Oblivious? Or Choosing Not To Notice…

It’s not that I don’t know that someone else should pick up the dog poop around here. It’s not that I don’t know that responsibility builds character.

I know boys should fold clothes.
I know boys should sort laundry.
I know boys should make their beds in the morning.
I know boys should take their dishes to the sink, learn to load the dishwasher, perhaps even learn to unload it, if our cupboards weren’t so tall that even I can’t reach the top shelf when I stand on the stool.

I know that the second half of the downstairs room – which I haven’t yet named because it seems like it should be the family room and yet the fireplace seems like it’s in the family room and I don’t want to call the downstairs the playroom because I want the football team to go down their someday to play pool and ping pong and watch approved movies, and I don’t want my son to have to invite them to the “playroom” – is filled with boxes. Half-empty boxes, at that.

I know they could at least be – what’s that word? – Consolidated. I know it. I know there are legos on the window sill in the laundry room. I know the boys’ hair is too long, their feet are dirty, and their toenails need trimmed. I know that one’s shorts are dirty and this one chewed a hole through the collar of his tee shirt.

Just please don’t think I don’t know. I do know.

But if I acknowledge them, then I have to do something about it. I have to train the boys instead of doing it myself, and if they are trained to do it then I must follow through with consequences when they don’t keep their responsibilities.

Believe me, it’s easier to just let myself off the hook than to imagine I’m raising helpless husbands and careless leaders.

Or, maybe I do want you to think I don’t know. Maybe just imagine I’m oblivious, that I just don’t know the details of this chaos.

I know. Believe me. I know.

A Word to Graduates

I have been invited to speak at the Continuation Ceremony of a class of kindergarteners I taught nine years ago.  (Nine years ago!)  I have marked this date on my calendar for many weeks now, so honored to join them for this celebration of such a victory.  Plus, I couldn’t wait to see them again.  It always jars my brain when the children stand before me, forever changed.  The boys have muscles; the girls have curves.  It’s an alarming thing, really. 

But so very sadly, I am sick today.  Bronchitis has hit our home with a dark cloud of ferocity, and I can’t barely utter a whisper today.  So there’s no sense in handing me a microphone.  With great resignation, I will not be able to go tonight.  A friend will read my words to them on my behalf.

So, I’m sharing with you the words I planned to share with them. 

* * *

 

First of all, congratulations.

Congratulations on finishing the last nine years, from the first day of kindergarten to where you are now. Those of you who have excellent handwriting, I hope you’ll remember we started that skill in my classroom. Those of you who raise your hand before you blurt out answers in class, I hope you’ll remember that nobody knew the importance of that on the first day of kindergarten. We worked and worked on that until you became proficient at waiting to speak.Those of you who sing songs throughout your day, who sing good morning songs to yourselves and your families, I hope you’ll remember how we did that too, for every transition. Oh, we sang, sang, sang.

I am exceedingly proud of you, eighth graders. You are a beautiful bunch, and you will forever live in my hearts. Although in my memory, you’re much smaller.

So, congratulations on finishing the last nine years, but more specfically, congraulations on finishing the last three years. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grades are notoriously the worst years of school, and you can ask almost any adult: they will say they didn’t enjoy middle school or junior high.

Everything gets harder in those years. Everybody get a little meaner. They’re some tough years. And you did it. Congratulations, my friends. You have finished middle school.

Let’s think for a moment about the Green, Yellow, Red card system in a classroom. Everybody begins each day with a green card, and then your choices throughout the day will determine if you stay with green, if you get a warning yellow, or if you must suffer the consequences of red. I have a kindergartener of my own now, and we celebrate his green cards with grandeur. For a six year old, it’s the definition of a good day of wise choices.

The best thing about the Card System is this: you get to start over everyday. Everyday begins with green. No matter what happened yesterday,
how many times you cut in line
or shouted an answer
or giggled in the hallway
or made a mess of paper towels in the bathroom
or argued with your teacher
or got out of your chair to roam the room,
the next day is a new day.

And every new day starts out Green.

Guess what? Here’s the best news about graduating from eighth grade: you get a brand new card. Each one of you. New card. And it can be any color you want.

When you enter high school, you’re starting a new stage, and for some people, those are their favorite years of school. (They were mine!) It doesn’t matter what color your cards were in grade school and middle school – it doesn’t matter anymore. You get to start fresh. With your new card, you get to decide who you will be.

Will you get good grades?
Will you be on time?
Will you do your best?

Will you manage your planner and finish your homework and study for tests and be prepared?

You get to decide. It doesn’t matter who you were before now. It’s all new.

More importantly,
Will you be kind?
Will you encourage others?
Will you show compassion?
Will you share what you have?
Will you love well?
Will you make decisions that are respectful and honoring to you and your family?

You get to decide. It doesn’t matter who you were before now. It’s all new.

And keep this in mind, in case I don’t get to see you on the day you graduate from high school: you’ll get a new card that day too. There are are a few times in your life when you get to start over, define yourself, and choose who you really want to be.

This is one of those days.

As you enter high school, as you’re deciding who you will be and how you will be known at this new school, let me let you in on a secret. Lean in close. Closer. This is an important secret, and you might not hear it from many people. Ready?

Everybody around you is a little bit miserable. Everybody is worried about something. Everybody is afraid nobody likes them. Everybody is afraid they’re not good enough. And everybody’s trying hard to look like they’re not miserable.

When you look around your high school next year, when you see so many new faces and they all seem to have their friends figured out and they have found their places in the social structure of high school, remember: everybody is a little bit miserable. You’re not the only one.

The best way to help yourself feel better is to make someone else feel better. If you see someone sitting alone in the cafeteria, make it your responsibility to help them feel included. Join them at their table or invite them to yours. Look for ways to make other people feel better about who they are and how their day is going, and I promise, yours will get better too.

So let me challenge you with two words: Choose Kindness.

There are lots of words about anti-bullying right now. Posters, bracelets, commercials on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, all against bullying. I agree. Bullying is never acceptable and we need to rescue those who are being bullied.

But.

Instead of trying to bring an end to the trend of bullying, what if we try to begin a campaign of Kindness?

There are enough of you in this room to make a serious change in your high school next year. You won’t have even have to do it alone. Look around you. These people are the faces of your teammates. Choose Kindness.

I love every single one of you, and I’m so sorry I’m not there to say these words myself.

You are loved.
You are important.
You are kind.
You are brave.
You are one of a kind, one in a million.

And remember: nearly everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten.

So be kind.

Where Are You Speaking?!

Tricia, you mentioned Ohio.
But where in Ohio are you going?  
When are you coming?  
What’s the story, and can we come?

Here’s the story, my friends.

I am traveling to Ohio this weekend for a women’s retreat in a Cleveland hotel, sponsored by the unbelievably gracious women of West Hill Baptist Church.

We are going to talk about the seasons of the heart – winter, spring, summer, fall – how I have experienced them, what we can learn from them, and what journeys and tasks are most futile and most fruitful in each season.

It’s going to be beautiful.  And even now, I’m praying for the women who will sit in every chair in the hotel ballroom.

So, that’s where I will be this weekend.  And I do wish I could invite you all.  But hotels get finicky about things like fire codes and capacities and paid registrations.  :)

If you’re interested in inviting me to speak at your church’s retreat or event, or perhaps to teach at a writing seminar or conference in your community, I am honored and very open to the idea.  So, shoot me an email.  We’ll talk and brainstorm and make it happen.

tricia@tricialottwilliford.com.

xoxoxo.

t.