Tag Archives: effort

Little boy hug in a big boy body

This week Mythankfulboy and his friend O had a school project due on Animal Farm.  They created a game the size of my dining room table (only a slight exaggeration), complete with an impressive popsicle stick, functional windmill in the middle and fencing between the rows of spaces.  B’s and O’s sports schedules being opposite (one having practice until 5pm and the other having practice starting at 5:30), there was a long weekend day and a late evening spent on the project.  It was fun to watch them, though, and the end result was good.  Plus, I love me a good project.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that B made the baseball team.  I suppose it’s not a terrible thing to also mention that, after a long lead-up to making cuts, they didn’t actually make any, so everyone made it.  He was thrilled, regardless, and we celebrated.  We’ve been talking a lot lately about working hard for the things we want – it’s not that I have to persuade him to work towards a goal, but more that there’s a certain amount of expecting things to be relatively easy and assuming that, if they’re not, he’s not meant to excel.  He’s lucky, because things often do come relatively easily to him, but I think what we’re really talking about is that being really good at something rarely comes easily to someone, and even if it does come easily to other people, effort can sometimes bridge the gap.   In a similar vein, we’ve been talking about not settling for a grade he gets if it wasn’t what he expected, but figuring out what he did wrong so he can do better the next time (asking a friend how s/he knew something was on the test and he didn’t, asking a teacher what he can do better on an assignment, asking for the opportunity to re-do an assignment, studying longer or in a different format).   I’m not a mom who puts a lot of pressure, but I want him to know he has options, and that I think he can do as well as anyone out there.  B has always had a realist’s view – he has always tended to say “I think I’m about the 5th-most-popular kid in my [elementary school) class” or “I think I could play second string at short or first in the outfield, but I’d be, like, third or fourth for catching”, and he says them in a pleased way.  I think it’s really a pretty healthy approach to competition, but the mom (and the cheerleader) in me says to not let him accept his place, but to work to improve it.  Sometimes parenting is full of fine lines.

So, last night, there were lots of little things to get done – homework, dinner, dishes, showers, bills – the usual.  Then there was the clean-up from the Animal Farm project.   B was willing, but distracted.  I was tired and focused, and vacillated between amused and annoyed.  When we settled down to do the chalice I was practically doing it with only one eye open.  B was thankful for the project’s going well, and for my help.  I was thankful for a cleared dining room table.  Then, I made sure both eyes were open, and commented that I felt that our chalice lightings had been really rushed in this high school version where I tend to go to bed first.  He agreed.  I told him I would work harder to bring readings or videos, and maybe we should do them a little earlier in the evening.  He crossed the room to sit beside me on the couch, and, at the last second changed his mind and lunged in for a hug that left him half-lying on the couch beside me and half-hanging there with his arms around my neck and his head on my shoulder.  It was a little boy hug with a big boy body.  I think it was a request to make sure we have the dedicated time to talk about our days and things that are important.  I can do that.

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Posted by on March 22, 2017 in Uncategorized


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Effort, or lack thereof

On Sunday Mythakfulboy and I had a busy day. We opened a checking account for him, he briefly attended a group class project meeting, and baseball, of course.  The highlight of the bank visit was when he was asked to sign his name. B goes by his middle name.  When he set the pen to paper he hesitated, looked up at me, and said, “But I don’t know how to write my first name in cursive!”  Oh B.  Only learning what you must.

Then off to the class project. B was working with his crew on a map of Maycomb County, the setting in To Kill a Mockingbird.  The MOOBs (Mothers of Obnoxious Boys – the moms of the crew) had scrambled to arrange a time for them to meet the weekend before the project was due on Monday (thank you SH!)  The boys had started the project at school, so when I retrieved B an hour later (to go to baseball) the group had gotten a fair amount of what they wanted to do done, emphasis on “what they wanted”.   I saw a map drawn in black marker with a square of cardboard glued in place for each building (flat, plain, no drawing on them), and a penny hot-glued on to represent the tree in which the Indian Head pennies were found by Jem and Scout.   Keep in mind that, as one of the MOOBs put it, there are about 1000 IQ points in the group, and they were turning out some pretty shoddy work, but they all agreed that it was absolutely sufficient.  Sufficient.  Just what a group of moms who are all educators want to hear.  That night at the chalice lighting, I was thankful for the MOOBs.  B said, “Me too” with a loving and grateful smile.

On Monday morning I dropped B off at school, and we saw groups of kids struggling to carry their beautifully-crafted 3-D replicas of Maycomb County into school. They looked like bakers carrying enormous cakes, shuffling along to keep them balanced.  My kid’s project could probably have been folded up and shoved in his backpack.  I sent a text out to the MOOBs, lamenting.  We had a cathartic round of agreement that our kids are slackers and hoped they got a bad grade and learned a lesson.  In the afternoon I told B about the other projects I had seen. He said, “Mom, we met all the requirements.”  I said, “Oh good – then you should get a C”.  He whipped his head around to look at me, obviously not having considered that simply meeting the requirements would not procure an A.  I asked, “What grade do you think you’ll learn with that project?”  He said, “At least a B!”  “Maybe,” I said, “but that would be a gift.”  I went on to tell him that the MOOBs had been chatting about this, and that he should know that this group of adults that he holds in such high regard was really disappointed in the effort expended (sorry MOOBs – I kinda through you under the bus there).  He nodded slowly, brow furrowed, thinking.

As they leave 8th grade and head into high school, our little band of underachievers (at least the ones on this project!) are going to be in for a rude awakening in terms of the amount of time and energy that will be required for schoolwork.  He might even have to learn to write his first name in cursive.  It is a great and powerful blessing to have a community of adults that your child respects.  It is an equal blessing to be able to call on them and learn with them on the parenting journey.

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Posted by on May 24, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Push ups

Yesterday afternoon was the first actual scrimmage of the middle school eighth-grade baseball team, the previous attempt having been canceled twice due to inclement weather.  It was a bright sunny afternoon with a light breeze – perfect baseball weather.  The teams were severely mismatched, and by the end of the first inning we were winning 15-0.  They called the game at the end of the 3rd inning with the score 17-0.  Because there is now an official first-string and everybody-else hiearchy and  Mythankfulboy is in the everybody-else category, and because the game was so short, he only batted once and fielded (shortstop) once.  The boys seemed sad after the win because it wasn’t fun to beat the other team so badly, and, adding to B’s malaise, he didn’t feel any ownership of the win because he hadn’t really played.  It was also the first game in which he fully realized he wasn’t going to start, which hadn’t really been spoken out loud to the boys.

B had his usual good attitude about being second-string.  He said that it made sense – that the boys playing first were better than he was, and he would have made the same choices as a coach.  I listened to him talk, driving to get water ice (an after-game tradition), grateful that he was not angry or indifferent.  Still, there was something in his resignation that bugged me.  It reminded me of the time not so long ago that I had to say to him that I actually expected him to make straight A’s, and he was surprised and immediately started monitoring his grades and making the little bit of extra effort to secure them.  So, I eventually said, “What do you think you’d have to do to play more?” He shrugged.  “Crossfit?”   I gently (I think) said, maybe, but he specifically needed to work on strength for throwing and batting, and on speed for base running, and that he didn’t really need to pay money to improve those things.  I told him that accuracy for throwing and hitting are his best skills, but he lacks the power of a starter.  I acknowledged that it’s also an uphill battle because he’s not as big as a lot of the starters, but that is what it is.  He nodded, thinking.  He mentioned that the starters also have really good equipment.  I asked if equipment made them throw harder or run faster.  He said no, but it made a big difference in hitting.  True.

Later, at the chalice lighting, I returned to this, emphasizing two things: 1) that I love, love, love his ability to see his skill accurately in comparison to the group and to be happy where he is, and 2) that dedication to your craft (or in this case, your sport) takes work, and that I was willing to help him if he wanted to work harder.  We brainstormed some options, and then we settled down to our thankfulness ritual.  B didn’t miss a beat to say that he was thankful for a teammate who was willing to share his bat with B for the season (his hints that he needs a new bat are not lost on me).  I was grateful that he was part of a team who cared about running up such a high score today.  He said, “Yeah. Nobody likes to win like that”, and I was silently grateful that he hadn’t really encountered those folks who do.

B headed off to brush his teeth and go to bed.  When it seemed to be dragging on, I called out and asked what he was doing.  He popped into my room happily and said, “Sorry – I was doing push ups!”   God bless him.

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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Uncategorized


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A failure of humility

This week I let Mythankfulboy fail.

It was a measured failure; I knew it wouldn’t devastate him, but I also knew it would be meaningful, and it felt like something he needed to do.  Here’s what happened.

B has been a pretty good little speller all his life.  He reads a lot, although less so since social media and gaming (another form of social media, really) absorb so much of his time.  He came in second in the middle school spelling bee in 6th grade, and won in 7th grade (although the other finalist later told him that she let him win because she thought he wanted it more than she did – thanks?)  We studied both years for weeks.  Like baseball, it is one of those things that comes relatively easily, but he’s no savant, so he needs to work at it to be good.  He is verbally enthusiastic, and he’ll happily attend any scheduled thing that would make him better, but he doesn’t delegate any free time to his goals.

This tendency of his was already on my nerves because his grandfather paid not-a -little-money to give him 4 1:1 batting (baseball) coaching sessions.  He was thrilled, and has been very excited to go to them.  We drive 40 minutes each way to attend them, and I sit there for an hour, making this, what, an almost a 2 1/2 hour commitment on a school night?  Then he does no practicing at all mid-week, and shows up to the next session a little better than he was when he started, but not as good as when he left the last session.  I know, I know – he’s 13 – what do you expect?  Well, obviously, I expect better.  So, last week, when he came home from the gym after school on Tuesday and told me the spelling bee was on Thursday, I said to myself, “Self, how are you going to handle this?”  Then I answered myself, “Self, you’re going to let him fail.”  I asked him how long he’d known – “I just found out today”.  I told him I doubted that – “No, for real, Mom.”  I asked if they gave them words to study – “Yeah, it’s only one page”.  I told him I didn’t think that would be enough – “I think I’ll be okay.”  We got home and he went to his room and fired up the gaming system.  I said nothing.  The next morning he said, “Mom – we really have to study tonight – the bee is in 2 days!”  “Technically”, I responded, “It’s one study night away.”

Wednesday night he brought me the list and said he’d underlined the ones he didn’t know, looking hopefully at me for praise that he’d done that much.  I ignored him and his underlines and read words randomly off the page.  Turns out he didn’t know “ciao” would be pronounced “chow”.  Imagine that.  He slumped lower and lower on the couch with the weight of the number of words he didn’t know.  I told him that the lower he sank on the couch the less he focused and I told him to sit on an ottoman away from rest of the furniture.  He whined and moaned and remained slumped over on the couch.  Staring at him, I silently released the page of spelling words from my fingers and allowed it to flutter to the floor dramatically.  He gaped at me (his mouth actually fell open), and when he recovered he quickly rose and retrieved the paper, handed it back to me, and sat on the ottoman.  I continued to go through the list until it was clear he was trying but was struggling, and then I told him I thought he was pretty prepared and he should go to bed.  That night, at the chalice lighting, he was thankful for me for studying with him.  Mmhmm.

Thursday morning I noted that he was wearing his 2015 spelling bee winner t-shirt and wished him good luck on our way out the door.  He bounded out happily.  At 10:34 I got the text, “MOM I LOST”.

This was followed quickly by:

I got even messenger wrong

wow  Siri doesn’t even know how to spell it


the stupid word wasn’t even on the list

the only words that were on the list were the words that I didn’t get

I responded, “Stupid word.  I was pretty sure we should have studied beyond the list, but u didn’t seem to care very much, so I didn’t bug u.”

He replied, “yeah I didn’t that much. but still.  :(”

That night we talked about the concept of what you put in dictates what you get out.  I shared that I was frustrated that he wasn’t putting effort into baseball, either, and that it was disrespectful to his grandfather not to show that he valued the gift with a little effort.  He nodded (his sign that he’s listening and thinking about what I said).  I said, “Honey, I let you fail on purpose with the spelling bee.  You need to learn this lesson now, not later in life.”  He nodded again.  Good, I thought.  Maybe he’s gonna get this.  Then he said, “You know what was great?  When I got out, the whole room moaned, but I was pretty sure I heard the kids who kept going heave a sigh of relief.”

Parallel lesson still needed:  humility.



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Posted by on February 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


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