Here’s To You, Parents!

It is early evening in late September. A mother and daughter sit at a table in a fast-casual restaurant. Country music is playing, but not the good (George Strait) kind. 

[A server approaches the table with two plates of food. She places them in front of each woman and returns to the kitchen. The mother immediately eats a french fry.]

MOTHER: Oh! These fries are hot!

DAUGHTER: Oh? [tries a fry from her own plate] Mine aren’t that hot.

MOTHER: Do you want to switch?

[End scene]

I’m not a parent. Well, I have dogs that I consider “children” (seems like they certainly cost as much!), but it’s really not the same because I can put my dogs in their crates when they annoy me, while my friends who are parents would be accused of child abuse if they did that to their two-legged children.

I’m not a parent, and it’s probably good that I’m not because I’m kind of a selfish person. I mean, if I had a plate of hot, tasty french fries in front of me, I probably wouldn’t offer to take the other person’s not-as-hot fries. Even if that other person was a cute, small child with pigtails or something.

This act of selflessness is unique to parents (especially mothers, in my opinion). They will always do whatever it takes to make life better or easier or happier for their child. Parents will give up the best spot on the couch so their child is comfortable. Parents will take on a second job so their child can have the best tutors to improve his chances of getting into college. Parents will go to the ends of the earth to ensure that their child does not go without.

At school today, each of my classes participated in a Socratic seminar. We had just finished reading 12 very different excerpts, stories, and poems, and the kids had the opportunity to discuss and make larger connections. In each of the classes, the conversation switched to parents. I listened to these kids talk about how important their parents are to them. They talked about the advice they’ve received and the lessons they’ve learned. They understood that their parents have more life experience and that experience should be appreciated. They recognized that their parents really do have their best interests at heart. It was so uplifting to hear them speak so positively about their relationships with their parents, and it was a little revelatory. I wonder how many of these kids actually let their parents know that they are listening!

And so I say to you, parents, they are listening! They hear you when you tell them that grades are important. That positive friendships are important. That eating your vegetables is important. They hear you, and your words linger in the corners of their minds, and they recall those words when it’s time to make a choice. And in that moment, they might decide to do the wrong thing, and you might feel as if you have failed. But you haven’t. They do know that you were right, and they will try to do better next time.

So to all of you noble, generous, loving parents out there: Keep up the good work! And thanks for always offering your hot french fries!


Carpe Diem!

urlMy reading is going well! I’ve reintroduced the habit to my nighttime ritual, and I feel like I’m sleeping better as a result. I just started reading Since You Asked by Maurene Goo, a YA book about a high school sophomore dealing with the consequences of a major mistake. I’m almost finished with Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be by Frank Bruni. It’s a nonfiction book about the craze surrounding college admissions, and Bruni makes the case that there’s more to be earned from college than a degree.

In Chapter 5 “Beyond the Comfort Zone,” Bruni discusses branching out from your usual setting to discover other perspectives. He interviews multiple people who support the idea that no matter what job you have, you will be dealing with people of all sorts in some form or fashion, and “college campuses are the perfect place … to learn that” (108).

My high school is one of the most diverse in the area, and the kids are lucky to have opportunities to meet others who don’t look like them. There’s a club or organization for pretty much every interest. However, I wonder sometimes if there’s some self-insulation going on, if they don’t take those chances to step outside their homogenous groups to have a conversation with someone they deem “different.” We have a tendency as humans to stick with what we know because that familiarity provides safety. But what if we took a risk? What would happen if you chose a different seat in class next to a kid you’ve never really talked to? What would happen if you joined your lunch table with the one next to you and shared a meal with a different crowd? I can tell you what wouldn’t happen: the sky would not fall in, and the world would not stop turning. As a matter of fact, your life might be so enriched by crossing that line that you’ll wonder why you ever waited so long to do it! You don’t have to wait until college to broaden your horizons with perspectives of “other” people. You can do it right here in this high school! And when you rise to the next level, you’ll be just that much more prepared than your peers who decided not to accept the challenge.

(Dead Poets Society teaches this lesson best!)

The Entry That Almost Wasn’t

I don’t feel like writing an entry this week.

I’ve done pretty much everything but write this entry. I graded papers. I rearranged my desk. I watched everything on the DVR. I’m probably going to run the vacuum cleaner later. But I haven’t wanted to write this entry.

Right now, it feels like an obligation. Like one more thing that I have to do on an already-long list of things to do: car repair, meetings, gatherings with friends… Writing this entry just doesn’t seem as pressing.

I could opt out for the week. If I did, my #inklings crew would chastise me as I delivered their penalty drinks. I’d feel a little like I had failed them–accountability has a way of instilling a bit of guilt.

It’s not that I don’t know what to write. A good trick to get past that–for me, when I’m hand writing something–is to write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until your brain finally clicks from the boredom and your thoughts flow out of the pen.

It’s more like I’ve had a pretty negative attitude this week, and I’m afraid of what might appear on the screen if I really wrote what was on my mind. Stress has a way of loosening that filter that keeps you from saying things you might regret.

And it’s times like these when I have to remember my grandma (and now my mom) who always said, “Count your blessings.”

  1. I have friends and family I can rely on.
  2. I have a safe home with all of the amenities I need (and it doesn’t look like a construction zone anymore!).
  3. I have 2 awesome dogs who know how to make me feel better.
  4. I have a great job that promises something new every day.
  5. I have good books to read.
  6. I got to see this sunrise in person.
Sunrise over Lake Hawkins

That’s six. I feel a little better already.