Saturday, August 29, 2009

Is The Light Green?

One of the great joys of my life was picking up my kids after work! No matter what happened during the day, good and bad, everything was quickly forgotten when I saw my kids’ faces!!

When my daughter was about 18 months old (our only child at that time), I would often play the following game with her: When I stopped at a red traffic light, I would tell her that I was going to grab a quick nap and that I wanted her to pay close attention to the red light and let me know when it turned green.

Of course, I wasn’t really sleeping. Rather, it was my way of teaching her about traffic lights and responsibility. After all, if she didn’t tell me when the light turned green, it’s possible that I would continue to “sleep” and not drive home!!

So, without fail, I would pretend to sleep, with my left eye partially opened to see the light, while she stared intensively at the red light waiting for it to turn green. And, also without fail, she quickly alerted me to the fact that the light had turned green. As a part of the slapstick routine, I quickly acted as though I had been instantly awakened from a very deep sleep! I always began to drive while profusely thanking her for all of her help, thereby reaffirming her alertness, sense of responsibility, and her ability to read the lights!

This little routine carried on for several months. One time, however, the light turned green and she did not tell me!!!! Well, since I was looking at the light with my partially opened left eye, I pretended to wake up at that exact moment and I said something to the effect that the light had turned green. With that little announcement, I began to drive home.

I asked her why she had not alerted me to the green light. She told me that she was just about to tell me that it had turned green, but that I had awakened before she had been able to do so. She had a confirming and knowing smirk on her face!! O.K., was she really about to tell me or was it a sign that she was on to the game? Hmmmmmm!!

The next day, after picking her up and making the drive home, we stopped at a red light. Almost upon cue, I told her that I was going to take a nap and that she needed to let me know when the light turned green. I partially kept my left eye opened to see the light and I partially kept my right eye opened to see her!! Guess what I saw???????? A cute little 23-month-old girl STARING AT ME – NOT THE LIGHT!!!!!!!

Yes, she had caught on to my little scam. Her dad had never been sleeping at the light – he had been tricking his favorite daughter the whole time!! Of course, to keep the scam alive as long as possible, I kept pretending to sleep each time over the next few months. Each time, I noted that she was staring at me and not the light. I would always have to instantly “awaken” when the light turned green and then continue driving!!! Before the age of 2-years-old, she had managed to take control of the scam!!

At some point, probably when she was about 30 months old, I finally asked her why she was always staring at me and not the light. She asked me how I knew that she was staring at me when I was sleeping!! Yikes!! I had to confess that I had never actually been sleeping at the red lights. Rather, I was just training her to watch for the lights and to learn how to help others.

She then confessed that she had known that all along. She further told me that it had not made any sense that her dad would engage in such a dangerous practice on the road. So, early on, she began to check me out and she discovered that I had not actually been sleeping. But, trying to be a dutiful daughter, she decided to continue the game as along as I was willing to play it!!

So, are your kids watching you? Oh yes, they are watching you all of the time!! Do your kids know when you’re scamming them? Oh yes, they do!!

Lesson learned? – Always be honest with your kids, behave in a responsible manner in which they can always be proud, and, oh yes, play the occasional scam game with them, as it will let them know that you’re capable of having fun while trying to teach them lessons that they will learn and keep forever!!

Also, the occasional fun scam game allows for great conversation in later years with your kids! And, yes, I just know that my daughter is going to play this same scam game with her kids someday!!!!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beware of UNDERWEAR??

During the teaching portion of my career, during the years before my daughter was born and while she was quite young, I had a practice of ironing my five dress shirts for the coming week on Sunday evenings while I listened to a local and live sports show on the radio. As it was a terrific way to pass a couple of hours (hey, I never claimed to be a speedster at ironing – just efficient!), I didn’t mind the Sunday evening routine.

One day, a student’s mother came to visit me on a variety of issues with regard to her son. She was late for the appointment. She explained that her lateness was due to the fact that she had to pick up her husbands shirts from the cleaners.

Prior to that meeting, I had never thought of taking my shirts to the cleaners. And, even after thinking about the 2-hour per week savings of my time, I couldn’t pull the trigger on the luxury – the thought of having other people perform a simple task for me for money seemed to be a colossal waste of money ….. but, the thought of saving the two hours each week also seemed inviting. What was my time worth?

I thought about this scenario many times over the next few years – especially on Sunday evenings! During this time, it was noted that other teachers often treated themselves to a gift upon entering the land of school administration – often it was a new car, a new boat, a fancy vacation, etc.

I decided that my gift to myself would be …. you guessed it, I would pay somebody else to iron my shirts when I someday left the teaching ranks to move into the Principal’s Office! But, for the next few years, I continued to iron my own shirts every Sunday night while listening to the local sports radio show.

And, then finally, the great move to the Principal’s Office arrived!! I kept my promise to myself and I gathered up all of my dress shirts, stuffed them into a large garbage bag, and then placed the bag near the door for transport to the cleaners during the next morning.

The next morning, the greatly anticipated moment was upon me!! Keeping my promise to myself, I placed the large garbage bag of shirts into my car and drove to the cleaners. With a great feeling of satisfaction – after all, I waited several years for this moment of gratification and I was actually becoming a Principal – I walked in to the cleaners and, with a touch of nervousness (I still felt a little guilty about this reward!), I told the approximately 50-year-old female clerk that I had several shirts for cleaning and ironing. She told me to empty the bag on the counter.

I quickly and eagerly dumped all of the contents on the counter ...... approximately 20 dress shirts and ..... ONE PAIR OF A LITTLE GIRL'S FLOWERED UNDERWEAR!!!!!! The clerk gave me a strange look, I mumbled something about the underwear belonging to my daughter, I nervously explained that I was unclear as to how it got there, and then I waited for 100 hours (it was probably only 1 minute, but it seemed like 100 hours!!!!) to get my receipts and quickly beeline it out of the store!!!

When I got home, still quite red-faced about the incident, I asked my 3-year-old daughter if she had placed a pair of her underwear in the large garbage bag by the door. She gleefully said “YES”. She seemed to be joyful and quite proud of her admission. The explanation? She knew that I was quite excited with my delayed reward and she thought that it would be a great idea to share the reward with her – so she placed a pair of her flowered and decidedly quite feminine underwear in her masculine father’s dress shirt bag, so that her underwear could also be washed and ironed just like her dad’s shirts!!!!!!

Yes, as my daughter could clearly see that her dad was jubilant over the fact that he would now have his shirts laundered, she wanted to share in the joy!!!!!

It’s a great feeling when a child wants to share the joy with a parent .. but, uh, check the contents of the large garbage bag BEFORE you leave the house!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jennifer's Story (2)

(Continued from August 1, 2009) ........ As I continued to question Jennifer, I learned that her dad was frequently out of town on business and her mother, whom she loved very much, was often gone attending community functions. As a result, Jennifer was often alone in her house. Since she could not have friends over when her parents were gone and since she was not allowed to use the telephone during the same periods (after all, her dad might call in at any moment – fortunately, he did regularly check-in with the family!), she turned to other sources of pleasure.

Yes, she turned to the world of inhalants, particularly spray paint and hair spray. Again, her acting out in class was a call for attention, not only for direct and loving attention and interaction, but a call for help to deliver her from the inhalants.

We managed to get Jennifer away from the inhalants, her mother began to stay home more, and her dad got a new job that kept him home on most nights. Interestingly, Jennifer’s “hilarious” behavior became calmer. She was happier, but not as funny to the rest of the world. Yes, a less funny/non-inhalant Jennifer was better than her former self! And, oh yes, the teachers stopped worrying when their backs were turned to the blackboards!

I suppose that we lost a future stand-up comedian, but we gained an intelligent young lady who is now destined to be successful in her life!!

As I have often said, they are your kids. As such, please, please, PLEASE do not allow them to grow up alone without your direct and daily guidance and influence. Their "stimulants" should be YOU and not other sources, i.e., drugs, inhalants, alcohol, and other vices that will serve to bring about colossal damage.

Yes, life can be really busy and important, but nothing is more important than you children! Spend the necessary time with them and help to guide them into (and sometimes through) adulthood!

Hang in there and continue your great work with your kids!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jennifer's Story (1)

Jennifer was one of the funniest middle school kids that I had ever met. She had a quick wit with kids and adults. In fact, her sense of humor was more in line with adults than with other kids. For a brief period, I truly believed that she was going to grow up to be a stand-up comedian. She seemed to have all of the tools!

However, she also seemed to engage in somewhat daring behaviors that concerned all of her teachers and me. For laughs, Jennifer was the student who would sneak out of a teacher’s room to get a drink of water and then sneak back in without getting caught. Jennifer was also the student who would shoot a rubber band at the chalkboard, narrowly missing the teacher each time. She was also the student who let a mouse loose in the middle of a math exam. Jennifer regularly engaged in several of these daring behaviors, all of which seemed to be on the edge of danger!

None of her teachers ever suspected that Jennifer was the culprit. After all, she was so darned funny with a quick wit and fun-loving personality, that she was never considered to be a suspect in any shenanigans …….. until one day when I walked into her English class just in time to see her throw a marble at a teacher’s file cabinet while the teacher’s back was turned. The noise, of course, stunned the teacher. The other kids in the class, as I would later discover, were used to this “hilarious” behavior from Jennifer.

Although I was on my way to a meeting, I called Jennifer to the hallway. I began by chastising her for throwing the marble at the teacher’s file cabinet. I then continued to admonish her, as I told her that I had expected more from her. I told her that I could not believe that one of the best students in the school had just thrown a marble in the classroom and that, as her Principal, I was horrified that she could commit such a grievous act. Well, within seconds, Jennifer began to cry. At first I thought that she was crying because she, a perfect student in most eyes, had committed an act that would probably get her suspended from school. However, after she and I went to my office, she began to unload the true reasons for her crying.

Jennifer then shared all of her less-than-perfect acts over the past several months, including regularly throwing items in class, sneaking out of classes, and letting mice loose in classes! Jennifer told me that she was extremely unhappy, but she did not know why. This girl, who was the funniest kid in the school, who would made adults laugh and then repeat her hilarious stories in the teachers' lounge, who seemed to have more friends than any 10 kids put together, was miserable inside. Her acts were her subconscious way of screaming for help!

Come back next week for the conclusion. Thank you!

Paul W. Reeves