60 Weeks of Gratitude-Week 2
My kids left us this week. At thirteen, they headed out on a bus with a group of other seventh and eighth graders to Savannah, GA to participate in the National Jr Beta Club Convention. The club is a non-profit educational youth organization promoting academic achievement, character, service, and leadership. The convention offers a series of competitions and each student had to enter one event. So, after weeks of anticipation, we loaded them on the bus and sent them off.
Even though it felt strange to go to bed without laying eyes on them, and even though it gave me an unwelcome sense of what life will be like when they go away to start their lives. I am so grateful that they earned this opportunity.
As a child, I didn’t apply myself to my education. It was an old conversation as we looked over my grades. “If only you would apply yourself, these could all be A’s.” I can almost hear my dad saying those words as I sat in the back seat of his rusted-out Mustang, the tang of cigarette smoke in the air. I heard him, but everything was so confusing at that time, the whole puberty thing had knocked me for a loop and I was not managing any of it well. The last thing I wanted was to raise my hand in Algebra and tell Mrs. Smith that I didn’t understand. That would make everybody look at me, and then I would have to die. I’m sure my insecurity was not the only reason I didn’t apply myself. I was lazy, too. I was not engaged. I wasn’t interested in anything they wanted to teach me and thought the stories in my head were of greater value.
When we have kids there is some desire to pass on the best parts of ourselves to them. I look at my kids, with their confidence and intelligence and I am in awe of how much better they are managing this stage of life. They are applying themselves even when it doesn’t interest them because they seem to understand that this is building toward something more significant.
This week, they got to see what effort and engagement create. It creates opportunities. They got to meet new friends and test out their independence. They put their feet into the water and tested out a hint of adulting. They tried on the version of themselves that they can see going out into the world. They did it with friends and chaperones in a safe environment. This was an opportunity that somebody else put in front of my children and I am beginning to see a trend.
Over the summer, Olivia was invited to the Junior Leadership Conference in Washington DC. I hadn’t realized that she was becoming a leader, but one of her teachers did and nominated her for that opportunity. I see it in her every day now, that leadership quality. She is organized in her thoughts and in the way she approaches problems. She sees the big picture, like her dad, when I sometimes only see the trees.
My other daughter, Isabel, made the cheer team this year and I see her learning how to be a team player, another skill I never really mastered. I have to thank the school system and the teachers who are drawing out these qualities in my kids. I can’t say that I knew, really, what leadership looked like and it certainly isn’t a trait I had to pass along. I can’t say that I ever understood the dynamics of being a team because I was never a part of a team. Maybe Jeff taught her that when I wasn't looking, he was always good on a team.
So, to the team at Bass Middle, you have my gratitude. Thank you for being a part of the village raising our children. You are helping to build incredible humans because you are seeing their unique qualities and helping them to see a way to a future filled with opportunities.