Just Show Up

Most of us have heard the saying that 90% of success is just showing up sober (I’m paraphrasing here).  Personally I always equated that saying with success at work, and it never occured to me that the saying also applied to my personal life until Celeste and I attended a small event at the youngest’s school last week.

All the kids in Justin’s class had written some short stories and parents were invited to sit in and listen to the kids read the stories out loud on Friday afternoon.  When we arrived we found the kids divided into small groups of about five and the parents were asked to sit in with the group that included their child.  Celeste and I were the only parents in our group so we heard Justin read his story and then the four other children read theirs.  We were encouraged to ask each of the kids questions about their stories so we learned that the one girl in the group enjoys fantasy stories (i.e. pre-teen, chick-lit), one of the boys will only willingly read books about skateboarders (thus his report about Bam Margera) and the other boy was from Mississippi and had moved here after Katrina (his was an autobiographical account of his family’s experience after the hurricane). With our own son we learned that he has an unbelievably strong grasp of fantasy weaponry ala Halo, and a kind of Sgt. Rock bravado in his imagery.  I for one was stunned by his ability to paint such a vivid picture of his own fantasy world, and to be honest I was shocked by his fatalistic acceptance of casualties among his troops; he fully expected people to die.

Given the trouble we’ve had with getting Justin to write anything even semi-expressive in his reading response journal this year it really was a surprise to hear him read a story he had written that contained so much oomph.  He’s a quiet kid and not often open to sharing his thoughts and it was obvious he was embarassed reading his story out loud, so it was great to find his work to be so expressive.

The biggest surprise of the day came right before we left.  The kids wanted to show off their prowess at a multiplication game that features two teams of equal size, a teacher shouting out a multiplication question to a representative of each team and the two kids racing to see who can shout the answer first.  The kid who answers first stays in place for the next question and the other kid sits down.  The team that has someone still standing at the end wins. Justin’s class is undefeated in the competition, but the shock to me was that Justin was considered one of the fastest in his class.  For two years Justin struggled to finish written multiplication tests in the alloted time and only towards the end of last year was he able to do it consistently, so for him to be one of the fastest in his school is quite an achievement.

Of course Justin told us nothing about all this.  We’re lucky he gave us two days’ notice about the reading and if we hadn’t attended the reading we never would have known that he’d gone from struggling with multiplication to excelling at it.  In other words, by just showing up we learned something new and great about our youngest child.

Hopefully this lesson won’t be forgotten, by me in particular.  I have an infamously short attention span and I’m known to spend a lot of time "in my head", but if I can remember to just show up and pay attention I might not totally screw up my kids’ teenage years.  If nothing else I’m sure I’ll learn exactly how much they dislike me and how big a dork they think I am. 

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