Listen To This

So…my kids come home from school and ask about the speech. My eighth grader tells me that her English teacher wanted to show it, “but wasn’t allowed.” She rolled her eyes and confirmed that we are a country that advocates free speech. Right?

We figured that their other teachers might have liked their students to listen to the President, too, but “they would probably lose their jobs.”

Imagine that. Thinking that your teacher could be fired for supporting the idea that kids should work hard, do their best and stay in school. 

We watched the speech, which I had recorded. They thought it was great. We talked about how it was relevant for all kids, no matter their personal situation. They applied the ideas to their own lives.

Thank you, President Obama, for a heartfelt and critical message, even if we did have to stay up late to rewind it.

Beyond, Well, Everything

I just received the following alert from The Dallas Morning News:

“The Texas Senate has given preliminary approval to a measure to allow college students to carry concealed handguns on campuses. The vote was 20-10. Details to come.”

Horrifying. More later, when I get up off the floor.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Suspension of Disbelief

Through the glass, I could see the delivery woman on the porch, barely. Her entire upper body was hidden by a magnificent vase of roses, all different in color and size. There were pinks and peaches and soft reds, glorious flowers, really, and chosen with an eye. I opened the door with the feeling of wonder and warmth that finds you when a gift is given, unexpectedly. But I caught myself after an instant, knowing I would not be receiving such a bouquet on Mother’s Day.          

This has happened before, and it is okay. My gifts are my two daughters. I do not need stems in a vase. I have babysat more than a few collections of roses for neighbors who were not at home when the delivery lady rang the bell.

Before I had opened the door completely, she was nodding her head and twisting her face into the “I’m sorry, how embarrassing” expression.

“These are not for you, I’m afraid,” she said.

“I know, it’s not a problem. Are they out?”

“There was no answer and these are too gorgeous to sit on their step. Could you sign?”

The kids had come to the foyer to see. I placed them on the floor with the other plants.

“They’re not home next door, so we’ll bring them over later,” I said. Then, I told them about the Valentines Day a few years ago when I got to enjoy a vase of peonies for an entire day, truly thinking they were mine. There was no card attached, and they were left on the porch. I love peonies, so someone had remembered. An admirer too shy to write a note. These went straight into the living room. Until, of course, the guy from next door showed up and said they were his, feeling bad.

So, off they went, the guy and my peonies, down the front path and onto the sidewalk.  Pink and ruffly, pretty, even through the glass.                                                                                                                                                                                      

What is Potential, Anyway?

Today, my sixth grader has a science quiz on potential and kinetic energy. It shouldn’t be too difficult, just the basic concepts and definitions, and then, some examples. On the way to school this morning, I reminded her to take a quick look at her notes before class, to remind her brain about what she studied last night. Then, I explained that her brain was, in fact, a nifty representation of the idea.

It is full of stored energy, I told her, and when it takes in information from the world, the energy becomes kinetic, or is set in motion. Crazy ideas flying all over the place. She seemed to like the concept, so I suggested that she include it if she is asked to provide one. Your teacher will think you are clever, I told her, feeling clever. Sometimes, kids don’t take you up on your suggestions, even though they are good ones that come from having been a sixth grader already. Unfortunately, it’s not always enough just to know things. You have to show people that you  know them, particularly teachers. They do not live with you. They do not know that you are always clever, especially after dinner, or when you’re brushing your teeth. They only get to see it sometimes. This is a time.

I hope she uses the brain idea. Actually, I hope she comes up with another thought that is just as smart, but more of her own. That’s the definition of potential.

Lessons All Around

My eleven year old wanted to see the photograph of the kids, the kids of the mom who was killed here in Dallas in May. She knew I was writing about the murder. (mckinneymurder0012) Yesterday, the story came out and at first, she only wanted to see the pictures of the girls. But then, she began to ask what happened, how it happened, where it happened, why the police couldn’t prevent it. Whether she died at the scene or the hospital.  I told her that the man who killed her, her ex-husband and the children’s father, was emotionally unstable, and became violent once his wife divorced him. 

“I would have stayed with him, just so he wouldn’t do what he did,” she said.

I told her to pick well, so it wouldn’t ever get to that decision. Make sure you trust your instincts, because they are usually right. If you think something funny is going on, it probably is. If you feel uncomfortable in a group of people, get up and leave. If something looks odd on the sidewalk in front of you, cross the street. If your brain rests on some thing, some remark, some behavior, and it sits there, don’t ignore it. 

“What will the kids do if the Grandma dies?” she asked.

She’d not dying, I told her. She nodded. It felt right.

Everybody’s Big Day

Four years ago, my kids were just seven and nine, so a Presidential election fell into a category similar to Student Government. They knew it was more significant than the school bakesale or canned food drive, for more people, but they knew it in kid terms. This year, at eleven and just about thirteen, they seem engaged in the process and the effects of the vote. When I told them about Dixville Notch at breakfast this morning, they really got a kick out of it.

They are particularly interested in the candidates as people, where they grew up, what their families were like. Joe Biden’s story of loss was compelling, as was Barack Obama’s, especially since he was raised by a single mom. Yesterday, my younger daughter said, “Only if she could have made it one more day,” referring to Obama’s grandmother. She really felt bad for him. John McCain’s prisoner of war story, though removed from experience they could imagine, still garnered empathy. 

I am excited to share the day with them today. They tried to clear off as much homework as they could last night, so they can watch the returns this evening. We are going to eat hamburgers and French fries and brownies with flags in them. All of the American flag toothpicks were sold out, so I got the collection of world flags, which is just as appropriate, if not more so. We’ll have blue plates and a red tablecloth and it will be the best. 

Next time, my older daughter will be a year away from voting herself. I don’t think she has realized this yet. Maybe tonight.