The First Worst Day


I’ve found myself brooding about the day Vince declared he would drop out of high school.   I asked myself, “Why am I thinking about this now?” I’ve always considered it the worst day of my life—and I’ve had some doozies—but it has been 20 years.  After a few days it struck me that it was bound to come back around because it was a milestone that marked when “it” all began.

A few months before Vince’s dropping out manifesto, I had been Absolutely Shocked to find out that he was drinking and smoking pot (and much more that, thankfully I didn’t find out about until years later). Well, lots of kids experimented, right?  I wasn’t happy about it but it was sort of normal.

Dropping out?  NOT Normal.

He was 16 though, so legally he could drop out.  I marched him down to the Vice Principal’s office at Central and announced to him, “My son wants to drop out! Talk to him!”  I figured he would be best equipped with the facts on how much less high school drop outs earn over a lifetime, how they end up homeless or in prison or, even worse, how my son might end up living in a trailer home, wearing Zubas, and working as a short-order cook.

But the VP disinterestedly slid a form across his desk and said to Vince, “Sign here.”  It was a waiver of responsibility or some such form, formalizing his “withdrawal” from school and absolving them of responsibility. I’m not clear on what I did then. Probably cried, pleaded, accused the VP of being an accessory to failure, cursed myself for thinking anyone had my back as a single mom. But the guy said, “If they wanna drop out, we can’t stop ‘em.”

Vince signed, and that was it. The school no longer had to deal with his truancy or factor in his failing grades into any reports to the school district or state. My son dropping out would improve their average scores, no doubt. He was no longer their problem.

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