All beginnings are difficult

In 2014 Colin started first grade. As he had skipped his second year of Kindergarten, he was among the youngest. 

So what if he was a little playful and disorganized. 

So what if he walked home wearing the slippers that were supposed to stay at school.

So what if every day he would forget / lose his lunch box, his hat, his pencil case, you name it.

Over time things got better. Until winter, that is. The gloves, the hats and the scarves I had to replace...

So here we are, six years later, it's the year 2020, Colin started middle school, and it feels like this all over again. 

Granted, his new setup has gotten to a whole new level of complicated. He handles a full schedule, commuting back and forth all over town, and I'm happy to report so far he always arrived at the right place at the right tiime. OK, the first week I was alerted that Colin didn't show up for lunch one day. Turned out he did show up - he was just 15 minutes late. 

So far he has forgotten / lost two jackets, his snack, was about to leave without his school bag, left wearing his school bag only to return halfway because it felt mighty lightweight... Turned out it was empty.

The real culprit though his his new cell phone. Yes, he feels he is the last one among his friends who got his own phone. It took him all of five minutes to get totally addicted and dependent on it.

Example: during the week he mentioned a task that was due on Thursday. Thursday morning as he was getting ready to leave I asked "I never saw you doing anything regarding that assignment - are you done?" 

"Uh - nope, I was not sure exactly what I had to do and how."

So you decided not to do anything???

He pulled out his phone.

What are you doing?

"Asking the others."

No, mister, you won't to such a thing. I heard you ask for the others' advice. You got a dozen voice messages, everyone said something else. Your friends are not a reliable source. You need to listen to your teacher, ask if you're not sure, and you write sh** down, that's what they gave you the assignment booklet for...

The other day I thought it might be a good idea to sit with him while he did his homework. He claimed he needed his phone to look up things. At first he did OK. Then I walked away to get the laundry out of the dryer.

Of course when I came back this is what I found:

I let him install the tree app - I'll blog about it soon - that blocks the access to your phone for an amount of time while growing a virtual tree, and of course he was fascinated and wanted to find out how many and what kind of trees you may grow...

So until further notice, until he is done with his duties, I am confiscating his phone and sit tight, doing things on my notebook. Whenever he has to look up something, we will do it on my computer, and then he can move on. 

Frankly this gives me an opportunity to brush up on things. Think about it: when we went to school and had to study European countries, there was the Soviet Union covering the majority of the map. Boom, done.

Todays kids need to know about (and be able to spell) the following:

Same goes for Yugoslavia. It was the country down there, between Austria and Greece. Well, today, you need to study seven individual countries:

Slovenia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. No wonder kids need a phone to look up stuff!!!

The other day we had a fight. He was home for lunch but needed to leave for Lerninsel soon. Translation for Lerninsel is "Learning Island", the name for the platform where kids do homework supervised by a teacher. 

It is mostly used for detention, to support the kids who need more time and quiet and for the kids who get out of class to attend hockey practice and need to catch up. It was part of our crunch talk, and I like it.

I mean I am sad for him that it cuts into his otherwise free afternoon, but I like that it provides him with a structure, and I like that I am not the one who needs to police him. 

Colin had to do three things before leaving:
  1. Brushing his teeth
  2. Texting his Godmother about his birthday gift
  3. Sticking in one page for French class. One page.
Five minutes before he needed to leave the house I checked on him. He never asked me where the glue was (even though he's supposed to know.)

Are you done?


Of course he hadn't done anything, and it made me really mad. I hate to nag him, I would much rather trust him and see that things are getting done.

I took his phone away, and he didn't like it. 

"Can't a guy have a little fun and relax, I always have to be somewhere and do something!"

He was right, and I felt sorry for him - only that he could come home from school, sit down for lunch and retire to his bedroom for a half hour of mindless TikTok videos, while I was the one who came home from work, made lunch, loaded the dishwasher, took care of laundry, h*** I even packed his hockey bag.

We had another disagreement a couple of days ago. He got invited to a birthday sleepover Friday night, and we held off RSVP-ing until the line-up for the Saturday tournament was published. 

The hockey day takes place a two hours' drive away, meeting time is 8am, the tournament  includes eight junior league teams and is designed for the "top team", so the better players, and to be honest, we had little hope they were going to call him up.

Of course the one time you wouldn't mind not being one of the hot shots, you're in the line-up. And he we was bummed. He wanted to cancel practice on Friday night and cancel his attendance at the tournament.

Teenage mood much? Life isn't always a bowl of cherries!

Yes, friends are important, and birthdays only happen once a year, but come on, you see that friend all the time, I even had them come over for home made pizza the other day because we have to benefit from these time slots. 

Plus if you're among 15 (out of more than 40) kids who are picked to play? You show up!

We compromised: Usually we would drive to the venue the evening before, spend the night at a nearby hotel and show up at the arena stress-free and almost refreshed. This time we are going to sleep at home and get up at 5am.

That way he can at least attend the party but of course not sleep there, because we all know there is no sleeping involved at a sleepover. 

It got me thinking though.
Are we expecting too much of him? 
He doesn't need to play hockey for us. It's supposed to be fun.
He does, however, need to attend school and make friends for himself. 

If he wants it all though, we have to support him on his journey, and this unfortunately includes setting boundaries. 

Already we see that his hockey friends who can't make practice, be it due to their school schedule or other hobbies (and rarely, some individuals even happen to just not feel like it) and I would assume their performance on and off ice, are falling behind on the coach's priority list.

You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Later that day after the phone confiscation, when he came home from Lerninsel, he was cheerful again.

We had to leave immediately to see the seamstress for his hockey tubes - a whole 'nother long story - and from there drive to practice. On our way we learned that off ice got canceled. 

Off ice is the dreadful part of hockey practice that everybody is happy about it being canceled.

You have to get out of your hockey gear, into your sweat pants and warm down by running a few laps, practice stick handling, juggle a few balls, stretch, you name it.

Of course he was pleased, and I said, instead of driving home right away and getting stuck in rush hour because we are almost an hour early, let's get some dinner at the sports bar.

That's what we did, and that's when he claimed to understand that people can have all kinds of fun and relaxation after the work is done.

Business before pleasure is something I have been preaching since he was a little boy. I do hope it'll stick one day.
Until then I may have to repeat it once or a gazillion times. I guess that's my job.