03/02/2015 05:48 pm ET Updated May 02, 2015

My Son Doesn't 'Get' Math

Tetra Images via Getty Images

It's 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning and I'm trying desperately to wake up my 11-year-old son for school. That's right, school. You see he's failing math and this might be the last step or the first step, I'm not sure. His New York City Public School has implemented a Saturday Test Prep Program. He has to pass that dreaded test in order to move up to 7th grade. It's all very serious with a lot of talk about ruining his future.

Also, it's a snowy, rainy, and cold Saturday. My son just wants to hang with his friends or rather he wants to be 18 and do whatever he wants to do. He wants to be in charge of his life, a fact he reminds me of repeatedly from 7:01-8:47 a.m. when I drop him off.

Math just doesn't click for him, it never has. I see the struggle. I see him counting in his head and his fingers moving ever so slightly as he tries to figure out the answer, even simple math confuses him. Forget Algebra. His tutor told him he just needs to pass the tests, that he'll probably never use algebra as an adult. At least she was honest. A former principal told me he wasn't an extraordinary kid on paper. Can you imagine what that felt like?

After that statement, he was tested and I got a piece of paper that gives him an IEP in math, meaning he gets time and half at tests and other services. I'm glad I did it but sometimes I want to shove that paper up their $%&E*.

He's gone from being embarrassed that he can't do it, to being withdrawn and not caring at all, except for the fact that he does care and it's breaking my heart. I want to help him, I want to magically make him "get" math.

But I can't, and on this cold, annoying Saturday, I'm not even sure the school can.

Maybe what the school can do is shock him into caring more, or maybe the school needs to refocus and not just teach to a test. Maybe we need private school, but that's a financial slippery slope for even one kid and I have three Little Laing's.

So I'm trying tough love and boy, is it tough. I want to hold him, hug him, take him home and protect him from the big bad world. What I need to do is protect him from himself and the feeling of failure. Honestly, this sucks all around. I feel like I'm living in a John Hughes movie, it's the prequel to Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club. "Hey, hey, hey, hey!"

Make your own soundtrack to:

11 things my son said before drop off at Saturday School:

  1. I hate you.
  2. You hate me.
  3. I'm not talking to you ever again.
  4. You're not my mother anymore.
  5. I'm in charge of my own life.
  6. My feet are wet.
  7. Why are you doing this to me?
  8. I'm not going.
  9. You can't tell me what to do.
  10. This is really funny (with an added maniacal laugh)
  11. I really hate you.

Seven things my son said at pickup from Saturday school:

  1. Well, that was fun.
  2. I still hate you.
  3. I'm in a bad mood.
  4. My feet are still wet.
  5. I'm never doing that again.
  6. I have to pee.
  7. I'm still not talking to you.

Then he held my hand and we rode home in silence, his tough love sentence over until next Saturday.

He's an artist like his father and a musician like neither of us. No amount of beating him over the head will force him to learn math. He's wise beyond his years and is so good at guitar, he's a teacher and a student, 7th grade doesn't even apply. So he doesn't "get" math, he "gets" so many other things and is an extraordinary human being, on paper and any surface that exists or will ever exist, in perpetuity, forever and ever.