Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Open House

Our boys went back to school a few weeks ago. Earlier this week I had opportunity to attend the ‘open house’ at the school to meet their new teachers. Our youngest son is in 3rd grade and doing rather well, socially and academically. Our oldest son is in 6th grade which begins the awkward transition from elementary school to junior high. He has to change classes every hour so the number of teachers we had to see just about doubled. As we expected, his adjustments are going to need more time but we have every hope he will adjust and mature accordingly.

I am very impressed with the teachers that I met and talked with. The teachers were very pleased with our sons and did not have a bad thing to say about them. As a father, I was very happy about that. Parenting, like growing old, is not for the faint hearted! It is a lot of work but I love being a dad. While I do spoil my sons from time to time and I also tend to lean towards being “to permissive”, I have also established firm boundaries in an attempt to maximize their happiness. I try to incorporate the biblical Christian principle of ‘grace’ into our family life. My sons have known their father’s love which I hope is a pale reflection of the Christian theology I have learned from the New Testament.

Regarding their academic progress, I give most of the credit to my wife who bears the burden with the boys in the evening. As working parents, we have a tight schedule during the week. My wife gets up at 4 o’clock in the morning because she works 6am to 2:30pm so she can pick them up right after school and be at home with them in the afternoon and evenings. I work a later schedule, 9am-6pm, but I still try to get up at 4:30 which allows me to see my wife in the morning before she leaves for work. We get a chance to chat while she gets dressed and I make her breakfast and coffee before she has to head out the door.

After she leaves, I have a couple of hours of ‘quiet’ time before I have to transform into “Mr. Mom” when I wake the boys up at 6:30. As the boys have grown older, my main task is to get them up, keep them moving and make them a breakfast. Not so long ago, I had to give them a bath and get them dressed . . wow, time goes by fast!

I try to alternate “hot breakfast” days where they can have pancakes, waffles, omelets or their favorite, cinnamon toast, with “cold breakfast” days where they have cereal or a pop tart. My other tasks involve making our bed, taking care of the dishes, and doing laundry.

We also have charts that hang from their bedroom doors. These charts allow us to track their ‘to do’ list of chores and responsibilities. I have come up with a program in the morning to motivate the boys to be punctual. In order to earn a “four star” start to the day, they have to get up, get their showers, get dressed, eat their breakfast, make their beds and get all dirty clothes / wet towels to the laundry room AND brush their teeth. If they can get four (4) ‘four star starts, on Friday morning I will treat them to a breakfast on the way to school. While they will sometimes request McDonald’s, they are just as content to stop at the Mobil station and get a donut and container of chocolate milk.

I said before, if the boys do exceedingly well in school, it is because of the commitment my wife makes to them in the evening. She directs the boys in the afternoon to get their home work done as well as assisting on projects, book reports and papers. She also will do quizzes to test their level of knowledge. When I come home from work, I usually get to spend 30-60 minutes to read with them before bed time while my wife packs lunches and lays out the clothes she wants them to wear. For the most part, we have the television turned off in the evening which eliminates a major distraction.

Like most parents, I want the best for our kids. My problem, I am not sure what ‘best’ means. Do I want my boys to be rich? Do I want my boys to be successful? While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being wealthy, the pursuit and accumulation of wealth can be ‘vanity and chasing after the wind’. Do I want my boys to be successful? I have known people that were ‘successful’ at their jobs and fail miserably at home with their spouse and children. Sometimes I wonder if we place to much emphasis on ‘education’ as the capstone of human achievement. I have known a lot of morons that that have college degrees. I have also listen to many ‘experts’ with PhD’s that are complete idiots!

Even now, I remember holding my sons when they were babies and holding their little hands up and in desperate prayer asking God to guide the life and the hands whatever they may hold. In my mind’s eye, I saw all kinds of things in those tiny hands: Would they be a mechanic like their Pop Pop and hold wrenches? Would they write the ‘great American novel’ by holding a pen or pencil? Would their skill with a scalpel save a life someday? Would they learn the skills of a craftsman and hold a hammer to build houses or a saw to build furniture? Would they pound a gavel in a courtroom if they followed the path of law? Once I was giving our youngest son a nebulizer treatment for a breathing problem he had and I could not help but wonder if he might be a fighter pilot someday.

In the end, what really matters to me, is what kind of mechanic, or what kind of writer, or what kind of person they are. The pursuit of occupation should be the pursuit of their dreams and inspirations so far as they learn to provide food, clothing and shelter for themselves and for their family. Schools may allow learning and the increase in knowledge, but as the ancient scribes knew long ago, knowledge is a passing thing but wisdom, like love, is eternal.