I think my son’s brain is rotting. There are outward physical signs – he sleeps late into the morning, he is so lethargic apparently all he can do is play some NBA game on the x-box for hours on end, he smells, and he seems to have lost his ability to speak clearly and in complete sentences. He does show interest in some activities like basketball, golf, and baseball so I feel like he may be able to beat this. And he eats. Boy does he eat. So he is keeping up his strength, which is important.
Summer brain rot has set in for the teens in this house, and I am defenseless. I day-dream about looking out the kitchen window and seeing him there, stretched out on the back porch, engrossed in War and Peace. I dream of calling him in for dinner and hearing in response “OK, Mom. Just let me read one more chapter!”
It is a start contrast to the real view – a lanky, quasi-hairy boy sprawled on the back porch with bright orange Cheetos dust settling over his body, engrossed in yet another YouTube video. He is watching, get ready for it, other people play video games. The same game that he has logged innumerable hours playing himself. He is watching, intently I might add, someone else playing the game!!! My heart stopped last week when he told me, with admiration in his eyes, that the “best” YouTube gamers make a lot of money posting videos. It is their job. At that point I lost consciousness.
My kids have never been readers. They can read (whew) but it is always under a threat of some kind. I appreciate, as they get older, that there are books they need to read for the upcoming school year. But the summer book selections NEVER help my cause. I am a voracious reader, but really?! I don’t want to dive into historical novels with weird wording and deep meaning. It’s hard enough to breathe in the summer heat.
I am also sure that my son will enter 9th grade with a note in his file pointing out that every August in MS he came back to English class having proudly read Nate the Great. AGAIN. 4 years straight. Nate the Great. See what I am battling?
It is a very real struggle to be a teacher mama. Everything I know about educating kids is sooooo much easier to enact with YOUR kids when they are physically trapped in a room with me.
I know this 15-year-old boy MUST DO SOMETHING with his brain this summer. I can smell the rot. I shifted into teacher mode and here are some ideas to try….
- Find a book that actually might be interesting to a teenage boy. Think nonfiction Into Thin Air, Thunder Dog, 438 Days, Unbroken.
- Reading is reading is reading. Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair. You will probably need to find an article…throwing the whole magazine at him might knock the iPhone out of his hand but in my experience it doesn’t inspire him to browse the index inside.
- Have a thoughtful conversation in non-neanderthal English. Watch a great TV series together this summer that is thought provoking. The OJ documentary is fascinating, as is “United Shades of America” on CNN, and any “30 for 30” on ESPN. Whatever they have an interest in, scour Netflix and find something that you can talk about and revisit.
- Pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Not Easy. Try encouraging them to think like a screenwriter (TV shows, movies – those guys make a lot of money too and they are likely not still living in their mother’s basement). Chunk the writing small parts with the intention of capturing “scenes”. Baseball team come back and win against all odds? Incredible people watching on a family trip? Encourage them to capture those memories like stories. Tap into creativity.
By no means am I saying I can pull this off with my own kid. I am going to do my best and hope that just I might stave off the final stages of rot before it is too late. If it doesn’t work, Harris Teeter has air fresheners on sale this week.