Probation

by

Ben calls. It’s not unusual to get a call from him, they generally come mid-afternoon, when a good grade is handed back, or at dinner time to see what we’re all enjoying after he’s been to the “Caf” for a supper with no seasoning. What’s unusual about this call is how late it comes, and Ben’s demeanor. His ADHD now expresses itself in his over-focus on organization and cleaning, and in his verbiage. He has to get the words out, let them run, until his thoughts have emptied from his brain. We listen to all the news, weather, and sports, then it’s our turn to talk. Tonight is different.

“Hey Mama, whatcha up to?”

“Just getting ready for bed, what’s up with you?”

“Just checking in. I’ve been working on my Senior Thesis, rough draft is due tomorrow. Do you mind giving it a read for me?” Ben usually sends his final drafts to me to read for any glaring inconsistencies, repetition, grammar glitches, punctuation misfires. I highlight parts he needs to look at again, give my thoughts at the end and he decides on revision.

“It’s a rough draft, right? Just turn it in.”

“It’s my Senior Thesis though. I want it to at least make sense in a rough draft.”

“Ok, send it and I’ll do a read through.”

“Thanks Mom.” Silence on the other end. No “goodbye” or “I love you,” just a long quiet space. I wait. Finally, I think he’s hung up.

“Ben?”

“I’m still here.” More silence.

Now I’m worried. “What is it? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, just on RA probation.”

My thoughts turn party. He’s gotten caught partying with his buds, or worse, with the freshmen on his hall. “Probation? For what?”

“It’s been a damn rough week. I’ve had this Senior Thesis draft due, been on duty three days, had five hours of sleep in two days, and my RA programming was due. On top of that, one of my students was having a crisis last night and I was up most of the night dealing with that. I didn’t have time to write up the damn programming, so I turned in the form and wrote on it I didn’t have time to deal with it.”

“How did that get you on probation?”

“My boss called and said my attitude’s been different since I came back to school, said I have “Senioritis.” He said I wasn’t setting a very good example. So, I’m on probation. John, my boss, said my form was a “passive-aggressive FU.”

Now I know my boy. He usually sees one side of a situation, and that’s his own. I remember his senior year in high school. His last semester handed him the only Discipline referral he ever received. He got it for arguing with a teacher about dress code. Ben was wearing flip flops, and got called on it. The teacher was also wearing flip flops. Ben reminded her that teachers had a dress code too. He is a stickler for fairness, always has been.

I’ve heard rumblings of uneven workloads on RA’s, how training is repetitious and unnecessary, how RA’s are talked down to in meetings. Then, when Ben is called down for attitude, he doesn’t mince words. He tells his supervisors exactly what he thinks. Ben is growing and he’s stretching his big wings and he’s doing it with no finesse. He’s exactly like his Dad, and now it’s gotten him on probation.

“Was it a passive-aggressive FU, Ben?”

“I don’t think so. I was tired, worn out tired, and I didn’t have time to sit there and plan some stupid activity that no one would show up for anyway. You’d think I got caught at a party with my students. That’s what RA’s get probation for.”

“It might not be just from this incident. Maybe things have built up.”

More silence on the other end. He’s counting the times he’s said something that wasn’t filtered. “They ought to be in my shoes for just one week,” he says. “I have a good mind to quit.”

“Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” I caution. “Remember, this is a paid gig. You get a private room. You like your students, and being an RA. This will look good on your resume. You have three and a half months to go.”

“I know,” he says. “Let me know what you think of the paper. I think you’ll like the first part. I did that “hook” thing you were talking about.”

“Ok, I will. I love you. Get some sleep. Things will look better tomorrow.”

“Love you too. Bye.”

I hung up the phone with a sigh.

“What was that all about?” Bruce asks over his cup of coffee.

I tell him the story.

Bruce harrumphs, “He should have called his boss and said, “I’ve spent all week writing a fifteen page paper, on top of pulling duty and staying up all night helping one of my students with a crisis. Forget the passive-aggressive part, F. U.”

Yep, that’s why Bruce is in business for himself. Glad Ben caught me when he called instead of his Dad.

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