You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2010.
The little guy with the “big” fish? It’s my son, Mark, at about age 5. He was on a fishing excursion with his dad and his uncles at the time, and happy to be just “one of the guys.” He’s holding his first catch.
This photo has long been one of my favourites.
That look says it all. There’s something about the tousled hair, the crooked grin and the set of his jaw that betrays his thoughts: “If I can conquer this fish, there’s nothing I can’t do. So look out world, cause I’ll be coming after you next!”
He’ll be setting off to do exactly that soon.
In two weeks, that little blonde boy will turn 18. And suddenly, I’m realizing – because I’ve been through it once before – that our time with him is short.
This September, Mark will follow in his older sister’s footsteps as he, too, heads off to university.
So lately, I’ve found myself relishing all the little things I know I’m going to miss once he’s no longer around day-to-day: the sight of those enormous sneakers kicked off in the front hall, pages of scrawled math equations – homework practice – left scattered on the dining room table, the sounds of his exertion as he does those endless chin-ups or hand-clapping push-ups at night before bed.
I’ll miss the sheer joy of satisfying the almost bottomless appetites of a teenage boy and his friends. I’ll miss the magic of seeing a bad day made better simply by topping it off with a bacon double cheeseburger. I’ll miss having him come home after school brimming with excitement (at, of all things Physics!) eager to share his newfound expertise about “time dilation” or Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.
I’ll miss the delight of watching him play his bass guitar in church, and the astonishment that never fails to surface at the power, grace and swiftness of his moves when he spars with his dad – now that they’re both working toward their black belt in karate.
I hope – like his older sister who left before him – he manages to come home often.
“A child enters your home and for the next twenty years makes so much noise you can hardly stand it. The child departs, leaving the house so silent you think you are going mad.”
- John Andrew Holmes
“Light shines in the darkness, there we are aware of it.
What good is light or learning unless people can enjoy it?
In darkness, in suffering, they shall see the light.”
- Meister Eckhart
I’ve mentioned previously that one of the things I love most about the work I do, is the people I have the good fortune to meet in the course of that work.
These five were standouts.
.. even when they grow up!
My eldest daughter, Stephanie, sent me an email yesterday, with the first sentence of a required reading for her (second year university) Literary Criticism class. After that first sentence, Stephanie wrote just one sentence of her own.
Following is the complete text of her email:
“‘In the face of the possibility that the intellectual is complicit in the persistent constitution of the Other as the Self’s shadow, a possibility of political practice for the intellectual would be to put the economic “under erasure,” to see the economic factor as irreducible as it reinscribes the social text, even as it is erased, however imperfectly, when it claims to be the final determinant or the transcendental signified.’
THIS is why I hate school right now.”
And that email is just one more reason I love my kids.
… sits in my kitchen cupboard.
It’s a plate, a very different plate from my other kitchen dishes; glossy, pristinely white background with outrageous splashes of colour in the form of vivid pink and blue flowers. I remember choosing it in a kitchen housewares store years ago, precisely because of the bold statement it made.
As I look back over 20 years of growing children, I think that of all the little tips, tools and techniques we adopted in our attempts to help them grow well, “The We’re Proud of You Plate,” was one of the best. A friend shared the concept with me when we were in the midst of the toddler years. She’d read about the idea in a book.
It works like this: the special plate celebrates one member of the family for an achievement, a kindness, or an admirable character quality. Our rule was a child couldn’t ask for the special plate, unless they were asking that it be given to someone else. Once the family sat down to the table, after giving thanks for the meal, either Doug or I would say a few words acknowledging why the special plate was being “awarded” that day. Then we’d all raise our glasses in a toast to the child being honoured.
The first couple of days after bringing the special plate into our home were difficult, so much so that I remember doubting whether it was a good idea. Sibling rivalry – even in its mildest form – is a reality. And I remember feeling some angst over who would be the very first to receive the plate. So in order to be sure that what was intended to encourage one child didn’t wind up discouraging another, we were careful to honour each one with the plate in fairly short order. But once we cleared that hurdle, the special plate remained special because we were conscientious not to overuse it. So when it did show up at someone’s place at the table, the kids were thrilled. They loved receiving it, and they loved participating in toasting one another.
As our family grew, the use of the plate evolved such that whoever had the idea to honour another family member assumed the task of “giving the toast,” before the meal.
It’s been a tool of affirmation: when a child came home elated over some accomplishment, the special plate acknowledged the attainment, and when a child came home dejected over a lack of success, the special plate rewarded the effort. It’s been a tool of empathy: when the kids got older – if Doug or I had a difficult day – it wasn’t unusual for the special plate to show up at one of our places on the table, as they tried to encourage us. Of course, birthdays were always marked with the special plate.
Being the centre of positive attention at the family dinner table for a few moments every once in a while helped them learn to receive praise with grace and humility. And it taught them to take joy at each other’s moments in the spotlight as well.
Cost of The Special Plate: under $10. Value once placed on the table: priceless.
The television program I work with, Listen Up, was in Haiti last week. They brought back this story. It’s an important reminder that long after Haiti fades from the headlines, the needs there will go on …