Milestones

Tomorrow afternoon will mark a big fat milestone in our lives. Two more of our five kids will be crossing that stage at their high school graduation. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. So why am I so overwhelmed with the feels of it all?

Randa is 20. She’s our “special needs” kid and while eligible to stay at the school for one more year before she ages out of their Alternate Curriculum program, she is bored. She wants to graduate NOW. They told us going in that there was going to come a time when she is going to advance past what they are able to teach her. That time has come. Many would argue that she could mainstream into the general education population. That is just not a possibility with her issues. So we’re going to do more Mommy-Randa stuff starting next Fall. We’re going to visit museums and family members around the Metroplex and take some classes at the fabric store and learn to sew and join a water aerobics class. Randa is excited to start the next chapter after Sam Houston High.

Ismail is 18. He, like his older brother before him, seems to be struggling with the excitement of graduating versus the sadness and anxiety of leaving behind all he knows. I am guessing that boys are like this. (I wouldn’t know, having never been a boy.) He is suffering today as he paces around and asks questions to which he already knows the answers. He’s spent a lot of time on the front porch. Being outside calms his nerves. He is still not certain what he’s going to do. He wants to become an electrician and be a man and not have to answer to his parents and buy a car and get a job, and all of the swirling plans that all boys his age have.

But Ismail is still so tender-hearted in so many ways. And his family is all he’s ever known. No matter where we lived on the globe spanning three countries and several states, we’ve always had each other. The idea of moving away to another part of the state to go to school without his safety net is so intriguing and exciting and altogether scary. So he’s put off making firm plans as of yet. He wants to take a little time off and work. And that’s okay. Ismail has always been one who needs to chew on his idea before he spits out his final answer.

And tomorrow as I stand on that stage, holding Randa’s hand to help her to battle back the anxiety as she walks across toward the end of her high school tunnel, I’ll be watching Ismail, one place ahead of her in the alphabet, reaching his. I’m so proud to be their mother.

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I Did It Again!

Everyone has been guilty of it. At least, I hope I’m not alone in this. But I have this tendency to put important things in a “really safe place” and then when it comes time that I really need them, said “really safe place” has completely left my mind. Last time it was a social security card. Only took 5 days, but I found it. The application for health coverage took a little longer to find. Well, a lot longer. Like…6  months longer. But in my defense, someone rearranged all the paperwork in my stacked filing system. For crying out loud, would you people just STOP touching my desk!? But this one is a doozy.

I placed the tassels for Randa and Ismail’s graduation caps in a drawer so that no one would lose them. And I don’t remember which drawer. I’ve searched them all. And poof. They’re gone. And while I have until Sunday to find them, I really don’t. Because Randa has an awards ceremony for the seniors in the Special Education department and she is supposed to wear her cap and gown tomorrow. *sigh*

One of these days I’m going to find a “very special place” that is just a blatant out in the open place with a lock on it to keep nosy people and meddling hands away. Of course, you know what that means, right? I’ll just lose the damn key.

Kroger Plus Card Swipes for Starry Night Prom

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Are you one of those people who truly LOVES inspirational stories and programs and organizations that want to help all of the people with all of the things but you just don’t want to buy anymore cookie dough or wrapping paper or write anymore checks?! Yeah. I’m one of those, too.
So how can you help support STARRY NIGHT PROM and stay true to your Introverted tendencies? It’s easy. Go grocery shopping.

WHAT?!?

Yes. You read that right. GO GROCERY SHOPPING. But not just anywhere. Go to KROGER.

Here are the exact directions as outlined in the email we received from Kroger:

Kroger Community Rewards – Customer Instructions

A Digital Account is needed in order to participate in Kroger Community Rewards. If you already have a Digital Account, then please skip to the section named ‘Selecting an Organization’.
 
How to Register a Digital Account
Creating a digital account is as simple as 1,2,3! Simply visit www.kroger.com or download the Kroger mobile application from the appropriate app store for your device and follow these directions.
1.      Select the ‘Register’ button.
2.      Enter your information.
3.      Select ‘Create Account’.
Please make sure that you add your card number or create a virtual card number while registering your Digital Account. This is required for the Community Rewards program so that your transactions apply towards the program.
 
Selecting an Organization
Selecting the organization that you wish to support is as simple updating the Community Rewards selection on your Digital Account.
·        Sign into your Digital Account (if you haven’t already).
·        Select ‘My Account’.
·        Scroll down to the ‘Community Rewards’ section of your account page.
·        Select ‘Enroll Now’ or ‘Edit’.
·        Enter the name or NPO number of the organization that you wish to support.
***STARRY NIGHT PROM’S NPO number is 75547****
·        Select the appropriate organization from the list and click on ‘Save’.
Your selected organization will now display in the Community Rewards section of your account page.
Any transactions moving forward using the card number associated with your digital account will be applied to the program.
It takes approximately 10 days for the Community Rewards total to begin displaying on your receipt.
 
Again, Starry Night Prom’s NPO number is 75547.

Please help support Starry Night Prom and select STARRY NIGHT PROM (NPO number 75547) from the Community Rewards section at Kroger.com today. Thank you.

**Only valid in Kroger stores in Texas and Louisiana.
***Photograph credit: Amber Inman Photography. Property of Starry Night Prom, Inc, Used with Permission

Gearing Up for Starry Night Prom 2017

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See these bright smiles and happy faces in this photograph? They belong to some of the participants in the Starry Night Prom 2016. Starry Night Prom is a registered Non-Profit 501 (C) (3) organization that annually holds an all expense paid prom for Arlington ISD High School students with significant disabilities. Starry Night Prom is heading into its tenth year of hosting proms for these amazing kids and we want Starry Night Prom 2017 to be better than ever.

Throwing a prom at no cost for the students and their required chaperone requires donations, both money and in-kind. So the Starry Night Prom Vice-President of Donations has decided to start early this year. And our first fundraising event is already set up! With the help of the amazing, tasteful, and trendy: Charming Charlie (located in the Arlington Highlands.)

Charming Charlie is already having an awesome sale this entire Labor Day weekend. Why not do your shopping the first night of their sale to take advantage of their discount prices, fabulous selection, AND help a worthy cause? Think of the great Christmas gifts you can score ahead of the crowds! And don’t you think it’s time you got a new purse for yourself? Charming Charlie has bling, accessories, clothes, shoes, handbags, scarves and more.

How does your shopping help Starry Night Prom? It’s easy. If you show up this Friday, September 2, 2016 between 5:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and shop, then you mention, “I want to support Starry Night Prom,” to the associate at check out. The associate will key in our special Starry Night Prom Chic Charity Event code into the register and then Charming Charlie will donate 10% of your total purchase price to Starry Night Prom. That’s it.

So, when and where and how is this again?

WHEN:          Friday, September 2, 2016
TIME:             From 5:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.
WHERE:        Charming Charlie located at 3901 Arlington Highlands Blvd,

                         Suite 101

                        Arlington, TX 76018

HOW:            Just go to Charming Charlie at the address above. Buy from their entire selection of amazing products and mention STARRY NIGHT PROM to the associate at check out. PLEASE be sure to mention STARRY NIGHT PROM at the beginning of your check out process to ensure that they code the transaction properly so that STARRY NIGHT PROM will receive a donation in the amount of 10% of your total sale.

We at Starry Night Prom thank you in advance for coming out to support our worthy cause. Helping to give an Arlington ISD high school student with significant disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the Prom experience that they might not have been able to have is definitely a reason to smile. Don’t believe it? The proof is in those smiles in the photo above.

 

 

 

 

 

Did I Do Too Much for Them?

As mothers, we second guess ourselves and the choices we make all of the time. Since these children don’t come with owner’s manuals or anything remotely close to that, we sort of “wing it” and combine our gut instincts with the way that we were brought up and what we admired from parental examples we admired from TV and movies, and that long list of stuff we swore we’d “NEVER do when I have kids of my own!” And for the most part, that tends to work really well for most of us. We do the best with what we have and what we know and we try to do what is best for our kids and hope and pray that that is enough.

I used the great ways that my mom had to interact with us when we were little. She was awesome at distraction tactics when we would fight. There were four of us and sometimes it would get pretty loud. I remember many times that she would just come in the room while we were fighting and just sit down on the floor. She’d pull all of our building blocks and Matchbox cars, Fisher-Price people and Weebles out of the box and start making entire towns right there in the middle of the rug. She’d completely ignore us while doing this. Soon we were sort of staring at all the fun she was having and no longer interested in who broke what, or whose turn it was to whatever. We’d watch and eventually sit down and ask if we could play with her. She always said, “Yes.” And we’d join in and start having fun, too. Then she’d slowly work her way out of the game and leave the room and we were none the wiser, yet peaceful.

I also decided that I liked the way that she kept open lines of communication with us. I employed this, too, with my own kids. But I allowed more expression (like limited cussing when they were at that stage where nothing else would seemingly help them “get it out.”) I never lied to them.  (Okay, I did have them convinced for years that I knew the Minister of Birthdays and Aging and that if they did something really horrible that I could call and have that year’s birthday postponed for another. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds when your kids are younger and are certain that they haven’t earned that year older until they’ve actually blown out their candles on their cake. Truth be told, I did NOT tell them the whole candles thing. That was their own understanding. I just didn’t contradict it until the oldest was about 12 and had figured it out on his own. DON’T JUDGE!)

I would watch some of my in-laws and neighbors and friends who would tell their kids things like, “stop crying and I’ll buy you sweets” or “don’t be scared. The needle won’t hurt at all.” To adults, these seem like little lies to assuage fears and calm kids. But for kids, they are actually HUGE lies that, once told and are proven to be untrue, take away from our credibility and teach our kids not to trust us. I never told my kids untruths about our ability or inability to afford something that they wanted. I would tell them, “No. That is something that is not in our budget” if they were asking for their own mobile phone or wanting to go to the amusement park or join a sports club.

I did not/will not give my kids an allowance. I hated this rule growing up but my dad had it and I’m actually quite grateful for it now. He always said, “I buy you every-damn-thing you need. If there is something you want, come talk to me about it and we’ll decide if it’s something we can do.” So when I wanted a Mickey Mouse watch at 5 years old like my neighbor had, Dad said no. He said it was ridiculous that Michael Murphy had a watch at 5 when the “big dummy can’t tell time.” (I was born in the late 60’s and digital watches were still about 10+ years away.) So, of course, I was heartbroken. But Dad told me that if I learned how to tell time that he would buy me a watch. I accepted his challenge. I learned how to tell time in one week. (And oh, yes, I rubbed that in Michael Murphy’s face big time.) And Dad bought me my first watch at the PX  (Post Exchange for you non-military types.) It was dark blue Timex with silver numbers and hands and had a dark blue band. It was a ladies watch…for grown ups. It was so fancy. He taught me how to wind it and take care not to get it wet. I had that watch for 11 years before it finally broke. I’d earned the right to wear it. And Dad promised it and fulfilled that promise. Trust was built over something little.

When my kids wanted pocket money, I made them work for it. They always had to help around the house and I didn’t pay for that. But if they wanted something extra, I made them work a little extra. My sister-in-law thought I was mean and horrible for making Ismail make all of the beds in the house (a total of 5) after their naps one day and I only paid him 25 piasters. She thought that that was a lot of work for a 6 yr old and that he deserved more than just 5 piasters per bed. I asked what she thought was fair wages. She said 1 pound. I told her she was nuts. I explained that her own sister worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week in a factory making purses and backpacks and she only brought home 250 pounds per month. That averages out to about 1.15 pounds per hour. “He needs to learn that life in Egypt is hard and that people work hard for very little money. Then he will appreciate what he has and will take care of it and learn to work hard himself.” That was ten or twelve years ago. Now she tells me that she wishes that she had done like I did as her kids think that it’s their right to demand large amounts of money to go shopping, buy fast food and go to the movies whenever they like.

I instilled a good work ethic in them. BUT there are other things that I didn’t do right. I still haven’t let them do the other stuff. I handled their confrontations, argued with store owners who wronged them, all the typical advocating for my kids. But they didn’t learn how to do those things on their own. None of them knows how to fill out a job application on their own, their own medical history, how to drive. And I’m not preventing them from doing any of that or still doing it all for them. They’ve sort of just fallen into the habit of asking me to do it and I do it. I fear that I’ve not encouraged them enough to try stuff on their own. I’m afraid to push them out of the nest to test their wings. I know that failure is part of learning and that I have to be a good enough parent to allow them to fail. But it sucks when your job all these years has been to catch them when they fall.

My best friend and I cried together over this earlier this week. She and I have a mess of kids and our oldest are about the same age. She told me that her daughter called from her university on the other side of the state wanting her to put on her “momager” hat and call the school and handle some situation for her. My friend started to do that but then caught herself.

We women are able to have entire lengthy arguments and weigh outcomes of choices all in our minds in split seconds. Men don’t realize this, I think. But we are able to go through every option available, predict results and decide the best course of action to take all within about 3 eye blinks. We’re bionic like that.

So my friend told her daughter, “You know what? This is something you can handle. You need to call and tell them that you don’t want to change dorms again and give your reasons why. I believe in you. You can do this.” Her daughter was pouty but accepted my friend’s advice. Of course, she cried her eyes out after hanging up because she felt she was a “bad mom” for telling her NO. But this is how we have to do it. And it’s hard. And it sucks. But it’s the being there to pick up the pieces if they fall and break during their test flights outside our nests that make us good moms. And while both of us know this intellectually, it doesn’t make it any less heavy on our hearts when our kids want us to do something and we force them to do it themselves.

Have I done too much? Maybe. But we do what we can the best way we know how and trust that we’ve done it right. Excuse me. I’m going to go cry now.

 

 

 

Now That I Can Breathe Without Tears

This was my post on Facebook the day following the tragic and brutal assassination of five police officers just 20 miles east of me in Dallas. I thought I would share it here and then expand:

“I spent the better part of last night with my ear glued to the radio. I feel like a giant rock is on my chest, I am so heartbroken that this happened here. And I am bracing myself to hear what weak attempt to link this cowardly and brutal assassination of our police officers to either the “open carry” side or the “stricter gun restrictions” side of the argument.
Our police force is NOT a means to anyone’s political end. These were good people who were hunted by a sniper’s rifle while they protected peaceful demonstrators who were exercising their 1st Amendment rights to express their solidarity with people of the other communities who lost young black men in violent deaths at the hands of a few bad cops.
That said, I also firmly believe that every one of those black men who were killed by police officers throughout this country were also good men whose lives were taken out of the fear, prejudice, bad judgment, overzealousness, incompetence, or power-drunken arrogance of a select group of police officers. Just as black criminals do not represent the entire black population, those bad cops do not represent law enforcement as a whole.
My heart hurts today and I just do not want to deal with Trump or Clinton or anyone else’s politically motivated soundbites to further their own campaigns on the backs of Blue or Black coffins.
‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬
‪#‎BackTheBlue‬
‪#‎UnitedWeStand‬

I am still “in the feels” about all of this. I have been since Trayvon Martin was shot four years ago. I’ve watched from the sidelines and spoken my peace in support of my fellow citizens from within the African-American community. I cannot ever understand how they must feel, having to worry every time their young men step outside the safety of their own homes.

I can only imagine that it is similar to how I feel every September 11th; how I go about my day with my butt cheeks clenched and acid burning a hole in my stomach as I wait for all my children and my husband to return home at the end of that day. How every time there is a shooting, hostage situation, or explosion within our borders the first thing that pops into my mind is, “Dear God. Please don’t let it be a Muslim that is committing this terrible act.” Only this anxiety for my black friends is one that they must endure in the backs of their minds EVERY day and not just annually or during some heinous event.

I want to cry out for them and I want to hug them and I want to scream. I want to be the one who organizes some sort of training program to run through all of the law enforcement academies from coast to coast and make sure that our police officers can learn to see our human sides and not affiliate skin color with criminal capability that crosses all racial lines. How do we turn off that hate? Is there an app for THAT?

I am the person who sees the good in others. I am excited that at my children’s high school on the lower socio-economic side of town, there is a police academy training program where the local community college and police academy choose from our predominately minority population to eventually protect and serve our community. This is affecting positive change in our city. I want this for all the cities. I want to see communities working together to improve the economy; opening and supporting small businesses within the poorer neighborhoods so that money is put back into the community and helping to cut unemployment rates, increase local spending, create pride.

I am not Pollyanna. I know that these things will not solve prejudicial views of all or fear due to racial misunderstandings by law enforcement agents. I know that there is no magic wand to “fix it” in the short term. But I know that what I would like to see happen would definitely contribute to a long-term fix of what’s broke in our country. I will continue to push for education opportunities within my own community. I will continue to teach my own kids empathy, fairness, and to stand on the side of right. I know that the genuinely good people of the United States will continue to do the same. And we can support our brothers and sisters of all skin colors, backgrounds, religions, cultures, and still support our law enforcement officials. I’m going to keep doing my part.

Appreciation for Those Who Tolerate

The list of people in my life (or who, more accurately WERE in my life) who hurt me and my family by using hateful remarks, posting misinformation and bigoted memes on social media, or worse, forward those same “helpful” gems to me and my husband via email, is a ridiculously long list. And the volume of crap that has been said/written/posted that truly hurts us to our cores is pretty substantial and would leave me with enough material to write about for at least another century. You know, if I chose to wallow in pain and past and the sins of others. Occasionally, I have done this and let’s face it:  Blogging is far less expensive than therapy at $350 per session. But I’m trying to not make this blog just another “bitch session” about family or those who I thought were my friends in some giant passive-aggressive public forum for lambasting those who are inconsiderate or rude or “holier-than-I.”

Instead, I’m cutting caustic relationships from my life. That does not mean that I hate these people. Hate is an emotion that would simply eat up too much of my time and energy. It means that I “nothing them” and will no longer allow them any place of value in my head or heart. I have tried to “bring them around” to the tolerant side of humanity but now that I have a headache from banging my forehead into that proverbial brick wall, I’m done. “Cling to your convictions of judging others and damning those of us who think or believe or look or worship or live differently from you! I’ll just go on doing what I do and thinking and believing and looking and worshiping and living differently and ya know what? I’ll still be happy. Happier in fact, because I ACCEPT that we are never going to agree and I’ve let go,” I shout now from the rooftops of this blog (but without all caps because that’s just annoying.)

I have no prejudices against religions. I grew up Catholic. Most of my family still is Catholic. Some are various forms of Protestant- Methodist, Presbytarian, Unitarian, Evangelical, Nazarene, Baptist, and whatever else is under the sun. (I have a huge family.) I have friends who fall under all of these groups and more. I have Jewish friends, Buddhist friends, Wiccan friends, Atheist friends and Agnostic friends. The key to my getting along with all of these friends and family is the operative words FRIEND. The ones who judge me the most are the family members who are Christian. This is NOT a slight against Christianity. Absolutely not. I have no problems with Christianity. I have many friends who ARE both Christian and Family members. But those loudmouth rude people who claim to speak on behalf of all Christendom by interchangeably using the word Terrorist with Muslim and slamming ethnic/religious groups specifically those who are REFUGEES (that means people who don’t really want to leave their own homelands but don’t have a choice because they fear for the lives and safety of their children and selves) and claiming that they are attempting to take over the world and force them into Islam?????? What is WRONG with you? Do you honestly believe that my Syrian sister who is now widowed and hiding in rubble in her city with her 4 children and WALKS thousands of miles over the course of months or maybe even years to get to a bordering country and then has to sell her belongings, borrow, beg, plead in order to be smuggled across it and continue this journey to a European country and then wait for months on a list to get asylum in order to be brought to the U.S, fearful that her children will be separated from her or worse once she arrives here…..is seriously intent on forcing anyone to become Muslim by force and take over our country?????!

I’ll just let that silliness go right there because you cannot argue with crazy.

Here’s where I tell those of you who are Christian and Buddhist and Jewish and Wiccan and Agnostic and Muslim and Atheist and still not really sure THANK YOU. Thank you for accepting me and my family as we are for who we are. Complete with the flaws and imperfections that design humanity. Thank you for loving us and allowing us to love you. Thank you for defending our rights granted by the same Constitution and Bill of Rights that grant you yours. Thank you for tolerating that which you do not always understand or even agree with. Thank you for continuing to hold doors open and wave your appreciation when I let you merge in front of me when the lane on the freeway you are in is blocked. Thank you for asking about my kids and sending graduation cards and appreciating my asking about your sick child in the hospital or about how your new business is doing. Thank you for allowing me to just be me without all the conditional love and acceptance that is sometimes attached to hidden agendas in relationships. Thank you for your tolerance. Thank you for continuing to teach me to keep living my beliefs, my faith.

THANK YOU

Driving Privilege vs Driving Right

Driving in America has turned into a sort of right of passage. It’s not a new one or anything. Kids in all 48 contiguous continental, as well as Alaska and Hawaii, have for decades been jumping up in front of the issuing offices of their states’ Department of Motor Vehicles in excitement, holding proof of their official welcome to mobility in the form of a 3.5″ x 2″ card with their worst photos ever taken and the last time their true body weights are given sealed under laminate. And here I am, just now teaching my son to drive at the age of 20.

Most who know us assume that it is because we lived overseas for so long. When we got back to the US, my oldest son was 18 and we just had more important things to deal with. Not so. I consciously chose to not get my kids licensed at 16. My second son is 16 and he has begged and pleaded and cajoled and whined for his license. NOPE. He finally told me that it was his right to drive now that he is 16 and I told him the truth. It is a PRIVILEGE to drive at 16. He has no rights until he is 18.

At 18 they have the right to drive. They also have the right to buy their own damn cars and pay for the gas, maintenance, and…*BIG WORD HERE*…..INSURANCE on said cars. My 16 yr old said that my policy comes back to my being a cheapskate. Maybe. But I have rules. And when it comes to driving, these rules are going to make my kids the safest drivers around. You know why? I don’t stop at a 2-year delay.

Did you know that in the state of Texas, in order to obtain a license to fly a single-engine airplane, you have to complete a minimum of 40 hours of flight training including 20 hours of flight training with a licensed instructor pilot with a mandatory 3 hours of cross-country flight instruction and 3 hours of night flying instruction with 10 take-offs and 10 landings for each, and 3 hours of instruction on flight by use of instruments, plus solo flight hours? All this is prior to taking a flight test for the actual pilots license. Usually, that 40-hour minimum is ignored as the average pilot completes between 70 and 100 flight training hours in order to get the experience needed in order to pass that test. With statistics for traffic accidents on the ground being so much greater than the statistics for single-engine airplane accidents, wouldn’t it make sense to have a required number of training hours behind the wheel with a licensed driver as instructor prior to letting our kids drive these 1-ton + pieces of metal, glass and rubber?

Well, that’s the rule in our house. And while I sat in the passenger seat of our van in the parking lot of a closed-down bar in our city last week, explaining to my 20 yr old behind the wheel, why I believe that proper training and confidence in the drivers seat is necessary, he agreed with me. He knows he’s not a young kid anymore and that he needs to learn to drive since he is going to start college in the fall. But he knows that it isn’t about “freedom” to get away from the house and hang out with his friends. He realizes that he is responsible for the control of this large piece of equipment that can harm him and others if he doesn’t take it seriously. And he knows that he is 4 years behind his friends in learning to drive and if he’s embarrassed about having me drop him off or pick him up from hanging with his friends or from the college or from wherever, he doesn’t show it. He always seems grateful that I don’t mind taking him places. He also takes the whole driving thing very seriously and actually thanked me for taking the time to require him to log in “drive time” hours for instruction because he wants to know that he is competent as a driver before being allowed to just take the wheel and go wherever he wants without experience.

The 16 yr old calls him a suck up and thinks that my driving rules are part of my being a control freak since he is fully capable of driving thanks to all the years of practice behind the keyboard playing a PC version of video games like GTA. Pffft. Yeah, right.

STAAR Testing as Seen by a Teenager

He sighs heavily and shoves the books and papers forward across the table as he drops his head in their place, arms outstretched. “I’m never going to pass this stupid test!”

His mother puts the lid back on the pot and wipes her hands on a tea towel. “Sure, you will,” she says encouragingly. “You’re going to go in there and take that test tomorrow and do the very best that you can. You’ll remember everything that your teacher taught you last year, everything the tutor taught you last month, everything that your big brother and I have helped you with. You’re going to be fine.” Inside her head she pushes back the fear that she shares with her son; the WHAT IF?

“But Mom,” he half-whispers with a look of panic on his face, “I don’t get most of these practice questions STILL and I’ve been working on this all summer. I’m not going to be able to do it. I should just focus on getting a job.” His mother runs her hand through his unruly curls and then sits down at the kitchen table next to him.

“Sounds like you already failed and you haven’t even arrived at the testing site yet,” she says. He rolls his eyes.

“You know what I mean. This is the fourth time I’ve taken this dumb test and I don’t want to take it. It just makes me feel stupid!”

“Honey,” his mother says in a serious tone. “This test does not define you. It is not a measuring stick for how smart you are or how talented you are. It’s not even a good measuring stick for seeing how much you learned over the course of a school year. I’ve had teachers tell me that only about 40-50% of the questions are even covered during the curriculum. It’s not really even a good indicator for what the state thinks it’s measuring.”

“What does the state think it’s measuring?” he asks. His mother explains how someone thought that these standardized tests would be a good way to evaluate the ability of teachers based on the number of correct answers chosen by students.
“But what if a student has been absent a lot? That’s not the fault of the teacher. And what about in my situation where I lived in another country my whole life and missed 2 years of school altogether between moves and English lessons once I got here?” The boy brings up valid points that are missed on most politicians.

“Exactly,” his mother agrees. “So, do you think that this test is something that determines how smart you are or how good a person you are or how far you are going to go in life?”

“No,” the boy replies with a look of understanding on his face. “It’s just another stepping stone on my way to graduation. And if I don’t pass it this time, you’ll help me find another way to learn this stuff and I’ll pass it the next time.” Mother hugs son and fusses for him to go back to studying so she can complete the cooking, and prays silently that this will be the time he passes.

On the Edge of New Beginnings

The man-child stood in front of the full length mirror in a borrowed cap and gown, unsure of what this exercise his mother was having him perform was supposed to accomplish. “Yeah, so?”

She gently reached up to touch his shoulder and brush a long lock of his hair away from his face. “Look at you. This is your future. It’s only three days away.” He cocked his head to the side with a quizzical look, still not seeing where she was going with all this.

“I know you think that this whole graduation ceremony thing is just a bunch of traditional hooey that you really couldn’t care less about. You do know that most of this is for your father and me, right?” He nodded his head. “Well, that’s only about 75% true. That remaining 25% is actually for you.” He started to argue but his mother raised her eyebrows in that way and he shut down his own protest before it started.

“Honey, you need to look- really look- in this mirror. Do you see it? Do you see your success? This is you finally completing that long academic journey through childhood. This is you accepting the chapter of your life as a boy. You are standing on the edge of a new beginning; a new chapter of your life that has been written and read only by God. You are about to share in that new chapter.”

His eyes grew wide and then quickly squinted shut in an effort to keep those floodgates closed. The flood won. “Mom, what if….what if I can’t make it? These final exams are so hard and I…..” he trailed off. “I’m scared.”

“Oh, sweetheart!” his mother assured him. “You’re supposed to be. This is perfectly normal.”

“Were you scared, too?” he asked.

“Terrified,” she said.

“But you always know what you’re doing and you are always so sure of yourself,” he argued.

The mother smiled and sighed. “When I was your age, I was paralyzed with fear. I had only the promise of my dad paying for my education with the stipulation that I become an electrical engineer. I would rather have been stabbed in the ear with a hot poker than become an electrical engineer. It was just something that never even blipped on the radar of my plans for myself. I’d only applied to one university as far from home as I could get and I had been accepted but had no way to pay for it. But I knew deep down that I could do it without his help; without compromising.” Her son wiped away the tears that had escaped earlier with his fist, now intrigued by his mother’s admission of fear.

“I stood there on graduation day in my cap and gown. I was so proud of all that I had accomplished. I was nervous and excited and happy and sad and anxious and scared and so very lost in that sea of emotions. And walking across that stage was surreal. It felt like I was watching someone who looked like me taking steps in my shoes, shaking my principal’s hand, and receiving my diploma. It’s like I was merely a spectator. But I remember thinking, ‘I’m an adult now.’ And then, before I
knew it, I was enrolled in the community college and taking classes at night while I worked during the day. And things began to fall into place. And the unknown wasn’t so scary anymore.”

“Yeah, but you were so much smarter then than I am now,” the boy’s voice shook. “What if I can’t do this, Mama?”

“But, honey, what if you CAN?”