Soon after my sons 15th birthday he started having problems at school. On a Friday, the Headmaster of the private school that my son attended called me. “You better come here now”, the headmaster said. “We need to talk about your son”.
“I will”, was the only thing I managed to muster before putting down the receiver. What could possibly have happened? All kinds of thoughts raced through my head. Had my son injured or killed somebody? He was not violent by nature and the primary hostility I had observed was directed toward me. Generally he was skeptical of all authority figures. However, that was typical teenager behavior. At least that was my presumption.
Upon my arrival I asked for the Headmaster at the reception. He came immediately, introduced himself, and handed me a letter concurrently.
“I have come to the conclusion that your son is no longer welcome in this school. He is expelled”, the headmaster said.
“For how long? Why, what has he done?”
“Forever. He has breached our code of conduct. There is nothing to discuss”.
Suddenly I had a hostile teenager at home who did not think he had done anything wrong, at least not anything his buddies at school had not done, according to him.
I started looking for answers on the Internet and discovered that public schools could not refuse admission to a school-aged student. However, I had been disappointed with the public school my son had attended until a year and a half ago. At that time, when he had wished to change schools, I saw to it that he was transferred to a private school in another school district. During the ensuing period, he had contracted mononucleosis and both his academic and swimming performance had declined dramatically. Finally he quit daily training altogether and started drifting.
My main problem was that communicating with him had become impossible. He burst out in anger easily, then ignored me, and did not seem to understand that he had any responsibility for his life or in solving his problems.
Luckily I promptly managed to find a local male Psychologist. He was available to meet my son on short notice. After a few consultations he contacted me. “This teenage boy should not live with his mother. He has no respect for you”, the Psychologist concluded. Those were harsh words, I felt temporarily hopeless, but I knew he was right. I accepted the fact that I was part of the problem. The liberal and hypocritical environment and country I had chosen as our living base had also contributed to the problem. The circle of friends my son was associated with did not make the situation any better.
Solving the equation was not easy but doable. More than ten years earlier, I had separated from my son’s father in Norway after a dysfunctional marriage. Now the father seemed to have solved most of his problems and he was remarried. He was living on a remote mountaintop north of Oslo. After some persuasion, my son’s father agreed that our boy should move to his place.
The following four years my son did not want to have much contact with me. The few times I talked with him, I realized he was maturing. He went to a Sports High School and worked at a ski resort on weekends. The school was far away from his father’s house, and we ended up renting an apartment where he was living on his own for two years. He obtained a driver’s license, bought a car, and became increasingly more responsible.
I was prompted to share this personal story after observing so many protective parents who try to remove all obstacles from their children’s way. My belief is that we all need obstacles and challenges to mature. And the main task of a parent is to let their children become responsible for their own lives.