When I sent my son to Spanish Immersion camp, I expected him to be miserable. It’s part of the camp experience. I knew he’d complain about the heat, the lack of free time, some other child that bugs the crap out of him and how he hates the food. He does that every year. What I didn’t expect was for him to say that he’s bored and that the classes are too easy. According to him, he falls asleep regularly, and trades quips with his roommate at the back of the room. He finishes the work too quickly, but the answers are correct, so the teacher gives him more work. Not harder work. Just more work.
He complained. “You sent me to this camp so I would learn Spanish. You’re wasting your money.” I give him credit for being smart about it. Complaining about the petty stuff wouldn’t move his heartless parents. Money and principles? We’re all ears.
My husband and I talked to the program director to get the rest of the story. He had talked to my son and his teacher and reviewed his work. He felt that our son was on the high side of the range of students for the class, but not strong enough to leap up to the next level. He needed to stay where he was.
Any class will have a range of student performance, we countered. How do you keep the more advanced kids moving forward?
He was very diplomatic. “We hope that the older, more experienced students will step up into roles of leadership with the other children. Engaging in projects within a leadership role requires a more extensive use of vocabulary. He could be doing more. By speaking more, and interacting more, he’ll become more facile with the language.”
What a polite way of telling me that my son would be less bored if he spent less time snoozing and griping in the back, and step up to the plate. Or to put it simply, you get out of it, what you put into it.
I am not as polite as the camp director. So my dear son, I am not wasting my money, you are wasting my money.
Before I start docking X-box time, however, I have to look in the mirror. How often have I done the same? How often do I complain about a situation when my time and energy would be better served fixing it? How often would I rather be right and miserable than happy? My son has a vested interest in proving to us that we never should have sent him to camp to begin with so that we never, ever, do it again. We have a vested interest in making sure that he knows he’s accountable for his own experience. We’ve told him this, but it’s time for him to live it.
You can’t sit in the back of your own life and complain. If you don’t like it, change it. If you can’t change it, learn how to make the best of it. The apple may not fall far from the tree, but that only makes it easier for the tree to whack the apple upside the head. He’ll thank me some day, when I’m not around to hear it.
Words by J. B. Everett