“Mom, I want to drop out of school,” Bobby told me.
He was sitting at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee in his hand; as if to prove he was adult enough for this conversation.
I’d known it was coming, for some time.
That didn’t make it any easier.
Bobby had never been a good student. He’d been diagnosed in first grade with ADHD; later on they added ODD and Aspergers’ to the mix He’d somehow scraped by, in elementary school because of caring teachers, but when he’d started middle school, his patience (and his teachers’ patience) had run out.
So, we’ve been doing homeschool, since then. He’d told me more than once; when he turned 18, he was going to drop out. I’d been hoping he’d change his mind.
“Bobby, are you sure?” I asked. He was just six months from graduation; I couldn’t bear to see him give up, when the end was in sight.
“Mom, I have a good job. My boss told me he could use me full-time. I don’t see the point of continuing school when I already know what I want to do with my life.” Bobby worked part-time as an auto mechanic and seemed to have a real talent for fixing cars.
“But, Bobby,” I tried. “It’s just six more months. Can’t you finish high school? Someday, you may need that diploma.”
He put down his cup. “If I need a diploma, I’ll get my GED.”
“Bobby ….” I began.
“Mom, I’m an adult, now and I’d like to be treated like one.” He picked the cup up again and took another sip.
I sighed. “That’s true, you are. Well, OK, Bobby. You can drop out.”
He looked as surprised as if I had sprouted wings. “I can?”
I grabbed a note pad. “Yes, after all; you are an adult. So, let’s see… I guess $300 a month is fair.”
”Yes, that’s … what? Fair for what?”
“That’s for rent,” I answered.
He still had that “sprouting wings” look on his face. “You’d charge me rent?” he asked. “I’m your son.”
“Yes, you are, Bobby – and I love you. But if you want me to treat you like an adult, you need to fulfill some adult responsibilities.”
“Well, OK, Mom. I guess I that’s fair. I make $300 a week. That leaves me three weeks’ pay for myself.”
I shook my head. “Actually, it doesn’t. There’s electricity, gas, internet and cable TV charges. And don’t forget car insurance and gas for the car.”
This time, Bobby’s look said I not only had wings, but was growing horns. “I have to pay for all THAT? That’s not fair!” He sipped the coffee desperately; as though it had magical powers of persuasion.
I looked at Bobby and tried to see beyond my desperate longing to just fold him into my arms and catapult us both back to his teddy bear days. “Bobby, I know you’re an adult now. Well, this is what adults do. They pay their own expenses. If you just hang in there with school for only six more months, then you can get take that full time job and still have other options, for the future.”
“But, Mom, I hate school!” he slammed the cup down on the table.
I knew this better than anyone, since I’d been hearing those words for years. “I know you do. But when you’re an adult, sometimes you do some things you don’t like or enjoy; in order to support yourself. I know six more months of school seems like torture, but it’s something that you’ll be glad you did, in the future.”
He didn’t answer right away. Finally, he said, “If I stay and graduate, will I still have to pay rent and stuff?”
I sighed with relief. “Yes,” I told him, “But you won’t have to pay rent until you graduate – and we’ll work something out with extra chores in order to pay the utilities.”
He got up from the table and walked over to the sink. He rinsed out his cup and placed it in the drainer. I was touched; he seldom did dishes without being hounded. I stood and went over to him; hugging him fiercely.
”Thanks, Bobby. That was a tough decision, but it was the right one.”
“I guess,” he said, drying his hands on a towel. “But, being an adult sure isn’t what I thought it would be.”
“It never is,” I laughed.
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