How Fast the Years Have Flown By

In early June, my younger daughter graduated from high school.  Aside from my pride as a father of two high school graduates, both of whom are either starting or continuing college later this month, I was struck by another thought:  We no longer have a child in our local public school system.  After 16 years with kids in school, we no longer have open houses, conferences, concerts, ice cream socials, BINGO and family game nights, and the myriad of other events that parents with school-aged children attend year after year.  These are bittersweet thoughts, for sure.

After coming to terms with the fact that this also means that I am old, I started to reflect on all of the experiences my kids had in school.  My reflections may be slightly different than some other parents in the same situation because I can reflect through two distinctly different lenses: one as a father and one as a principal.  Here are my “take-aways” from our experiences watching our kids proceed through the system.

My girls had many different teachers between their kindergarten and senior year of high school.  Some were amazing and a few were mediocre. This includes all of the self-contained elementary teachers and the more content-centered middle and high school teachers.  This also includes all of the specials teachers and a few special education teachers.

Upon reflection, here is what I learned during the last 16 years.

The very best teachers brought out the very best in my kids.  There is no doubt about that.

  • Over the course of the years, they each experienced some of the very best instruction possible – but not every year (see the next point).
  • The girls learned in spite of the few mediocre teachers they had over the years.  Why?  Because we helped them persevere through the nine months in the classroom.  We helped them understand that they had to take a certain amount of responsibility for their learning and successes, regardless of the circumstances of the classroom environment or the teacher’s instructional practices. No doubt they are better prepared for college and the world of work because of the variety of adults they had to deal with.
  • The girls were placed in classes with and without their closest friends over the years, and they actually did better socially and academically in classes without their very best friends. They were forced to come out of their shells and make new and different friends.  In addition, they were not as distracted as they would have been with their BFFs in class.
  • There were times that both girls experienced failure and disappointment.  But, they made it through these times, and they are stronger and much more resilient now because of these experiences (what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, right?).
  • There were times that both girls felt the pain of teasing, exclusion, and “girl drama.” In some cases, this was quite severe, which was heartbreaking for my wife and me to watch.  I also admit that there were times when they each doled out some not-so-nice comments and actions to others.  But, I believe the girls are more sensitive, caring people now because of these experiences.
  • Did we fight with them about homework, studying, watching too much TV, eating right, going to bed, playing video games, and all the rest?  You bet we did.  Did we survive?  Absolutely!  Were the teachers and staff members on our side all along the way to guide us through the tough times?  Yep, and I truly appreciate that.

Yes, the years our kids go to school are stressful for us parents, and I can’t possibly explain how fast they have flown by.  But as I look back, I wouldn’t trade any of it.  I am very thankful to all of the adults in all three schools who were there to mentor, teach, encourage, assist, praise, and even scold my girls’ (hopefully not too many times!) throughout their journey.

If You Send Your Daughter To College …

… She may ask to pledge a sorority.

If she decides to go through rush, she is going to need a whole bunch of new clothes for the process.

That means her mom will have to take her to 20 different stores for at least 4 different outfits.

But the new clothes won’t look as good without accessories, so she will have to find some new bling to accent her new outfits.

And what goes with new clothes and sparkly accoutrements?  New shoes, of course!

When she realizes that she needs new shoes, she will have to do some web surfing on Zappos.com

This search for shoes will remind her that she will need to search the web for the “best looking, coolest” sorority houses on campus.

This web search will give her the idea to look up all of the sorority web sites where she will see hundreds of smiley, happy girls.

These cheerful pictures will remind her how badly she wants to join one of these exclusive groups which then will produce lots of stress and anxiety upon returning to college for the new semester.

This stress may trigger thoughts of insecurity, even though she first went off to college with a great sense of self-worth and confidence.

As she soon will learn in her psych 101 class, insecurity could lead to a bad first impression which of course will earn her many, many rejections from the “best looking, coolest” houses on campus because rushing is all about the superficial aspects of people.

This will cause much crying, weeping, sobbing and uber-drama (did I mention crying?) which will generate scores of calls and texts to her mom for advice and help.  If she is lucky she will listen to her mom who will expend every ounce of energy to build her confidence back up.

This will help her come to realize that most of the girls in most of the sorority houses just don’t get it, and there really are one or two groups of girls who want to know her as a person and not as a blingy, smiling mannequin.

Once she realizes this, all the drama will end, and she will gain back her self-assurance.   AND…

With a new, more mature attitude, she will find and join a group of nice young ladies who will help her start the next episode of her still very young life.

Meanwhile, mom and dad will have aged 20 years during this week-long process!!

Driver’s Ed or Dad’s Ed?

A few days ago, blogger Michael Smith wrote a post about the strange behaviors of his pre-teen daughter (aka the Evil Spawn).  Well, Mike, I can relate to your experiences, but I gotta tell ya… You aint seen nothin’ yet!

With a 16 year old and 13 year old (both girls) I am up to my eyeballs  in the “teenage drama years.”

Yesterday, I took my daughter to get her driver’s license.  OMG what an experience that was.  Off she went with some crabby old guy (and by old, I mean at least 60) to drive around an unfamiliar neighborhood.  She looked like a lamb to the slaughter… she was so nervous.  But, I was equally scared as I watched her follow him like a lost puppy out to the parking lot where my car was parked.  (Note: my car, not my wife’s car.)

So I sat and waited, texting my wife throughout that long, terrifying wait.  As other 16 year olds came back from their road tests with giant, happy smiles on their pimply faces, I sat, waited, and worried.  These kids had left and returned after my own kid left.  What was going on?  Did she crash?  Is she redoing the 3-point turn over and over again until she gets it right?

One thing I do know is that she is not parallel parking.  Today’s suburban teenagers are not taught that time-honored skill.  Nobody parallel parks in the suburbs, and how often do they drive into the city?  (Never with my car!!)  BTW – I am an awesome parallel parker.

Well, she finally returned from the road test with her own smiling face.  Phew…  We sat for the picture and then she received her license.

An hour later, I totally freaked out when she left for her first solo drive.  Then, it occurred to me that we now have our own little errand girl. “Hey, please go pick up your sister at camp… go drop off the  books at the library… go drop this bag off at your grandma’s house.”
Pretty cool!