Monday, November 20, 2006

The bad guy, me.
Once again I find myself at a crux of parenthood, and this one is a doozy. I've heard that your first reaction is usually the right one, and I think it's true in this case as well.

While my 12-year-old son was at music camp this summer, he auditioned for the International tour group, and out of some 250 students who autitioned, he was one of the 78 selected to be in the choir. That was quite an accomplishment. When my son's dad told me in September that my son had been accepted to go on this five-week European tour, my first reaction was, "he's too young," and his dad had the same misgivings. I asked him for all of the information before the deposit deadline so I could make an informed decision about this whole thing before saying yes or no. He agreed.

So, I didn't get the information until after the deadline, and without asking me or telling me, his dad put a deposit down on the trip. I thought this was inappropriate and inconsiderate, especially since I didn't get the promised materials for review until a week after the deadline. I was even more convinced at this point that this trip was a bad idea. I didn't know who the points of contact were, what would happen if he was sick or hurt or lost, and who the people are that he would be going with. I sent my son's dad an email requesting specific information that would help me to make a decision.

My son's stepmom attended a briefing at the organization's location and got additional information. She was kind enough to send an email with some of the information I requested. It did not, however, clarify some of the key points I asked them about in the email, like who gets contacted if he gets injured or lost, and I was supposed to get the names and phone numbers of families whose children had participated in this international tour, but I didn't get that information, either.

Meanwhile, they all went on as if this was a sure thing. They've encouraged my son to take on part time work to help pay for this very expensive trip, my son has been saving his allowance, and attending rehersals. He is now very excited about this trip and it seems to be the primary focus of his life.

There is evidence that he's been more focused on this trip than his school work. On his October report card, GPA was a substandard 2.5 (our of 4). For a kid who is supposed to be taking a trip to Europe, these grades are not acceptable, and his dad and stepmom agree... but that's where the similarity ends.

I sent an additional email to their family giving reasons why I think that my son is not yet ready to go on this kind of trip. First is his grades, which granted, could be turned around, but there's no guarantee that they will before he left in June. Second was the fact that he's not mature enough and has not truly done anything to merit this trip. Little holds his attention for long, and I feel that after a week he will become bored with touring and it will all become a huge chore - for the remaining four weeks. My point was that this is the kind of trip reserved for someone who has worked hard for a goal and is an expensive reward for a 12-year-old.

Third is the lack of information about the tour, exactly where they will be going, and with whom. There has been no itinerary or certainty provided to any of the parents regarding the tour, nor any examples of past itineraries. He doesn't have any close friends in the group, and none of us know any of the adults.

Not wanting my son to hear my misgivings second hand, I called him to tell him about the concerns I wrote about in the email to his dad and stepmom. In the middle of the conversation, he got very quiet. I asked him what he was feeling, and he said, "angry," and then hung up on me.

I was livid. After calming down, I called him back, and told him that this exactly deomonstrated the lack of maturity I was talking about. He became insulting, mocking, and hostile. I could not believe this was my son talking to me; he had never, ever, spoken to me this way before.

I called him back, and he did not apologize for hanging up on me, and I scolded him for his disrespectful actions. I told him that I would not sign the paper for the passport that would allow him to go on the trip. We were closing the conversation, and was telling him that I expected to hear from him tomorrow when he said goodbye and hung up on me again. I left a voice mail for his dad about what happened and asked him to call me.

I didn't hear from his dad, so I called his dad this morning. He defended my son and told me that my son denied hanging up on me twice. We discussed the points of the email, and I told him that there is no way this child is going to Europe after the display of disrespect and immaturity I received on the phone.

His dad did his best to talk me out of it, and I didn't commit to anything on the phone, but I'll be damned if this child is going to be rewarded for this kind of disrespect, immaturity, and bad grades. After I worked through the anger and consulted with my novio, I came to realize that I cannot allow this child to go to Europe. He is definitely not ready.

But, it's difficult to say no to someone you love, even if it's the best thing to do.

If I let him go, then he will think that it's ok to lie, be hostile, be disrespectful, get mediocre grades, and go to Europe.