1. My mother started drinking heavily.
2. I was identified as being "Genius" and "Dyslexic" at the same time
3. My father got involved in my schoolwork
4. Everyone got taller than me, and since I was kind of a dick as a little kid, beat the crap out of me on a regular basis until I was a sophomore in high school.
The first was obviously terrifying. "Why does mama act that way? Why is she unconscious? Why are we not allowed to call the hospital? Why are you angry with me?" The second was a mixed bag, and had opposite results than I think anyone thought at the time. The first "genius" part was a curse, mostly because I was labeled "doesn't meet expectations" for the rest of my school life. The next, being dyslexic, was a boon because I had a lot of really great teachers who gave me confidence that still lasts today. It was the second item that led to the third: my dad figured he'd "teach the dyslexia out of me." He really, really took the dyslexia thing personally, and acted like it didn't exist unless you believed in it. My mother always told me it was because his brother had it, and he hated his brother, but my uncle told me he never had dyslexia, so who knows. His kid had it. It runs in the family. The last I have always considered karma for my previous actions, and made peace with it.
My father started giving me rote work to do. He had some textbooks, lord knows where he got them -- they had printing dates in the 50s and 60s, but they were full of math problems. Page after page of them. And he made me do them. Sometimes 100 at a time. He'd grade them, and hand me back my paper and say, "You got three wrong: FIND THEM." It literally, not figuratively, literally drove me insane. I started my self-injury with those, and I STILL have lead in my arm from where I stabbed myself with pencils in frustration (the tips snapped off once in a while if they struck bone). I cut myself so many times, I can't even imagine. For weeks at a time, my life was wake up, school, homework, rote work, sleep and repeat. Weekends we'd spend on that damn yacht of his. I couldn't escape. My life was a living hell.
School was a double-edged sword. I was grateful to get away from the house. School, with all its faults, seemed sane to me. The expectations were simple: we teach, you remember, you test, you get grades. I always did well on tests, but shortly after my father got involved in my school work, this went down slightly, and homework I hid from him because it just meant more excuses for him to hurt me. This led to me not doing it most of the time, and since grades were based partially on projects and homework assignments, my grades dropped, which meant more rote work, and my father's continued abuse. This led to a vicious cycle my father could not see, and if I explain it to him, he laughed in that cruel way of his. I lost a lot of sleep, staring into the darkness, hearing my parents fight, fearing for my life to such a point I hid under my bed in case my father came in, enraged, to take it out on me (he'd look for me, but I hid pretty well). So in school I was dopey, fuzzy, and wasn't eating well because I was fending for myself a lot of the time. I find it amazing I didn't drop out or run away; it was the fact school gave me refuge that I stayed at all. But I always felt like a failure because I was a C+ student at best, and PE/Gym was like torture.
The only time I made the Honor Roll was the two quarters after my mother died. School gave me a LOT of slack, and it was my senior year, so most kids (including me) had already been accepted to a college, so most of the teachers gave up giving us anything hard to do. I remember watching a lot of movies. My father probably attributed this to "he doesn't have his mother to protect him, now he's serious." I didn't earn that honor roll; I took it as a handout.
So last quarter, my son had, for the first time in his life, all A's and B's. I have mentioned it to him a LOT, but I am still mentioning it to everyone else that I am proud of him. I am proud not because the grades matter that much to me, but because he did it all on his own. I didn't force him on anything, in fact, after he got the help he needed from the educational system, I stayed out of his homework. On top of this, my son has, again on his own which is why I am so proud of him, decided to go to school every day this year to get a perfect attendance (the last few years were abysmal, averaging 1 day a week absent because "he didn't feel good"). He's also decided to be "more outgoing and sociable," and is having positive results. He's sticking up for himself more, and I see the pride of self-improvement really pushing him along. My best friend Neal did that in high school when he moved from El Paso to Houston, and I was always so envious he had the guts to do that, so I am proud my son has this as well.