He said, "No, I won't do it."
I waited him out.
When he finally sat up to the table and I tricked him into choosing a "Printing Practice" homework sheet, we settled down to write the letter "F" sixty times.
He wrote the first 10 "F"s and deliberately made the top horizontal line a fraction of an inch underneath the top line. He also deliberately made all the second horizontal lines longer than the top horizontal lines by several millimeters. Ten identical and exactly wrong "F"s.
For the second 10 "F"s, he drew one solid horizontal line through the middle of the writing space, then he drew a second solid horizontal line through the top of the writing space. Finally he slashed 10 vertical lines down through these at evenly spaced intervals, telling me it was much faster this way.
I stopped him and said, "No, that's not right. That's not the way the teacher wants you to do it."
He had chosen to write in highlighter so I handed him a pencil and told him to re-write the "F"s the right way.
He threw the pencil at me.
I stared and thought.
He picked up a colored pencil and scribbled on the entire paper.
I bit my tongue and thought some more.
He said, "stupid" several times and grabbed the paper to crumble it.
I reached out and stilled his hands.
"You win," I said. "We're done." Then I took the paper, put it back in his folder, and put the other seven, entirely blank "Printing Practice" papers in the folder too.
This is Zeke's life journey, not mine. He gets to live it anyway he wants. I can encourage, I can suggest, I can facilitate, but there are fewer and fewer moments now when I can force. The training wheels are off and they aren't going back on. Zeke knows how to use a screwdriver.