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Auntie SparkNotes: Rock-Climbing and Miming

Auntie SparkNotes: Rock-Climbing and Miming

Dear Auntie Sparknotes:

The reason I'm writing is because I have a parent issue. You see, I'm a good behaved kid most of the time. I don't go to parties, I don't drink, I don't smoke, I play video games only during vacations and I tend to stay at home almost every Friday because as I don't receive an allowance I don't have much money to spend with my friends. I know it sounds boring but overall I'm happy with my life, my friends, my school and my parents with whom I get along very well. My only problem is I don't do very well at school. I really hate math, but I'm passing the subject with mediocre grades. The reason of this is because I mess up at exams, for example I tend to change signs without noticing or forget to write a part of the formula or type in the wrong numbers in the calculator. In other words, I make careless mistakes.

My parents believe the cause of these bad grades is me being lazy and not studying enough. The reasonable solution for making me study is to punish me but as you just saw, I lead a pretty "boring" life so the only thing that really hurts me is banning me from one of the things I love the most: rock climbing. They seem to think that by doing that I will have more time to study, which is (I think) ridiculous because they fail to notice the amount of time I spend sleeping, watching soap operas, playing on the internet, baking cookies, etc.

Could you help me find a way in which they will notice how important rock climbing is for me and why banning it is not a solution to make my grades improve?

There are several ways in which you might go about resolving this problem, Sparkler. Unfortunately, they all require that you and your parents talk to each other—which, judging by your letter, is something you all absolutely hate to do. What's with the lack of communication, here? What are you guys, mimes?

Ohmigod, please tell me you're not mimes. I am so afraid of mimes. You're not, right? Right? RIGHT?!?

Well... assuming that you and your family are not terrifying horrible mimes, the most important thing you can do now is talk to your parents about this. Let's answer your main question first: how to satisfy the parental mandate for increased studying while still continuing to climb rocks. You've already done a good job of figuring out how many other things you could sacrifice in order to spend more quality time with your math book. The next step is taking that argument to Mom and Dad. Explain that you understand their concerns, and that you'd like to work out a compromise that'll allow you to study more but won't require you to abandon your favorite activity. Ask them to make a deal: you'll study for x hours every night, and in return, they let you go rock climbing for x hours every weekend. (Or something like that.) Your parents don't want you to be miserable, they just want your grades to improve. Present a way for you to both get what you want, and you'll be golden.

That said, there's a huuuuuuuge other problem here: the disconnect between what your parents think is happening, and what's actually happening. They're attributing your poor performance to a lack of studying, when seems more likely that it's caused by... well, something else. And while the fact that your mom and dad have banned you from rock climbing is a real pain in the gonads, the fact that they're trying to solve the problem through punishment at all is even more problematic.

While you don't say this explicitly, it sounds like your problems are as surprising and frustrating to you as they are to your parents—that you do know the material, and you do try to focus, but you still get distracted and end up in trouble. That makes me think your issues have less to do with a failure to study, and more to do with the way your brain is wired. You may be able to guess where I'm going with this, but the problem you describe is a classic hallmark of a common disorder... have you ever been screened for ADD? Check out the symptoms list here; does "Often making careless mistakes when having to work on uninteresting or difficult projects" sound familiar?

You might not have ADD, but getting screened can't hurt—not just because you may need a little help to get your academic career back on track, but because it'll introduce your parents to the idea that you're not just a lazy do-nothing who doesn't study. So, talk to them. Tell them you understand their frustrations with your academic performance. Explain that you're frustrated too, particularly because you do know the material and yet you find yourself making the same careless mistakes. Then tell them you want to get checked out by your doctor in addition to increasing the amount of studying you do.

A word of warning: Your parents will probably be glad to see that you're taking your school problems seriously, but they may also react with some skepticism. People who are naturally detail-oriented have a hard time understanding how it can be so hard to just pay attention, because their brains don't work the same way as yours. (Or mine. See, lots of people have this problem!) So, be firm—you want to get checked out. Just in case.

And if they still don't believe you, you can try miming.

Let us know how it goes!

Got a similar story of attention-struggles? Comment away! Got a question for Auntie? Email her at

Topics: Advice
Tags: parents, auntie sparknotes, math, studying, adhd, add, focusing, rock-climbing

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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