Monday, June 16, 2014

Kids These Days, Take 2

A few years ago I wrote about* how both Tom and I noticed - almost immediately upon arriving in Texas - that the young people in our community, especially those in their teen years and young adults, were collectively more respectful than the young people we'd encountered elsewhere. We met child after teenager after college student who removed their hat and shook our hands during introductions then answered our questions with "yes, sir" and "no, ma'am". I dreamed of raising children even half as polite as these young Texans.

I of course encounter the occasional child, teenager, or young adult who hasn't quite yet mastered their manners. But the majority still impress me, and their behavior motivates me (because let's be honest, some days I need external motivation - on top of my internal motivation - to keep on keepin' on) to continue teaching Will and Hallie to introduce themselves using a clear and audible voice, shake hands firmly, make eye contact, hold doors, remove their hats, use please and thank you, use proper table manners, arrive on time, etc. The list goes on and on. 

A couple of weeks ago I witnessed/listened in on a conversation between Will and another child that moved me enough to want to write on this topic for a second time. Here goes...

Field Day at Will's elementary school included a variety of athletic (short runs, long runs, Frisbee games) and non-athletic (toilet paper relay races, cups of water on heads relay races) events so that every child could participate in at least one, if not two, activities. Will chose the 50-yard dash and the cross country run, and told us ahead of time that he thought he would win one of the races and had a 50% chance of winning the other. Confidence has never been a problem for my boy…

Will's heart broke when he didn't advance out of his 50-yard dash heat. He didn't cry or even complain, but I could almost feel the frustration and sadness radiating from within him. 
And they're off!
At least he didn't finish last...
He did much better in the cross country run, placing fourth out of close to 40 first grade boys. I beamed with pride as he cruised across the finish line, but as he circled back around and approached I could tell from the look on his face that my smile, Grandma's congratulations, and Lily's cheers wouldn't be enough to keep him from tearing up.
Approaching the finish line.
Each kindergarten and first grade class had been assigned two fourth-grade helpers, the job of whom was to meet the kids from their assigned class at the finish lines of the races and escort the kids back to their class' "home base". Moments after Will finished his cross country race, one of his class' helpers walked up to him. The student noticed that Will had been crying, but he didn't acknowledge the tears lest he embarrass Will in front of his grade-mates. Instead, the student put his arm around Will's shoulder - the student literally took Will under his wing - and started walking him across the field. I followed a few feet behind, listening to their conversation. 

"Hey buddy, I saw your run - great job out there!"

Will must have said something about not winning the race, because the student added:

"But you had fun, right? That's what Field Day is about - trying your best and having a great time with your friends".

The student squeezed Will's shoulder, asked for - and received - a high five, and left Will with his teacher as he walked off to find himself another first grader whose spirits needed lifting. 

I went straight to Will's teacher and asked her - with tears threatening to roll down my cheeks - to please thank that student for his kind words and for setting a stellar example for Will to follow. 

All in all, I'd say Field Day was a tremendous success.

* I can hardly believe that 1) we've lived in Texas, and 2) I've been writing, long enough to use the phrase "a few years ago I wrote about". The cliche is true - time flies when you're having fun!

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