My son Jeff was a great kid, smart, happy, ambitious and respectful. Then he became a teenager, dumb, miserable, lazy and disrespectful. It was as though someone or something had taken over his mind and completely changed his personality. Dad had become the stupidest man on earth, mom was a close second and hid friends were pure genius in his eyes, and it would get worse before it finally got better.
It began when I was transferred to Florida when he was thirteen, his first year of middle school. His friends were over six hundred miles away and he did not know a soul in town, save for the real estate agent. Three weeks after school started, just when he was settling in at his new school, we bought a house in a different school district. This move turned out to be a good move for him, in the end, but a nightmare for me.
Jeff finished middle school without much fanfare and moved on to high school. The first couple of years were not very bad, except I became even more stupid, then in his junior year Jeff got a job. Working in a grocery store seemed to agree with him until he started hanging out with older guys that worked there.
Older guys easily influence most fifteen year olds and my son was no exception. I met all of his friends; they were all very polite and respectful of me so I did not see a problem. The first sign of trouble was when I noticed, while relaxing on a Sunday afternoon, the outline of what appeared to be brass knuckles in the hip pocket of his jeans. I asked to see the object and after considerable arguing, he reluctantly gave me the brass knuckles. His explanation was he was holding them for a friend. Immediately, I used a sledgehammer to destroy the brass knuckles. To date no one has asked me about those weapons.
Jeff tried out for the basketball team in his senior year, but did not make the team. This discouraged him a great deal, enough to make him lose interest in finishing out the year in that school. He transferred to adult education at the local junior college. Adult high school puts all of the responsibility on the student to attend class and complete lessons. They so not call parents if a student skips for a day.
One night while lying in bed, I heard the sound of mini-blinds being raised in my son’s room. I got out of bed, opened my bedroom door stepped across the hall to open Jeff’s door, he opened the door to meet me. I asked Jeff where he was going, looking over his shoulder at the window, he responded he was going to the bathroom. I went on to ask why the window was open. In addition, why was the screen out of the window? Jeff admitted his friends were down the street waiting for him. I told him to go to bed; I would go meet his friends.
I got dressed, went outside and saw them in a van a few houses down the street. As I walked toward them, I was not sure what I was going to say, but I knew I had to make sure my son graduated from high school. That was it, that’s what I am going to say! As I walked up to the driver’s side window, I could not see who was driving, nor anyone else in the van. I said, look guys, I need your help, I am having a hell of a time getting Jeff to graduate. I heard several guys say, “yes sir”, I said thanks and walked back home. When I came inside my son asked me what I did out there, my response was” go to bed”.
The next day all of his friends called him individually, giving him friendly threats if he did not graduate in December. They all made it to his graduation and were as proud of him as my wife, his sister and I were.