Single mother distraught when 15-year-old daughter refuses to go to school

Lefty Graves
High School StudentPhoto byScott WebbonUnsplash

** This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as shared with me by a friend who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

My friend Nedra has been a single mom for about 11 years. About four years ago, Nedra moved from one area of a large metropolis to another area of the same metropolis. In moving, she had to move her 15-year-old daughter from a private school to a public school.

Rachel had been a troubled child, and the decision to put her in the private school was a good one. Rachel was excelling in her private school; however, her mother wasn’t going to be able to continue sending her to the private school as tuition had recently increased, and it was no longer feasible to drive Rachel to and from school each day as it was several miles from where they were living and out of the way for Nedra’s new job position.

Rachel didn’t take this news well and told her mother that she would quit school if she couldn’t go where she wanted to go. Nedra took a few deep breaths and decided to counteroffer her daughter. Nedra told Rachel that she had two options. Option one was to go to school within walking distance of their new home. Option two was that Rachel could quit school as long as she got a job and began to work on her GED. However, as an added requirement for Option two, Rachel only had one week to get her job; otherwise, she had to go with Option one.

Rachel agreed to the terms of their discussion and began her job search immediately. Nedra went to work that day, sure that Rachel would be back in school within the week. To Nedra’s shock, Rachel reported to her mother that night at dinner that she had a full-time job working at a local sandwich shop. She could walk to and from work and she would be there during daylight hours only.

Nedra was speechless. She had counted on the fact that Rachel was only 15 and wouldn’t be able to find a full-time job at her age, especially since she should be in school. So Nedra went to talk to Rachel’s new boss, who required Rachel to introduce him to Nedra.

Upon meeting Rachel’s new boss, Nedra was pleased. In order for Rachel to continue working at his sandwich shop, he was reinforcing that Rachel had to work on her GED. He assured Nedra that he, too, would be checking on her progress.

By the time Rachel was 17 years old, she had passed her GED test with flying colors and was managing the sandwich shop. Not all teens who drop out of school are dropping out because they don’t want to attend school; some of them are bored or simply need more of a challenge. What do you think? Was Nedra right to insist that Rachel had only two options? What would you have done?

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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction recovery, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming, and an eclectic mix of other topics. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington state.

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