Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stepson Does Not Use Brain - Deliberately

What do you do when you discover that your 13 year old stepson has missed 59 classes in the last month, effectively blowing off an entire month of school?

I must confess that my first reaction was to do a Homer Simpson, and throttle the fool child, except we aren't neanderthals around here and plus, he's taller than me, and his arms are longer than mine, and he could just as easily throttle me right back. And I suspect he wouldn't mind doing so. I'm not a fan of corporal punishment, although it appears to be quite popular here in Bahia- for adults as well as children. Along with all the obvious good reasons not to physically abuse a child, I think it is a lazy and ineffective way to discipline. It's much easier to smack a kid because they did something wrong and then forget about it rather than actually deal with the issue and try to teach the kid not to do that same thing again.

So I did all the things I normally do: cut off the TV watching and the computer using. I locked the PlayStation in a filing cabinet. The TV bit is particularly effective because my stepson has a serious TV dependency, he really doesn't know what to do with himself when he can't watch TV. Actually, one of the things he does is read- which makes me want to discipline him more. I'm working on a plan that will couple his computer use, once he gets it back, to reading books, something he's never done. Up until now he's only read comic books. The other thing he does is play with Lucas- loud, rowdy games that often end with Lucas in tears. Again, he really only plays with Lucas anymore when he's not allowed to watch TV.

In addition to these steps, I cut his allowance and his weekly film rental and pretty much everything else. I don't think he really realizes it yet, but he has put a severe and permanent bruise on our relationship- I'm not the kind of guy who forgets this kind of thing. Ever. I don't understand what he possibly could have been thinking: apart from the fact that he was getting away with exponentially increasing truancy at the school, did he really think he'd be able to get away with it forever? Did he think we wouldn't notice if he didn't pass fifth grade, if he didn't bring home a single report card? And once we did find out, what did he think was going to happen to him? And why the fuck didn't he care??

The other thing he doesn't realize yet is that he has permanently changed his daily routine here at our house. Evani stopped trusting him a long time ago, and I have been his lone defender in many things for quite some time, but now that is over. I'm fucking furious. This latest phenomenal deception is but the most extreme in a long series of deceptions, and I've had it. He will not flunk fifth grade because he opted not to try, because he opted not to go, because he decided, as he told a guard at the school that school 'was not for him.' He's thirteen years old, he's going to school. Period. And he's not getting any more slack here at home. If he only chooses to read when I don't let him watch TV, then he will be allowed to watch very little TV, and he will learn something in spite of himself. And I already told him that if he misses one more class, he watches no TV. And if he flunks fifth grade, like he flunked (spectacularly) third grade, then the shit will really hit the fan.

He's not a dumb kid, so that's not the problem. And I've had the professional assessment that he has no learning disabilities, although I'm still skeptical. Something is wrong. Something is very wrong. Then again, his cousin is repeating fifth grade for the fourth time, and he seems to think that's okay. I obviously do not.

There's a couple other pieces in this very messed up puzzle. One is the school, and one is us. We were told when we finally showed up at the school last week to see how he was doing that they almost called in the Juiz de Menores, which is like children's social services here in Brazil, but since he had attended some classes, they didn't do so. Well, why didn't they pick up the fucking phone and give us a call? That would have put an end to the systematic lies and deceptions we'd been getting from Ruan. I've written before about how completely dysfunctional the public schools are here, so that's probably the only explanation I need or will get. I would have preferred it if they had called social services.

And the other piece was us. It should not have taken us so long to figure this out. The school is only two blocks away- we transferred him just so we could keep a closer eye on him, which we clearly did not. Trying to educate Ruan has been such an incredibly difficult and exasperating task- he resists all efforts to the utmost of his abilities- that I've completely given up, and so has my wife. I resent having to do anything related to his school- I already have to deal with everything relating to Lucas' school, and, let's face it- Ruan is not my kid. I'd like to see his mother showing a little more interest in his education. Then again, finishing school was never a big priority in her family, it wasn't practical. I'm not sure why it's a priority for me- the quality of a public school education for a kid who is completely unmotivated to learn is pretty much zip. At least he knows how to read- he has numerous relatives who cannot. And I really can't shovel too much blame on my wife- she has been suspicious that Ruan was not attending school for some time. I have been completely oblivious.

So now Ruan's life will change, and ours along with it. Maybe it will be a good thing. Maybe it won't. One thing's for sure- he's not missing any more school.

12 comments:

TLC said...

Is there a possibility he's getting bullied at school or was? Are you giving him the books he's reading or no? I'm a step mom of my Brazilian husband's 4 year old daughter who does not live with us, but I am always interested in how others are handling the problems I may one day have. I an't believe the school never called, but on the other hand when I went to a Cleveland, OH public school my 10th grade year and returned to my Catholic school after 2 days, my parents never called them, and the school never called my parents to say I'd "stopped attending" for nearly a month. And the school was in the total 'hood, so that was like a little crazy considering I could have been like missing or something. Good luck.

markuza said...

Thanks TLC- although it's possible he's being bullied, I find it quite unlikely as this is simply building on a pattern that has been going on over several years at a couple different schools, and I doubt he's been bullied at all of them. In fact, I know he wasn't at the others. As for the reading material, I've made a couple forays into more 'advanced' reading which have flopped every time. This time he's going to the library with me and picking out a couple things, and he will read them, because I know he wants to use the computer again. As for your stepdaughter, I'd bet you can already get something of a read on what you're in for based on who she is now. I met Ruan when he was four and not that much has changed. He was 'acting like a teenager' back then too. Only now he is one, so it's worse.

Fabio Bossard said...

Have you tried this series? http://www.livrariasaraiva.com.br/pesquisaweb/pesquisaweb.dll/pesquisa?ESTRUTN1=&ORDEMN2=E&PALAVRASN1=a+turma+dos+tigres&image2.x=0&image2.y=0&ORDEMN2=E&FILTRON1=X
It's a detective series and it's kinda interactive. It comes with a little pack that helps you break the code in order to solve the mystery. Also, these books are not long, what makes it perfect for kids who are not used to reading.

markuza said...

Hey Fabio- never heard of those. I'll see if they have them at the library. Thanks for the tip!

markuza said...

TLC- I just re-read your question re: the reading material and the answer is yes, I have bought him all the comic books he reads! I should mention he also reads the 'Capitão Cueca' (Captain Underpants) book I got for him some time ago.

michelle said...

Ugh. Sounds familiar. ARHS didn't call when number one daughter didn't show up for her classes either, with disastrous results...
On the bright side, she made it through.
Here, I've seen lots of kids who had zero interest in school do really well at vo-tech type places. Is there anything like that in Brazil?
Hang in there!

Jesse said...

truly sorry to hear that- like Michelle said we have been in a somewhat-similar place and things worked out (although it does take time). I know that is hard, sending you good thoughts.

markuza said...

Michelle, Jesse- Thanks for the support- it's actually really nice for me to hear that there are people who have similar problems and don't live in Brazil- I sometimes get caught in the headset that I wouldn't have these problems if I lived somewhere else, thanks for bringing me back to reality! And isn't (or wasn't) ARHS one of the best public schools in the country??

Corinne said...

I see a similar pattern with my nieces nd nephews and it boils down to not having a role model that puts a value on education. My stepdaughter is raised by my sister-in-law and is the only exception in my husband´s family and that is because she is a teacher. If you are the only male role model that values education, then you really are swimming against the current. Maybe there is a way to get him exposure to other adults in career´s that he likes in order to see that school is a means to an end (cool job) and not just a waste of time.

Larry said...

Oi Kusa, Ruan's story sounds familiar to me. I skipped school a bit myself. But let's face it, most schools suck badly, I mean really badly. I definitely underachieved, but I liked to read. My dad bought me lots of comic books, magazines and porn, hahaha! But seriously, kids will be kids and you can save your self a lot of grief by trying to put your self in their shoes. I realize putting oneself in Ruan's shoes is tricky. However if he likes comic books, that's an avenue of some sort. Have you tried art classes or theater classes or something of that nature. Also he likes being on the computer, maybe learning about how computer games are created from creative and/or technical perspectives. Or teach him how to customize blogs that he can use to write about his favorite comics. I'm sure other kids have blogs about Brazilian comics. Maybe try and find some for him. He's still a kid you have chance of reaching, soon he'll be a young adult! My dad was much smarter about the way he dealt with my rebelliousness, than my mom was. He bought me stuff to read, skateboards, bikes and he was generally encouraging in his interactions with me, except when I got in trouble. My mom was freaked out by this kid who didn't behave and was disapproving a lot of the time and only bought me things I needed, like clothes and such. I love to read your blog, helps me keep it real here in Bouldertown, CO. Manda um abraco a galera do N'Zinga! Be patient com seu muleque, vale a pena! Um bom capoeira sabe criar o que precisa na hora da necessidade, meu manu

markuza said...

Thanks Larry, I appreciate it. The thing that makes it so hard for me to relate is that I never really minded school- I found it easy and I got to hang out with all my friends every day. Granted, I went to some pretty decent schools during a pretty decent time (I think those same schools have taken some knocks since then) and I'm freakin' brilliant so naturally I coasted through. Ruan clearly is not having the same experience. On the upside, he is several chapters into his first real book and seems to be enjoying it, even if he reads it only to earn the other things he wants like computer time. Maybe someday he'll even pick one up on his own.

Mei said...

I know I am late to comment on here, but I was re-reading your post on Ruan and thinking about my sister, who is the mom of a crazily unruly teen. She has always been a supportive and kind mom, and now she is tearing her hair out over her son. You are not alone!

My sister's son is now enrolled in a special school (state-funded) for teens on a "vo-tech track." We are from Vermont.