As the lone female in our house I get that I am more detailed oriented when it comes to self-care and the minutiae of running a home. It then lands on me to decide how important I think something is and to the degree I want to pursue it.
Take toothbrushes for example. I took it upon myself to buy everyone electric brushes because I believe (or at least believe the marketing) that these will improve my boys’ oral hygiene (especially with T.Puzzle newly in braces). This particular kind sends you replacement heads every three months.
So the three month mark arrives and it’s time to replace. Absolutely no one other than myself cares about this.
Either I replace them all or all three of my guys will use the brush they have indefinitely.
While I did drag my feet on principle I couldn’t take it anymore and set about getting new bristles in place.
The grime I encountered on the boys’ brushes as I did so made my skin crawl. I’m not sure what it was or how my boys had not yet contracted a flesh-eating bacteria from it, but the muck and guck in and around the toothbrush holder and on the toothbrushes themselves, made me queasy, queasy, queasy.
How they saw that and still used the brushes is a mystery or a remarkable act of courage.
I now have a choice. I can give them instructions on the ins and outs of daily brush care, or I can let it go.
If I let it go, which is the direction I am leaning, I am praying that I can Amazon Prime myself a hazmat suit for when the next replacement bristles arrive.
Words more dreaded than this for a teenage boy simply do not exist.
This is where the story of our beleaguered hero begins.
He had a humble upbringing. Raised by a beautiful, age-defying, always-dancing mother and an extremely handsome (you’re welcome, Mad Dog) and benevolent father, our hero rose unassumingly through life’s ranks and, as any good story would have it, found himself face-to-face with doom (aka high school).
Our Humble Hero was not afraid for he new his birthright.
Great men are born to great men.
He had done the math (sort of, just don’t check his eighth grade Algebra 1 transcript) and realized he had everything he needed to succeed. He had wit, he had charm and he had incredible good looks (you’re welcome, Full Speed).
He had everything he needed except for one thing …
Most academic heroes, grammar gods and algebraic warriors know that without such skills, failure looms large. Their parents also know this. These parents state the obvious and hope their progeny take heed. Things like attending tutorials with teachers, studying in study hall (gasp!) and taking your time on tests all fall under the wisdom arc of great, parental knowledge.
Did our Humble Hero listen to these time-tested tenets of success?
Here is his story told in his own words:
Call to Adventure: The call to adventure occurs after parent night. Mad Dog learned that the Humble Hero’s L. A. teacher had tutorials. He came home and said “The Great Teacher has tutorials Tuesdays and Thursdays in the morning.
You should go”.
Refusal of the Call: Our hero ignored the call thinking that he was too cool for more school. He assured Mad Dog that everything was under control.
Acceptance of the Call: One day, the hero got his grammar/vocab quiz back. He had missed 9 grammar questions for a score of 82. It was at this moment he knew he had messed up.
Crossing the Threshold: The hero arrived at The Great Teacher’s door and he entered the special world of her classroom.
The journey had begun.
Meeting the Mentor: All heroes need a guide that shows them the ways of life. The Great Teacher showed the hero how to become one with the grammar gods.
Trials and Tests: In class, the hero had to deal with worksheets about grammar. The days went by and eventually the hero finally figured out what a preposition does.
The Supreme Ordeal: All of the hero’s hard work had prepared him for this moment. A 50 question quiz with half of those being grammar. Mere mortals could not withstand the pressure of this quiz. But, our hero isn’t mortal. Brandishing his magic weapon, (a worn down mechanical pencil), he was able to complete the quiz with only minimal suffering.
The Reward: Much to his surprise, the hero had accomplished his goal. He had gotten an A on the grammar quiz.
Return with the Elixir: The hero was overjoyed. He couldn’t wait to tell his parents what he had accomplished.
Mad Dog’s response “I was right, wasn’t I?”
The hero could only muster, “Maybe”.
From this moment forward, strange occurrences became the Humble Hero’s new normal. As he began to attend other tutorials along with continuing to be mentored by the Great Teacher, all his test scores and grades improved.
How could it be? Do you mean to tell me the Humble Hero had the power to succeed THE WHOLE TIME. Move over sister, your ruby slippers got nothing on this guy.
Full Speed had a respectable seventh place finish out of thirty-seven at his school’s bee. The difference between him participating as a fifth grader and now is unbelievable. He used to be the smallest, now he is among the tallest. His voice, the depth of which I found unsettling, held steady as he spouted off each letter.
I no longer saw a boy on that stage. In his place stood a confident young man.
Leading up to the competition, T.Puzzle and I continued a lively debate. He believes a person is awesome only if they are winning. I still hold that awesomeness is static. Sometimes that expresses as external achievement, but mostly it is comprised of intangibles. I do not fault T.Puzzle for his perspective. Our culture exalts individual, external success. Winning makes sense to him. I get that.
Maybe Full Speed did not technically win the spelling bee, but from my view he demonstrated what it means to succeed. He had the nerve to get up on that stage and compete with all eyes of the auditorium zeroed in on him.
I couldn’t do that.
I probably wouldn’t even be able to spell my name right in that situation.
When it was all said and done, he bounced back quickly. He did not entertain the notion that misspelling a word defines him a person.
I was beyond confused. While my eyes were seeing Full Speed line up with his teammates near the high jump area, my mind could not comprehend it. It was like if you were at my house and I walked down my stairs wearing a Cardinals jersey. It would make absolutely no sense. If you were a Cubs fan, and odds are if I let you in my home, you were,… well, at the least you would be anything but a Cardinals fan…, first you would feel confusion, then as it sunk in, you would feel angry and upset.
That’s exactly how I felt: confused, angry, upset
First of all, Full Speed up to this point in all of his entire life, had never even attempted to execute a high jump. Secondly, he barely cleared the waist of one of his man-sized teammates. I wish I was exaggerating for effect, but sadly, I am not. This kid towered over Full Speed. He looked like a line-backer while Full Speed looked like a scrawny equipment manager (albeit a highly adorable one).
Thankfully, the high jump took place well off the main area. Most of the crowd was focused on the excitement of the relays that circled before us. The bad news is, Full Speed’s high jump attempts played out exactly as you might imagine.
For his ‘warm-up’ jump he actually went under bar. Yes, you read that right….under. For his remaining three attempts he managed to at least level himself out with the bar to a degree, mainly shouldering the bar and launching it off the two poles that held it up. There was no grace to be found in these movements, mostly it looked like he was being electrocuted as his arms flailed around helplessly. I have to give him props for consistency, I mean he demolished that bar every single time. I also appreciated the polite way he helped replace the bar to its proper positioning for the next kid in line.
This was a parenting moment that I had to go big picture. This is where what you see before you is so off-kilter, you just shrug your shoulders and say, ‘no big deal’. This is just a blip on the road of life and let it go. I secretly held on to hope that he might get a chance to compete in another event. One hopefully, that required his feet to stay planted on the ground.
Shortly after, the ominous clouds that had been gathering decided they were done with this particular track meet. Within moments, rain was pummeling its way through the crowd and we all scattered like ants to safety. I was separated from Full Speed for a bit while the fate of the track meet was determined. Eventually, as mother nature continued on with her very bad mood, the meet was called and I caught up with him.
Once we were back at the car away from the noisy rain, I asked him point-blank, “Why on earth did they ask you do to the high jump?”
“I volunteered,” he replied.
Turns out, four members of his team were no-shows and there were lots of gaps needing to be filled. As his coach had run through the litany of events that needed a fill-in, Full Speed volunteered for every single one.
He was denied on all counts.
That is until the high jump was called out. No one was willing to step up so what did Full Speed do?
He stepped up.
Can you imagine the amount of courage this must have taken? Since Full Speed has a pretty good hold on reality, he had to have known it was going to end badly for him.
He did it anyway.
This kid may have lost the high jump that day, but he won my respect.
He has all it takes to be a winner. The kind that matters. The kind that isn’t afraid to take risks.
I don’t enjoy being one of those moms who focuses on their children’s academic achievements. I try very hard to stay in my own lane and thankfully, my boys seem to have a handle on their academics. However, I have an Achilles heel:
Full Speed’s math grade
He sailed along until fifth grade. Then he came to an abrupt halt, adjusted his sails and kept going. Same deal in sixth grade, he had a bit of a rough start, the teacher intervened and then all was well. In fact so well, he got into honors Algebra for his seventh grade year. I thought that meant he had the chops to handle it. And he mostly does, but sometimes, he just doesn’t. Where I struggle is that my intuition screams loudly that it isn’t a lack of ability, it is a lack of effort. Can I get an amen?
Regardless, after a very up and down 1st-3rd grading periods, Full Speed managed to harrowingly acquire a ‘good’ grade thus far. As Full Speed gets set to head into the fourth and final grading period for honors Algebra, I asked him if he would consider putting in his maximum effort upfront as opposed to the rollercoaster performance in which he seems to gravitate towards. His reply?