adorable grandkids? Ugh.

The series of emails I sent to his counselor clearly showed my stages of Summer School grief. Luckily, his counselor found them funny, probably because it was his last day. After my initial embarrassing denial, I sent an email requesting they give him every summer school class possible. Eventually, they scheduled him for the second summer session. If I could drop him off and pick him up every day, he’d be waking up and sitting in a classroom for four weeks, but, lucky for him, my schedule only allowed for online classes.

Ahhh, the smell of summer school stress. Finally, things are getting back to normal.

Some Things Never Change

Over the next few days, I found myself staring at my youngest child. This sweet, amazing young man had lied to me for weeks…and with a smile. Every few days I’d ask how school was going, and he’d talk about the joys of being a straight-A student. I would listen, sipping on my Grande Vanilla Sweet Cream cold brew, with such joy. I can’t imagine being a parent who has to deal with a child failing school with all the others stresses in the world right now. Sip.

I want to slap the old me too.

My older children were surprised at how much I had forgotten since they were teens. There was the time my oldest son copied and pasted an entire paper in the 8th grade, and his teacher and I shared a wall in the same school. She walked into my room with his paper, and she had highlighted every sentence that was copied, except for a few random joining words. It was the entire paper.

I remember when I was determined to pass ONE Geometry test, just one. I attended morning and afterschool tutoring, did all my work, really tried, and I literally failed everything, every day. So I put the formula for the test in the pocket of my calculator, so I could write it down to make sure I didn’t forget it. I got my test, copied the formula, and completed my test with literal pride. The next day the tests were passed back out, and I received a ZERO. There was a note from my teacher saying the formula was almost right, but I forgot to divide my answers by 2. I had copied down the formula wrong. When class was over, I called my mom, crying. I told her I cheated and still failed. She picked me up and bought me a chocolate shake. She seemed emotional. I swear it was because I was destined for summer school. Trust me, mom, I wish I had cheated better too.

Some things never change.

What Was I Thinking?

After a year of remote learning, I was excited for my son to return to campus for his last quarter. We were craving normal and were thankful for his in-person learning. Maybe it was this desire for good things that made me forget my child is human.

Although he wanted to go see his friends, there was a lot going on within him and the world that he was processing. My “usually A student” struggled in an environment that had once been his comfort zone. The world was louder than normal, and he didn’t adjust as quickly as I thought he would. His response felt normal to me.

I do not understand why I believed him wholeheartedly. I am THAT parent who stalks my children’s electronic grade books and asks about blank grades and n/a comments put in by the teacher. I ask; I look; I act.

Who is this person who believes teens and sleeps well at night?

I know better. I have seen teenagers who have lied to their parents about their grades in action. They can be quite impressive. If they put 1/1000 of the energy into their work as adults that they put into avoiding working and lying to their parents, all my former students would probably be millionaires.

So why did I not detect it?

We Are Tired

Last year was probably the busiest work year of my life. In the midst of all I was doing to help kids and educators, I also had my family on my mind.

I am tired. Life has been a challenge.

Let’s give ourselves some grace. It’s okay to be imperfect parents and educators.

I’m thankful that my son is as human as I am. Grateful for teachers who will work this summer to get him back on track. Hopeful that this will never happen again.

If your child isn’t going to summer school, I hope you enjoy the peace of no school for summer break.

For those of us who will be helping our students write papers in July, you are not alone. Embrace these moments and don’t forget teachers can tell if you copy/paste!

And remember, one day, possibly decades from now, this will be funny. I promise.

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