School progress reports came in the mail not too long ago, and let’s just say that my daughter, Shannon, did not put forth her best effort. It was her first semester in high school, and I am sure there will be an adjustment period. However, to “motivate” her decision to study harder, she is grounded. Indefinitely. To hear her tell it, Nelson Mandela had more freedom than she does.
Poor Shannon. “Grounded” means she must come home directly from school and she cannot socialize with her friends. She still has access to TV, the internet and her cell phone.
“I am sooooo bored,” Shannon said as she rolled her eyes and flopped onto the couch. She grabbed the TV remote and flipped through the 300+ channels. “And, of course, there is nothing on TV.” She checked the inventory of DVR items only to determine she had seen them all.
“Why don’t you go on the internet?” I offered. “You could get a head start on your English project.”
“Right, Mom,” she responded with total disdain. “It’s the weekend; I want to DO something.”
“I recognize that, Shannon,” I responded, trying to keep my cool. “You could go call one of your friends.”
“And talk about what? How bored I am?” she groaned.
So I mention the obvious: “If you use this time to work on your English project, your grades will improve and you will get to see your friends again.”
The “Proactive versus Reactive” speech fell on deaf ears. She was convinced that next I would be placing bamboo shoots under her fingernails.
I tried to be as empathetic as possible. I tried to take myself back to a time when I was her age, to a time when I was grounded. My memory wandered back to a time when my parents sent me to stay with my older sister, Denise, and her husband, Billy. I went from being with my friends in beautiful, fair San Diego to isolation in a pitchfork’s throw from hell, humid Houston. The weather for this California girl was almost unbearable, so I spent most of my time indoors. Back in the day, my sister didn’t have cable TV or a VCR. The internet was non-existent and even if my sister had had the internet all those years ago, she would have had dial-up connection, like she does today!
Obviously, I didn’t have a cell phone to communicate with my friends; I actually wrote LETTERS. The absolute highlight of my day was going to the mailbox to see if any of my friends remembered me. (To this day, I get guff from my friends who say I wrote the exact same thing to them in my letters; now I think they understand that I did nothing all day and had nothing to write about!)
The majority of my time was spent sleeping. The remainder was spent writing repeticious letters or listening to 8-track tapes with headphones. I listened to the same tapes over and over and over again–I learned every word to Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” 8-track and every single line to a Steve Martin comedy tape. I recite his routines verbatim to this day.
I snapped back out of my haze to encounter Shannon prodding me for ideas to occupy her time. Half-kiddingly, I suggest she scrub the entire bathroom. Needless to say, she did not find my recommendation amusing. Oh well, Shannon, as Steve martin used to say “Comedy is Not Pretty.”