With the day to day exhaustion of 7th grade over, we headed into the Summer before 8th grade feeling guarded and still on alert. Clearly our son was unhappy, but as vacation took hold, things chilled a bit and the Summer of Nothing began.
What does that mean? Easy, he went to no camps (except for one week of house boating with a youth group), had no real plans, did lots of sleeping, played lots of video games, used his phone for hours and did lots of nothing. We went from a regular schedule of trying to get our son to school on time everyday to one that included no schedule at all. It was opposite ends of the spectrum for sure! I’m sure that sounds relaxing to some, but not ideal for a soon to be fourteen year old who should be kept busy.
It doesn’t mean that we didn’t try to make suggestions for a more productive use of his time. We did manage to take some short trips and to try all sorts of ways connect with our teen. It just seemed to be futile, with less conversation, less engagement, more seclusion and more silence from him. It was a terrible feeling in a household that once had vitality and energy. As normally positive people it started to wear us down.
I tried to keep the conversation going, but all we got were one word answers and grunts most of the time. As I shared our situation with other parents and friends, their comments included: “This too shall pass”, which happens to be my least favorite line of all time. What we were going through felt that we didn’t have time to wait for it to pass, but what could we do? So we just kept trying our best to make it work.
Our therapist suggested that we get to know all the families of our son’s friends, so we did. We invited them to join us for get togethers, hikes and meals. The parents commiserated about their kids behaving in similar ways. We got to know all the kids in the new friend group. Our gut feelings told us that some of these friends were negative influences, and a very few were what I call the “good ones”. We tried the old adage, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”.
No matter what we did and what we tried, the Summer of Nothing continued until the end of August. Thankfully then our last year of middle school began. Maybe, just maybe, new and positive patterns would develop with some maturity. Instead, we got back on the wild roller coaster of school again. Assignments were given, no home work was turned in. Emails and phone calls were exchanged with teachers and administrators. We were able to finally relax when they told us our son would indeed graduate from 8th grade because they socially promoted students, so he would have to move on to high school for their own needs. The middle school did not want fifteen year old 8th graders in their system.
We were very disappointed with the lack of help he received from the school, even though our son had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place since 3rd grade. Some teachers cared, others didn’t know what to do. Well, we didn’t either. We asked for guidance but in a public school system their hands are tied and we felt like they dropped the ball big time.
And to top it all off, ALL the 8th graders were given iPads for the year to take home and use everyday for school work. Isn’t that giving kids a mixed message about electronics? Stay off your phone, but the school iPad is okay? No “games” were allowed, but frankly the students were more savvy than the teachers, so who really knows what was going on? The school’s defense was that they had the right to check any iPad whenever they wanted, to make sure things were safe for all.
I bought insurance for the iPad since I wasn’t sure it would make it a whole year without a crack on the screen. (And believe it or not, it was turned in fine condition!) What work my son was actually doing on it for school was questionable. But at least for my son, the playing field was leveled to a certain degree since he was good with electronics. My biggest question has since become, but at what cost does keeping up with technology have on some students who truly can not self regulate and know when to put it down? Perhaps it was causing a dependency that we all would later regret.
We did survive our Summer of Nothing and our son’s 8th grade year, barely. He did indeed move onto public high school and keep the same friends. But the challenges that were ahead of us turned into something we never expected. Come back to keep following our story. Thanks for reading!
Staying the course,