Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lessons learned from the lockers....

I registered my 2 oldest children for high school yesterday. Joseph, 16, will be a junior and Rachael, 14 (soon to be 15 in October), will be a freshman. We went at the junior registration time, because they allow younger siblings to register with their upperclassman sib. It was a good thing we went early, because Joseph needed to make a schedule change, and the lines were long everywhere. It's hard for me to believe that my first 2 babies are in high school. It was hard for me to leave Rachael at freshman orientation alone (parents did not need to stay, and most didn't). I had to remind myself that she is in high school now and did not need me to stay.

Unfortunately, all 3 of her best girlfriends and her boyfriend have last names toward the end of the alphabet and all registered together at the appointed time for freshmen, P-Z. All of them ended up in a short bank of lockers on a completely different floor from the rest of the freshmen lockers, due to the exceptionally large freshman class. Rachael felt left out. They were all clustered together, in a rather convenient spot on the first floor, while she was located on the third floor, amongst a bunch of kids she didn't know. Last night, she came to my room after everyone had gone to bed, tears falling, worried that she would be left out of plans and conversations, anxious that she would lose touch with these girls, that she would be the "loser girl" she thought she used to be.

Rachael is a very smart girl. Her grade point average in an extremely demanding Catholic junior high was 98.6. She is a talented singer and guitar player. She is an excellent artist, and gets along well with all her friends. 6 girls showed up, unbidden, to see her sing a few weeks ago at 4th Street Live, and these same friends hatched a surprise birthday party for her last fall. But she doesn't acknowledge all that. She says, "People think I'm weird. I just don't want to be the loser girl like I was in junior high." Ah, people's perceptions of themselves are so blurred!

Anyway, all I could promise her last night was that we would go over to the high school today and see about switching the location of her locker. We went in and spoke to the very kind assistant principal, who did not laugh at our request, or make us feel like we were being silly, but in fact took Rachael's need very seriously. But unfortunately, he said, all the lockers in that area had locks on them and so were probably taken. Three of them had locks different from the official school locks, and so could be left from last year..so possibly Rachael could have one of those....in a week or two.

So we started to leave, Rachael trying hard not to look forlorn, when I decided to stop by the bookstore. The lady that has run it for years has been extremely kind to Joseph and so I stopped in, and introduced her to Rachael. We explained what we had been up to, while we purchased pocket folders with prongs in them and binders, and said we understood that the assistant principal had done all he could do. The book store lady ( I am ashamed to tell you I don't remember her name) jumped up from her lunch with a set of keys, and hurried into the hallway. She smiled at Rachael and said, "2 of these lockers are for storage, and this one is empty. You can have it. I'll go tell the assistant principal and you can move your things."

Oh my gosh, you would have thought we had won the lottery. Rachael stayed very quiet and calm as she thanked the lady. I hugged her and thanked her and offered her any homemade dessert of her choice for being so kind. You could tell she was pleased at being able to help. And once we had moved the books and turned in the "change of locker location form" (the fact that they HAVE a form like this should tell you that she is not the first child to express angst over locker location) and gotten out to the parking lot, the SMILE broke out! She was so happy. She made 3 phone calls to her friends just on the way home.

I can't give my kids everything I would like them to have. I'm not always the best parent, and I lose my temper way too easily. But sometimes, I can help with the little things. It gives me great pleasure to help her over the "new freshman" hump just a little, all because of the grace of God, He somehow steered me into the bookstore to say hello to someone who had been good to my son. I told Rachael to go home and thank her brother for being such a good kid, because so many people had been kind to us, in part because of the good impression he has made in the last 2 years.

I just read the blog of someone who was on a rant over other people not doing their share of a very small job, hauling garbage cans back and forth before and after the pickup. She said she was teaching her kids fairness and respect, and how to deal with it. Her lesson to her children was if the others won't help, we won't do it either. Here is a direct quote:

The upside, of course, is the opportunity to teach my daughters that EVERYONE (including us) deserve to be treated fairly and with respect, as well as how to deal with it when you aren't. I'm only sorry there are so many people out there who simply REFUSE to acknowledge or appreciate the kindnesses and good will shown to them. It's an incredibly sad statement about how people are willing to treat each other and how very self-involved we, as a society, have become. Everyone in the village is too busy taking care of their own, to raise and/or educate the rest of the "children".

I think it was Gandhi who said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." I strongly disagree with teaching children that if others supposedly won't pull their weight, then you have the right to stop pulling yours, too, or at least the right to stop making a contribution to the neighborhood as a whole. She accuses the neighbors of being self-involved and taking care of their own, and yet this is what she is actually teaching her children as well. Instead, why not offer that chore up as an act of Christian kindness to your neighbors? Aren't charity and understanding more important than who takes out the garbage cans?

I would rather teach my kids this lesson:

The lessons learned today from the lockers show us that if we are kind and generous and as good-hearted as we can possibly be, without any thought of what we will get in return, good things WILL come back to us, ten-fold. I am not a Pollyanna, but I do believe in the goodness of others.

And that, dear readers, is a lesson worth learning.
Right here in River City.


eatmisery said...

A well-written post, my Dear. Nice job.

sunShine said...

Amen. I am glad that your daughter got her locker changed. Little things like that can make such a big difference. And yes we are our own worst critic. I wish kids could just stop worrying so much about being like everyone else and embrace themselves for who they are and love the ways that they are different. Unfortunately that lesson usually comes later on in life.

I firmly believe in the do unto others. I do things all the time not looking for anything in return and then when something nice happens to me I am thankful and grateful that there are still people out there that will do nice things often for no reason.

Whew! I had a lot to say. Also, even though we may not be able to give our kids all the material things in life, it is the little lessons and love that we give them that mean so much more. You are doing a great job, your kids are proof of that. Okay I am really done this time.

Anonymous said...

I see what you’re saying; however, I think the point that I would make to my kids is that if, in the later portion of your life you find yourself instigating petty quarrels with neighbors over the retrieval of garbage receptacles so that you can go online and brag about how you taught them a lesson (because apparently, by God, their momma just didn’t raise them right!), well, I would say that’s a pretty good indication that on the Route 66 of life you took a wrong turn somewhere around Winslow, if you get my drift…

Mr. C. Cat

Tricia said...

I had to reread this - and love what you wrote. Awesome post.

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