Raising Children: Attending Summer School

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

Tags: children, Shelby, parenting,

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.

cindy murphy
8/18/2009 5:28:29 AM

Yep, Michelle, it was unfair that she was judged based on her looks and age, (just as it was unfair your daughter was judged the same way). But Shelbs did the exact same thing - she judged the evening's boredom factor based on the average age of the audience. I could have pointed that out to her, but I suspended her community service that night ONLY if she could tell me what she learned from the experience, and it took her a while to make the connection between the program topic, the judgement that was passed on her, and the judgement she placed on the elderly. Discrimination takes many forms, and they're all unfair. Ya can't judge a book based on its cover, but unfortunately people do....which probably is a reason she had to rearrange so many books on the shelves at the library.

michelle house
8/17/2009 8:29:46 PM

Hey Cindy, that is just awful that they misjudged her based solely on her looks, so unfair. And especially since the topic was discrimination. Ugh, nice of you, to suspend that time, it certainly wasn't her fault they were like that. My oldest used to dress like a thug, baggy pants, baggy shirts, etc.. her and her friends would get rousted by the MPs on post just for hanging out a playground. Clothes, nor hair make the person. Michelle :)

cindy murphy
8/16/2009 9:47:58 AM

HA, Lori! Yes, it'd be nice if children came with a manual. Only problem would be that "The Mom's Handbook" would be a twenty volume set. Each volume would be so thick, an entire room would be needed to house them. And since every child is different, they'd need to come with their own volume set! I wonder if there is a Reader's Digest condensed version out there somewhere?

cindy murphy
8/16/2009 9:36:26 AM

I really wish I would learn there's a word limit to these comments. To finish where I left off.... Since her community service that night wasn't performed, I let her off the hook by using the experience as a lesson. She'd prejudged the elderly people when we walked in; she looked at the elderly crowd, and immediately said to me the program was going to be boring. She was prejudged based on her strange hair. Ironically, the program topic was about Jewish immigrants settling in this rural area because they were discriminated against in the larger cities. It took a bit of prodding to get her to see the correlation between the three things, but it finally clicked: it's wrong to judge people based solely on age, looks, religion and race - a lesson learned in school, but something she never experienced first hand. Every experience is a lesson, and sometimes they stick better is learned the hard way.

cindy murphy
8/16/2009 9:26:50 AM

Hi, Michelle. I think it's great you helped your daughter dye her hair; it probably helped to create a special bond between you both. With so many restrictions (and rightly so) placed on kids by parents, school, employers and even peers, choosing a personal style is one way - and probably the most benign way - they can express themselves. Back in high-school when hair-styles were long, I had short short pixie hair with a bleached platinum blonde streak down the side, and I turned out just fine....at least, I'm pretty sure I did. I shoulda known way back that Shelby would have her own look; when she was about four she insisted on wearing her purple snowboots everywhere. This was during the sweltering summer months, and she wore them with shorts or sundresses. I could not convince her that she'd be more comfortable in different footwear, or that it just looked strange. Her hair style has gotten mixed reviews. Some of her friends love it; others hate it. Same with adults. During her period of community service, I had arranged for her to help clean up after an evening program at the Historical Society. We listened to the program in a packed standing-room-only full of elderly people; she was the only child in attendance. She was stared at, pointed toward, and whispered about by those in attendance. Afterward, the man who agreed to let her help, after thinking about it during the talk, (and giving her disapproving looks throughout) decided there wasn't really anything she could do to help afterall. Conversely, an older woman came up and smiling sheepishly, asked if she could touch it; she was dying to know what the spikes felt like. Their conversation was cute; the woman recalled back in her day, her style was different than everybody else's too. Since her community service that night wasn't performed, I let her off the hook by using the experience as a lesson. She'd prejudged the elderly people when we walked in;

8/16/2009 7:34:45 AM

Cindy, I have a 22 year old daughter that is married to our wonderful son-in-law, and a 20 year old son that still lives at home. Believe me, I CAN RELATE! Foolish me, I used to think things would get easier as the kids got older. You know, once the baby is potty trained, things will be so much easier...that kind of thing. Problem is it never does get easier, because there is always a bigger challenge around the corner! The teen years are the most challenging! Then, when your child finally reaches 18 years, (an adult right?),It would be nice to say" OK, my job is done!" It doesn't work that way either, and at that point you can give your best advice to your children, and hope they take that along with what they've learned in life thus far, and make good decisions. That doesn't always happen either. And when you know your child is making a bad decision, then what? You can tell them so, tell them why, but ultimately, you have to let them make their own mistakes and hope they learn from them later! I Have two wonderful, outgoing children with great personalities! I just wish parenting came with a manual, like a car. When something happens, you simply look at how to fix it! Wouldn't that be nice?

michelle house
8/15/2009 12:20:42 PM

LOL, I loved this one, I raised 3 girls, and I agree with you about the clothes, I felt the same way, clothes will change, hair will change, I once helped my middle, dye her 4 inches of the bottom of her hair purple, the top was blonde, her friends were amazed that a mom would do that. LOL. The structure they painted looks, beautiful, a perfect fit in a kids park. Michelle

cindy murphy
8/14/2009 10:16:13 PM

Yes, Shelby is Awe...er, I mean, Yo Mama Dear, it's way too bad she had to go through that harsh punishment...but if you, er, I mean "she" did what she was supposed to in the first place.... And after all that, you're still my biggest fan? Maybe I'm not such the Mean Mom after-all, huh? Go ahead and admit it - we had fun together, didn't we? At least during part of your time served? And you learned something? Maybe next time we can do it under different circumstances...which doesn't involve you getting in trouble first. Hostages prefer a soil loose enough that they don't become root-bound-and-gagged. Oh, and where are your capital letters? Good thing you used them in your essay; it would have been a do-over if you hadn't. Love, Mom. P.S. You left your participle dangling in mid-air again.

shelby is awesome_1
8/14/2009 6:14:43 PM

omg cindy! love love loooooove the blog girlfriend! your kid shelby and her friend keri sound like the bees knees! too bad she had to go through that harsh punishment... oh! ps- do you what kind of soil hostages need to be planted in?? your biggest fan, yo mama:)

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