September 20, 2009

Vote for Me For Third Grade Student Council

Just a few short hours ago I helped write a campaign speech for a young and promising politician. He hasn't been corrupted by power or lost his belief in his ability to help people. He has exceptional ideas and an enormous amount of energy.

He is a bit nervous because it is his first time throwing his hat into the ring. And more than a little frustrated that I didn't share his anxiety about whether he can carry the vote of the handball players and the kissing girls. But I have faith in my candidate. He comes from good stock and he is quickly learning how to spin a yarn as fast as his old man can.

If I had my way he'd open up his speech by asking for more Cowbell but unfortunately that is not an option this time around. Really, I love that line Bruce Dickinson has, "I put my pants on one leg at a time. Except when I have my pants on, I make gold records."

Anyway, if you haven't figured it out yet that kid I sometimes refer to as "Little Jack" is running for Third Grade Representative and I couldn't be prouder. He is a bit shy and reserved. Most of the time he prefers not to be the center of attention. His teachers routinely say that he knows the material but that it is rare to seem him raise his hand to answer questions.

A far cry from his old man who was never afraid to answer questions or get in trouble in class. I wouldn't mind if he crept a bit farther out of the shell and participated more. With any luck he'll skip the getting in trouble part.

This election business is serious stuff, but not quite like this. And that is a good thing which leads into the more serious part of the post.

I believe in teaching children how to lose and how to fail. These are basic coping skills. Some parents have a problem with this and lend an inordinate amount of help to their children. I won't speculate on the reasons why, but I know from experience that certain science projects and student council campaigns are run with a sophistication that doesn't come from a young child.

It is a real problem and one that I know is not limited solely to the school my children go too. I remember it from my days as a student and have heard similar remarks from parents of students at other schools.

There is no doubt that I want my children to succeed. I want them to win at whatever they do. I want them to be popular and loved and all that kind of crap. But I won't force the issue. I won't create a monster and that is what happens.

Little Jack has friends who are over indulged. Unless something changes these kids are going to get the crap whacked out of them. I don't necessarily mean this literally, but life has a way of smacking you in the teeth. If you have never been allowed to taste your own blood or feel the sting how are you going to deal with it.

Because that is reality. Out in the real world there are situations that are beyond our control. Our children are going to be placed in situations that require immediate decisions. Mine aren't going to freeze because they have never had to live without mommy's assistance.

This isn't tough love. This isn't about saying that parents shouldn't help. I won't swing from one extreme to the other. The kids know that they can always come to their parents. It is important, critical that they understand that when I say I will take the bullet for them I mean it.

At the same time they also know that there are limits that they have to work with. They know that though they can always come to me I expect them to try to figure out a solution. I won't cripple them by taking all of the hits.

Anyway, most of my work tonight was spent in providing a little guidance and feedback for the speech. A little direction that said that you need an introduction, a body and a conclusion. A few minutes typing because it was late and he needed to get to bed.

Later this week I'll find out whether to congratulate him on a victory or to tell him how pleased I am that he tried. I really don't know which way it will go and I don't care. I am just proud that he decided to take a risk and expose himself. That little boy isn't quite so little anymore.

Think I'll take a moment to watch him sleep because something tells me that I'll blink and he'll be all growed up.



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10 comments:

Vicki said...

I love this post. So touching. My favorite part is "I believe in teaching children how to lose and how to fail." I think this is a very important skill that is highly underemphasized these days in America. Thanks for giving us hope about politics again. ;)

ilanadavita said...

Very moving post. A few good ips too for parents.

SciFi Dad said...

Technically, it would have been more sound advice if you had suggested he barter for votes. For example, "if I win, I'll eat a whole jar of mayonnaise" or something. They're eight; they'll respect that kind of conviction.

In all seriousness, though, great post. Learning to accept defeat as well as victory, either in tasks or or contests, is a skill often neglected.

Kelly said...

Is it wrong that my first thought is, Oh thank the heavens my son's school has no student council?

After that, I agree wholeheartedly with your approach. I don't want to call it toughening up, but I definitely want my children to enter the world with some practical knowledge about how to handle what will come at them.

Aso, I second the mayo comment. My kid likes to tell me that he, too, could eat fried worms (it's a favorite movie around here) -- if someone dared him to.

survivinglifedaily said...

I don't have children yet, but I remember the kids in school who had the "best" projects or reports on the "best" paper with no errors, and everyone knew the parents did it for them! I completely agree you have to let them win or lose and teach them to deal with both outcomes!

Jack said...

Vicki,

I have a real problem with some parents and their desire to protect their children from everything that can hurt them. It is impossible and unhealthy. I don't want my kids to become emotional cripples.

ID,

Thanks. Loved the pix on your blog.

SciFi Dad,

Eat an entire jar of mayo is something I would have done. My guy isn't quite so daring...yet.

The schools piss me off with this make everything equal sometimes philosophy. You shouldn't let kids be hurt willy nilly, but you can't just ignore reality.

Kelly,

Fried worms- somewhere in the old melon I remember reading something about that.

Surviving,

My parents helped me with my work when I needed it, but they wouldn't do it for me. I can't imagine how that would have helped me or how it would help my kids.

It seems to me our job is to teach our kids how to get along in the real world.

dsmcaron said...

I recently attended student council speeches in which my guy went up against a kid whose speech included the factoid that he had a dog and cat and there were more interesting things than that I wanted to remember until the last line of his speech: He was for safety in bowling.

I turned to the man next to me and asked if I had heard correctly. Through his quiet laughter he said, "Yes, I think that is exactly what he said."

My guy didn't win and he informed me that he hated his school. But it only lasted a few minutes. I am SO on with the mayo trick. That's real conviction and what's a little vomit for a year's worth of power? ;)

Jack said...

He was for safety in bowling.

I sometimes get fixated on small details such as safety in bowling. See if the kid had discussed the need to place velcro on the lanes and on the bottom of bowling shoes he might have gotten my vote.

It is totally bizarre and out there, but then again, so am I.

BEAN said...

My son may be running for third grade student council in a couple weeks, and I came across your blog while searching for inspiration for him. I love all that you wrote and agree completely. Thank you for sharing your thoughts (a year ago!). :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I am not raising kids, I am raising people who are going to be adults. My son tries too hard to have friends, but nobody likes him. He is the only one in gifted class in his class. All I can tell hom is not to care what anyone thinks. He is running for 3rd grade student council. My daughter doesn't like crust or cheese. I don't take her crusts off of her sandwiches. She does it herself and takes off any cheese. She is a 40 lb 7 yr old. I still feed her mac & cheese and she loves it. She will figure it out. Good is the God that gave me the kids I can handle.