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So, I am divorced with an amazing 15 year old boy. By all accounts, I think he is extremely well adjusted, bright and aware. I am very sorry that he has to sit through 12 years of public Singaporean schooling, but everytime I consider sending him to private school with all the entitled brats with superiority complexes, I think a bit of humility and local grounding is not a bad thing.

His mom received a text message from his teacher - apparently he has been skipping his “compulsory” weekly after school activities, not telling anyone and continuing to return home late as if he was at the activity. This was a new activity that he recently switched to at the start of the school year, and ironically he chose it for its totally lack of meaning or effort (its the audio-video club)

My first reaction when I read that was that I get it. He probably found the activities exceedingly boring, and or did not get along with the people there, or just found it meaningless and a waste of time. But his school has made changing activities a total pain in the ass, and instead of making it a fun game of discovery and growth, made it about burden and liability.

In any case, the end result is that he somehow did not want to go, but does not want to change activity, but does not want to tell us either. I mean, have you tried telling your parents you don’t want to go to something the school mandated you to?

Both of us called him separately - and he was very avoidant on the phone, answering with vagueness.

His mom messaged me afterwards with a lot of anxiety - and while we both agree that we need to talk to him about it, and this behavior has implications for his character, that is where the similarities kinda ended, which spoke to the difference upon which we defined the meaning of character.

His mom thinks this is a very big deal - he was not accountable to his teachers, to his responsibility as a student, to us as a child. He also gets credit for these for entry to schools, so he is theoretically hurting his future (I disagree). He also implicitly lied to us about where he was. She thinks it is a big character problem.

Well, I don’t.

I have a different definition of character - my definition is the willingness to forge one’s own path, to be ultimately accoutable to oneself, to not lie to oneself about the impact of one’s actions on themselves and other.

Taken in that sense, he simply did not partake in something that he felt was completely meaningless, he did not hurt anyone (except his chances of going to a good junior college), and did not have the desire to spend a ton of emotional energy on telling us. The after school requirement was foisted on him, and it was not like he explicitly took on that responsibility. Also, why does he need to tell us everywhere he goes? He is his own man for goodness sake.

Am I giving him a big out here? Afterall, he clearly agreed to the terms of engagement when he signed up, and he is hurting his chances of going to a good junior college. Probably most damning to most impartial observers

At the same time, isn’t this one of those cases that you learn who you are?

In this case, he needs to learn that choosing the most meaningless and boring thing was probably the right move in terms of effort optimization, but he probably should not choose his path based on effort optimization, but rather interest optimization. Certainly something like chess or even board games will be a better choice.

As for the big elephant here about him “lying”, I certainly did not tell my parents everything as a teenage boy. I mean, I still don’t. My parents will be absolutely shocked if they knew 30% of the shenanigans I get up to. It’s certainly nothing dramatic by modern standards, but it’s certainly worlds away from their mindsets. xGod knows where I would be if I leaned on them for approval for everything I did. I certainly wished he told me, but I would like to be someone that he is comfortable telling things to. I think that is probably 50-50 responsibility.

So yeh, he messed up, and I am going to give him shit for it, but kinda like smack him in the head hard with a turd emoji rubber paddle, rather than whip his ass with a glass shard loaded belt until he shit his pants kinda shit.

A lot of my empathy comes from being rejected by school, society and senior figures in general, and always having to figure out life largely on my own.

The world is not binary, its an infinitely complex layers and dimensions of grey.

And I believe that it is in this infinitely maze of grayness that you must find your own character. And it is through waddling, falling, slumping and finally getting comfortable with yourself that you get to say “this is me, this is who I am and this is how I am