Friday, June 13, 2008

Countdown--One Year until Charlie Graduates High School

I’ve spent the greater part of my afternoon creating an ad for the Rockwall-Heath Hawks football program. I used to be able to knock out that kind of Publisher document in my sleep, but I’m a little rusty.

My oldest son, Charlie, will be a senior next year, and we’ve paid tribute to his friendship with Ryan. The boys have known one another since they were babies, but they’ve gone to school together and played football together for many years. If I can figure out how to do it, I’ll post the pictures we’ve included in the program.

Anyway, as I was putting the ad together, it HIT ME! My baby graduates from high school next year.


I hate to sound like my mom, or worse, every great-aunt I ever knew, who liked nothing better than to pinch my cheeks—thankfully, those on my face, not my rear end--and declare how big I was getting. But (no pun intended) . . .


I can’t have a child this old.
Because it means I’m that much older.

I can’t have a child leaving for college in a year.
I was cradling him in my arms trying desperately to get him to sleep—seems like only about three years ago.

I can’t say good-bye.
And I don’t want to.

But I must.

And you can help me. If you know any moms who’ve already passed through this season—with flying colors (I really don’t need to hear from those who crashed and burned!)—then, by all means, send them my way! I could use not only the moral support but the wise instruction about how to disguise an empty seat at the table or get used to not having five 17-year-olds eating everything in sight. (Most weekends our fridge and pantry look like a plague of locusts hit.)

And so, I have no choice but to let him grow up and leave home. I guess I should be thankful I didn’t have to kick him out of the nest when he learned to walk. (How do mother birds do it?!)

Actually, I want him to finish growing in wisdom and in stature during this school year so he’ll feel prepared and be emotionally ready to leave us. That thought helps . . . a little. Knowing I still have something left to accomplish, that I still have a place of value in his life. He needs me to help him complete this journey.

So, though I don't particularly relish the idea of finishing this part of my job, I will be faithful to do it. Waaaaaah!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings about Kids’ School Achievements

I just arrived home from my son Reese’s awards ceremony at school. I choked back tears as I watched the baby of my brood complete his final year of elementary school. (Not really on the water works, but it is the end of an era.) I’m officially, conceivably—no pun intended—closer to grandchildren being born (God willing!) than to my own children’s births.

But that’s not what I’m here to discuss (read: rant and rave about) today. No, I just needed to let off a little steam about the awards themselves.

First, the school spent twice as long on the music/drama, art and P.E. awards as they did on the academic ones. If you figure up the amount of time (50 minutes daily) the kids spend in their electives (or specials, as they’re called) compared to academics (4.2 hours), it seems a little incongruous to focus the vast majority of an awards’ ceremony on sideline pursuits. For the record, I have nothing against the P.E., art and music/theatre. Reese had one of the leads this year in the Theatre play and even sang a solo. He won a couple of ribbons in the school district track meet. These extra-curricular activities play a vital role in stretching our children’s minds and allowing them variety in their day.

I do believe, however, that the school awards’ ceremony should focus more attention—or, at least as much attention—on academic achievement than on whose splatter painting looked the most like Jackson Pollocks’. I do think that as a society we’ve gone a bit overboard in our attempts to make every child feel special by not celebrating/pointing out/recognizing specifically those who excel.

Second, even the academic and citizenship awards given out today didn’t include all of the children’s achievements for the year—if the list got too long. Granted, some students received only a Chick-fil-A award for excellence in areas such as friendship or honesty. And that was it. These kids didn’t get all A’s and B’s; they didn’t attend school every day this past year; they apparently had some discipline issues that kept them from being recognized for citizenship. So be it. If they didn’t excel in these areas, they obviously shouldn’t receive an award. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

But do we have to shortchange the kids who worked their little butts off to get good grades and excelled? (Kids who received Honor Roll, all A’s for the year, and Merit Roll, all B’s for the year, didn’t even get the Chick-fil-A coupon!)

Case in point: I’m aware of one school situation where teachers and administrators were pressured into dropping the announcement of Honor Roll (all A’s for the year) and Merit Roll (all B’s for the year) because it made students who couldn’t—not didn’t or wouldn’t—achieve that benchmark feel bad. Are you kidding me? Feel bad? In the sixth grade? In any grade for that matter? What is school about if not learning, striving for excellence, setting goals and achieving them? No wonder our youth are traveling down the path of mediocrity they’re currently on! No wonder the kids in increasing numbers aspire more to be the next American Idol than the president! No wonder students see little point in developing self-discipline and adopting a strong work ethic! Because adults want to coddle and protect them from any and all disappointment. Did these same parents and school personnel ever consider the fact that a little disappointment, a little failure might actually spur on a child to achieve even more the following year?

I’m reminded of the son of a friend. Five years ago, Chase Nielsen didn’t make the basketball team in 7th grade. Though lots of parents seemed surprised, even shocked, Chase and his parents were devastated. He was tall, quick and had a budding 3-point shot. The great news is, instead of wallowing in self-pity and refusing to continue with the sport that had burned him so badly, Chase joined a year-round team and purposed to get better. And get better he did. This past year, he played varsity basketball as a junior.

Do we not see the potential for crippling drive, creativity and excellence by watering down even what is supposed to be an AWARDS’ ceremony. It’s right there in the name, for goodness sake! If a parent is disappointed that his kid will only be recognized for perfect attendance, they don’t go! (Of course, that will ruin the perfect attendance award.)

But you get my point. If we want to challenge kids and spur them on to achieve excellence, we have to keep that carrot before them, not put a carrot—and 4-pack of chicken nuggets—in everyone’s envelope.

By the way, because I’m very proud of his accomplishments, Reese received the following awards: Honor Roll, commendation on TAKS in reading and math, the all-E (excellent) citizenship award, KPAWS (school televised announcements), Media Fair participation, and Student of the Year for the entire school.

Thanks for indulging me. I feel better. And, apparently, feelings are what it’s all about, right?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Smokey & Bandit

The Wilsons have adopted two new kittens. Smokey and Bandit are about eight weeks old and the cutest things EVER! Smokey is a tiger-stripe, mostly dark gray and white with dark gray eyes. Bandit is a cream-colored Siamese with black ears, paws, tail and section from her nose to chin. They’re from the same litter, so they’re great pals. However, they and our golden retriever Scout need some more time to get used to one another. Though it’s not quite weeping and gnashing of teeth—only because we’ve kept them separated, we have witnessed much hissing and arching of backs. And the dog and cats get might upset, too.

Our former cats, that had lived with us for over 10 years, both wandered off (to die, probably) within the past couple of months. Though Tigger never was the same after Bret “accidentally” locked her in our tool shed. (Of course, I “accidentally” ran over Scout a couple of years ago, so who am I to talk.)

OK, the shed story, very quickly:
Last fall, about the time of the final mowing of the season, Bret drove the mower up the ramp into the tool shed where he stores it. Five days later, our son Reese was riding his bike on the driveway and turned around on the grass just beyond the large area where we have a basketball goal. He heard a soft meow and ran to get his dad to open the shed door. Out came an angry Tigger (the first time she wasn’t bouncy, trouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun), who voiced her displeasure at being locked up for nearly a week. She soon decided the ranting wasn’t worth it and scooted to her water dish. Once refueled, she let our resident Alpha Male have it again.

Looking her over, she wasn’t too much the worse for wear. She had lost some weight, but she had a few pounds to spare, if you know what I’m saying. She was only a couple lasagnas short of being a Garfield before her voluntary (?) imprisonment. Tigger recovered nicely, but never regained her former Fat Cat status. After Rocky left, she didn’t seem to have a zest for life. She wasn’t technically a widow, but she’d certainly lost her best friend.

We miss them both; they were fun cats that served us well, patrolling and mousing for many years. But now we get to enjoy the crazy antics of a couple of new kitties, Smokey and Bandit. So far, they’re a hoot!