Dinnertime was a battlefield this week (as I may have mentioned). I waged war on Big Sis's aversion to locking her lips while chewing (AKA "smacking," as my own mother unaffectionately calls it), and she fired back on the quality of my cuisine. Playing the "What Was the Best Part of Your Day?" game at mealtime had us all answering internally, Duh...not this dinner hour.
Big Sis has required some extra attention lately. It comes in waves. Sometimes, Husband and I look at each other with the unspoken high-five, the our-kids-are-so-darned-great (scratch wood) agreement. Then we get our comeuppance. We've added new responsibilities and requirements in this latest round of Reality Check with second grader. Among them, Child Doesn't Eat Breakfast Till Rabbit Gets His Kibble, and Towel Meets Doorknob (Not Carpet).
We have been harping; seven-year-old has been crying.
Meanwhile, this evening families, friends, and community members gathered on the beach and watched the sunset in memory of our student who passed away last week. During the reception afterwards was an opportunity to share thoughts and memories of the young man we all miss.
His father spoke, taking deep gulps, his voice cracking. "I believe there will be ripples which will spread as a result of this tragedy.
"I tried to emphasize the important things as I parented my son: honesty, integrity, love, and loyalty. He and his friends have taught me more about them this week.
"His death has reminded me what's important, and what's not important.
"To all the parents out there: stand like a rock on the big stuff, like honesty and integrity. Don't sweat the small stuff, like towels on the floor."
I thought about Big Sis. About our new towel rule. About my pursed lips at each bite she chewed with her mouth open. About unhappy moments in our household this week. I gulped too.
"Your kid coming home with ears pierced and tattoos?" He nodded at his son's friends. "Those aren't deal breakers."
I went over to give our student's mom a hug before I left the memorial to head home to my family. "I'll always remember you telling me," she gazed at me, "as he racked up the tardies, 'Let's keep this in perspective.' And also, 'You know, he actually has a philosophical reason for being late.'" She smiled, and I suddenly remembered my attendance conversation with her son and my follow-up conversation with her. He had charmed me with his reasoning. But he had also reminded me, Minder of Attendance, of what's important.
And his mother and father reminded me how often it is easier for me to be understanding and forgiving of my students than of my own people.
Being on time can be important; eating politely can be important; being responsible for things, including towels and carpets, can be important.
But being real, being loving, and being generous with one's time and one's energy are important, always.
That's the lesson he left his friends and family, and that's the lesson I took home tonight.
Thank you, D.