Raising Children: Attending Summer School

| 8/12/2009 5:17:14 PM

CindyMurphyBlog.jpgAh, the joys of parenting. From the moment of birth, every new experience is a lesson for both the parent and the child. Starting with the first tentative step, followed by the first skinned knee, parenting is a series of ups and downs. You praise your children’s accomplishments, and you help them work through their disappointments, all the while trying to instill in them a set of morals that you believe will help them grow to be responsible, caring people. There will be moments of intense pride. Conversely, it’s inevitable that there will be periods they’ll stumble. Even good kids make bad decisions, but you hope that they’ll learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. Enter the teenaged years, and with gained independence comes greater accomplishments and, unfortunately, bigger mistakes.

Shelby is a good kid. She’s a bright child in every sense of the word. Her colorful clothing matches her sunny disposition. She’s smart, creative, and witty, and when she uses those traits in combination, she’s the Queen of One-liners, laced with a biting sarcasm that seems much beyond her thirteen years. Other times, she’s just plain goofy. She oozes enthusiasm for life with every bouncy step she takes. She is both my sweet angel, and my scary monster under the bridge.

Shelby as scary monster under the bridge

Keith and I were so proud of her accomplishments during her Middle School Promotion back in June. In a sea of boys in shirts and ties their mothers laid out for them to wear, and girls decked out in sparkles and gold shoes worthy of high-school prom night, Shelby bounced up to receive her “President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence,” given for maintaining an “A” average in every semester of all three years of middle school ... and she received it in her funky, spiked hair with the silly bow, a patterned peace sign dress, and black high-top Converse tennis shoes.


“How could you let her dress like that for graduation?!” my friend uttered. Huh? Part of being a parent, I believe, is teaching children that who they are is more important than how they look ... or how someone else thinks they should look. Conformity isn’t all it’s cracked up be. Do we really want our children to be die-cast Stepford cookie-cutter models of what we think of as the perfect child. I like her quirks and her Shelbyisms, and whatever phases of hair styles and clothing she goes through, I hope she never loses that in an effort to conform to somebody else’s standards. Even Keith, though proud of her academic achievement, was disappointed in the way she looked – I was disappointed in him for saying so. I saw it differently: I thought she looked exactly like Shelby – her appearance fit her personality to a tee, and I wouldn’t have expected it any other way. But it didn’t matter that I thought she looked cute; it wasn’t about what Keith or anybody else thought. It was her night to shine, and if she wanted to shine wearing high-top sneakers, that was her choice. I was as proud of her confidence in expressing her individuality, as I was in the award she earned.

Cindy Murphy
8/27/2009 7:18:19 PM

Hi, Dave. You brought up some great points. I like that you used the word "perspective" when talking about how your children see things now as they look back on childhood experiences. Isn't it funny how we all see things differently. When Mom, my brothers, and I get together, each of us has a different view about things we did, (and what my Mom saw us do), as kids. I might see this community service gig of Shelby's one way twenty years from now; she might see it completely differently. That she might remember it twenty years from now will be a testament that it accomplished more than a typical grounding would have done. I also really like the way you put this: "They really can look past all the tattoos, hair styles, baggy wild colored clothes, and body hardware that make most older people shudder and shake their head in disgust." Even at Shelby's age, I can see this. Every school-age generation has their own set of classifications within the whole. It seems as if past generations stayed within their own group, and to cross the line was something to be looked down upon. Remember "West Side Story", "The Outsiders", and my generation's "The Breakfast Club"? The groups are still there today, though the names are different - Goth, Emo, Scene; the Jocks, the Preps, and the Nerds remain the same. It's not just tolerance, but teenagers of this generation, are a lot more accepting of those outside their group, and do (what I call) cross-pollinate, that is, there is no distinction when it comes down to what's behind the look. To put a spin on Michelle's comment, clothes and hair might complete the look, and to them, the look is definitely important, but it doesn't make the person. It'll be interesting to see how this transfers into the adult world, with adult views. Thanks for the word-limit tips! I've probably exceeded it already!

Nebraska Dave
8/26/2009 10:18:20 AM

Cindy, I've discovered that the word limit is 365. I use Microsoft Word to craft the comments then copy it into the comment section. Word keeps a running word count so I always know when I'm about to exceed the limit.

Nebraska Dave
8/26/2009 10:15:44 AM

Cindy, This is a great blog about raising kids. I want to encourage you and all the others who read this blog to know that kids do remember the learning moments and it does help them in later life. Two of my kids are now approaching 40 years old. After age 30, they began to open up and talk about all the growing up years from their perspective. Some of the things I did I’m quite embarrassed to even remember, but then there are those things just like the one you described in your blog, Cindy, that will be a good remembrance as they begin to raise their own kids. This Bridger generation (born 1984 and later) have broken the mold of the Builder and Boomer generations. Gone are the days of going to college, finding a job, and retiring at 40 years with a gold watch. They are blasting into a new millennium with new ideas, new concepts of work, and new ways to look. They are the future of this country and are moving into that responsibility with a fresh, different, wild perspective compared to their parents and grandparents. Personally I love being around this new generation because they have so much energy that it oozes off onto me. They really can look past all the tattoos, hair styles, baggy wild colored clothes, and body hardware that make most older people shudder and shake their head in disgust. Technology to these kids has become an extension of who they are and to be caught without a cell phone would be almost the same as a missing appendage. Our job as parents, as it always has been, is to help them discover and develop their talents to make the world a better place to live, to teach them to follow the straight and right path of life, and to live with integrity and honesty. I for one salute this new generation coming into maturity. I have confidence that they will indeed step into their role and guide this country into a new exciting direction that will make our country even stronger and more of a leader in the world community.

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