I finally put my foot down when my fifth grader secured his sixth “incomplete” for failing to turn in homework. It’s not that Jack doesn’t do his homework. It’s just that somewhere between the time he finishes it and the time the teacher requests it, the work vanishes, sits at home or secures squatters’ rights deep in his school desk.

Being the calm, rational person I am, I freaked the flip out. I threatened military school, a lifetime ban on television and the possibility of never playing ice hockey again. I met with teachers. I wrote letters. I started dropping him off a half hour early every day to harass the faculty about things he missed while daydreaming about scoring the winning goal in the NHL Finals.

Once the smoke cleared, I opted for a simple grounding and Jack turning in $20 of his own money towards tuition for forgotten assignments. So far, we’ve visited the bank twice and Sister Jean will be receiving her envelope this week.

In the midst of his month-long absence from seeing friends, something peculiar started to happen. Jack, the kid who could not be bothered with his baby brother for years, started teaching Joey how to shoot a basketball. After that, the two spent a week working on Joey’s hockey shot. Without even being asked, I caught Jack helping Joey practice his spelling words tonight.

Prior to this month, this is the last known picture of Jack doing anything with Joey. Circa 2009.

I have three boys. A long time ago, I thought this meant they would be alike, share interests and be best friends. However, after the thousandth episode of someone screaming “TELL HIM TO STOP BOTHERING ME” or “TELL HIM TO STOP BREATHING SO LOUDLY,” I understood my expectations were unrealistic.

Yet, during a dark period where Jack felt like the world had forsaken him, he reached out to one of the people I promised would always be there for him.

For once, it seemed like Jack was listening.

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