Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dad and Son in Concert (Pt.1)

Well, in another stroke of good fortune, it has happened again! While 2009 presented the first-ever opportunity for me to perform with all three of my children in public, 2010 allowed for a smaller version of a repeat performance, as I was able to perform with one of my children.

At the concert, on a perfect evening to be outside and after I had played several tunes, some jazz classics and some original smooth jazz originals, I was about to call my youngest son (16-years-old) to the stage to sit down and play the drum set that was behind me. (Similar to last year, the organizers of the concert series had asked the performers to spotlight some youth on their program).

At any rate, I began to slightly panic, as I could not find him in the audience. While trying to remain calm, I turned around to look at the drum set and …. there he was, seated at the tubs and ready to go ….. the natural ham in him was shining through!

With our practice time behind us, it was time to show the audience our “stuff”. After I played through the melody and took a solo on the vibes, I stepped off of the stage to give him the full spotlight and the whole attention of the audience. He took full advantage of the opportunity, as he launched into a massive drum solo that allowed for him to show off his technique and musical ideas.

While the crowd offered polite and somewhat enthusiastic applause for me after each one of my solos, they went crazy for him!!!!! Loud and bombastic appreciation for my son’s efforts were offered and they were well deserved, as my son has diligently worked over the past several years to become a topflight percussionist.

To digress for a moment, when I was his age, my high school band director sold the school’s drum set and ordered a new one. For about five weeks before the new set arrived, the only “drum set” on which I had to play at school involved just a bass drum, snare, one cymbal, and a hi-hat.

One school day, a professional drummer visited our class to hear me play. I told him that my efforts might not be all that terrific, as I was shortchanged on the current drum set. He told me something that day that I have never forgotten. He said, (paraphrased), “Anybody can play a drum set if they have a million drums and cymbals, as they can rely on the instrument to carry them through if they do not have talent or musical ideas. However, a drummer with a limited drum set has to be really good to shine through. So, Paul, if you can sound good today on this little drum set, then I know that you are a good drummer.”

Well, I must have sounded O.K., because he later hired me to be his own drummer in the college band that he directed! So, what did my son do ........?

(Please come back next week for the conclusion)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Honor Society = Sad (Pt.2)

(Continued from October 16, 2010) …… As the inductees gathered with me in the hallway for the processional, I noticed that Mary was absent. Mary was a terrific student and a very nice girl. She would often get a pass to the office just to talk about life in general. 

It has been my experience that, when kids voluntarily get multiple passes to the office to see the Principal, it is either because they have natural political ability or they just need somebody to listen to them. Mary seemed to have both reasons for her visits – unfortunately, I would later learn that it was the lack of love and attention in her home life that led to her visits more than her political ambitions.

At any rate, the entire ceremony came off perfectly, parents and other family members in tears with photo cameras and video cameras going at full tilt. Yes, a gorgeous, beautiful evening for the “best of the best” – but not for Mary, as she did not show up!

Early the next morning before school started, I searched for Mary. I found her down a hallway, seemingly pleasant as always and not upset. In fact, I was a little puzzled as to her outwardly happy demeanor. I asked why she had blown off the National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony, as she was one of the “best of the best”?

Her answer made me want to find another home for her. She told her parents about it, but they said that they did not care. As it came time to leave the home, the mom and dad announced that the whole family would be traveling to a hardware store to get supplies for the dad’s home fix-it project.

Mary protested because she wanted to go to the ceremony. Her parents yelled at her and told her that she could not go. Mary, who lived within walking distance of the school, then asked if she could walk to the ceremony and bypass the trip to the hardware store. Not only did her parents continue to yell at her, but they then grounded her for a month!

Well, that is just great. They raised a child who, despite the apparent lack of attention from the parents, appeared to be on the road to success. But they would not support her efforts and then grounded her for pushing the issue! In reality, if Mary had been an awful student and had not qualified for the highest honor of the school, she would not have been grounded. What kind of lesson was that for Mary to learn?

I had called the parents and asked them to come to school to meet with me (it was mid-June at the time). The dad said that he did not have time to meet, but that he would call me over the summer to set up some time. Two weeks later, I learned that the family had moved away, so Mary would not be returning to our school and I would never get the chance to meet with the parents.

I wish that I had a happy ending for this post, but I don’t. Some kids get a raw deal from their parents. Some kids need to get new parents, people who would love them, support them, and share in their successes.

As I said at the beginning, DO NOT become like Mary’s parents. Love your kids with everything that you have – they need you!

Out of curiosity, if you could have met with Mary’s parents, what would you have said or asked? Let me know.

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Honor Society = Sad (Pt.1)

Do you go to ALL of your kids’ events? As I have often written, whether it’s sports, dance, music, etc., your kids want you there, even if they sometimes tell you to stay home!

However, if an unavoidable circumstance occurs (can’t get the time off of work, there is a meeting that can’t be missed or you’ll be in trouble, etc.), your kids will understand, as long as it does not occur every single time!

But, whether you can attend or not, please DO NOT ever do what the parents of “Mary” did while I was her Principal. In fact, just reliving the story for this blog makes me sad for Mary. Here are the details:

At my school, we tried to make the National Junior Honor Society the biggest event of the year. Student inductees wore suits and dresses, seemingly dressed for Easter Sunday, while parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, etc., showed up to sit in the audience, all equally well dressed!

I actually referred to the kids as the “best of the best”, as they had to have a high grade point average, maintain a good behavioral record, be involved in at least one school activity, get recommended by at least 6 of their 7 teachers, get approval from the teacher-led School Improvement Committee, and get the final nod from me to be eligible for induction.

Every year, we made this the biggest night of the year, as we got a chance to honor the students who had excelled in every phase of school life. I often said that our goal was to be so good, that everybody would get inducted each year. However, that was never the case – only about 10%- 15% of the students made the final grade for induction.

After the final list of inductees was approved, I called the kids down and gave them letters to take home for their parents. I also mailed a copy of the letter to the parents on the same day. The letter was filled with accolades for the kids, as we wanted to ensure that everybody knew that being inducted in to the National Junior Honor Society was a HUGE deal that was offered to only a few!

Although we had tremendous success each year with the induction ceremony, a moment occurred one year that was quite sad. After spending a few days practicing for the ceremony, including working on speeches, lighting the candles, taking the pledge, and learning how to walk on and off stage and properly shake hands with me, we were ready for the big night!

(Please come back next Saturday for the conclusion)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The "WawClaw"

I have often been asked if kids exhibit personality traits as little tykes that are also clearly visible when they become adults. For everybody else’s kids, the answer is a resounding YES! For my own kids, at least for my daughter, the answer is a firm NO COMMENT! You see, my daughter reads this blog and ….. well, read on for details!

When my daughter was about 14-months-old, she spent her days at the home of a relative (we’ll call her “Aunt Peg”). Aunt Peg was like a second mother to my daughter, as she took care of her, taught a few things about life, bought clothes for her, and spoiled the daylights out of her.

Since my daughter spent so much time with Aunt Peg, she began to pick up some of her habits, just like she was picking up our habits at home.

While we preferred to call items by their rightful names and even introduced a plethora of big words to our kids (see my post from September 5, 2009), Aunt Peg, unbeknownst to me at the time, liked to make up babyish names for items around the house, such as “shoozies” for shoes, “bikelee” for bicycle, and “wawclaw” for washcloth.

One evening at bath time, I told my daughter that I needed the washcloth. She gave me a funny look and giggled a little bit, but then handed the washcloth to me. This scenario played out a few more times, each time with my daughter giving me a funny look and laughing, but then handing the washcloth to me.

I could not figure out why she found the term “washcloth” to be humorous. I also could not figure out the funny look that she gave to me when I said the word.

Finally, at another bath time, I asked her for the washcloth. The following conversation ensued:

Daughter: “Oh sure, dad, here’s the wawclaw.”
Dad: “The wawclaw”?
Daughter: “Sure, that’s what it’s called.”
Dad: “What is it called”?
Daughter: “A wawclaw.”
Dad: “Actually, it is called a washcloth.”
Daughter: “No, Aunt Peg said that it is a wawclaw, so it’s a wawclaw.”
Dad: “No, seriously, it is called a washcloth.”
Daughter: “Daddy, you’re silly. Everybody knows that it is a wawclaw!”

At this point, I was beginning to sense a scam, but I was not sure, as she seemed to be quite serious. So, I continued:

Dad: "Really, now, we can be cute by calling it a wawclaw, but it’s really called a washcloth.”
Daughter: “Daddy, really, it’s a wawclaw, not a w-a-s-h-c-l-o-t-h!” (she slowly spoke the word “washcloth” with a hint of disdain at the obvious level of idiocy that was being exhibited by daddy!)
Dad: “Seriously, the real name of it is washcloth.”
Daughter: “Daddy, you’re silly, it is called a wawclaw, not a w-a-s-h-c-l-o-t-h!" (She again spoke very slowly, like she was addressing a feeble old man!).
Dad: (Trying to get the point home without going on forever): “Well, why don’t you ask Aunt Peg for the real name of the item and we’ll talk about it tomorrow night”?
Daughter: “O.K., I will, but I already know the answer – it’s a wawclaw!”

As I picked my daughter up from Aunt Peg’s house the next day, I asked her if she inquired as to the true name of the item. My daughter told me that she had inquired, but she did not want to talk about it right now.

Interesting!! At this point, even though I should have taken some level of mercy on this adorable 14-month-old young lady, I couldn’t resist moving in for the victory.

Dad: “So, what did Aunt Peg say?”
Daughter: “I don’t want to talk right now.”
Dad: “She told you that it’s a washcloth, didn’t she”?
Daughter: “She did, but I'm still going to call it a wawclaw!”

So, let’s see, we have a 14-month-old daughter who did the following:

-- Laughed at her dad when she believed that he had made a mistake
-- Tried her best to keep from correcting him
-- Finally, she had to correct the dad after days of repeated miscues
-- Eventually learned that her dad had been correct
-- No longer wanted to discuss the issue
-- Finally briefly discussed the issue, but announced that she still wanted it her way 

So, do personality traits in little tykes still exist when the whippersnappers become adults? Well, again, for everybody else’s kids, the answer is a resounding YES!

For my daughter? Did she grow up to just like her 14-month-old self? Uh, well, um, …… since she reads this blog, NO COMMENT!

So, how about you? Do you remember any silly words that your kids used and then insisted that they were correct? If so, let me know and we’ll laugh together!!

Have a terrific week!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 2, 2010

10 Parenting Tips - Part 3

(Continued from September 25, 2010) ...... 

7. Learn to listen to your children. It is easy for us to tune out the talk of our children. One of the greatest things we can do for them is to take them seriously and set aside time to listen.

There is not much to add to this one. When your kids talk, listen all of the time! I don’t care what I am doing at the time, whether it is working, practicing, reading, studying, etc., when my kids need or want to talk to me, I am there for them.

8. Get deeply involved in your child’s school life. School is the main event in the lives of our children. Their experience there is a mixed bag of triumphs and disappointments. How they deal with them will influence the course of their lives. Helping our children become good students is another name for helping them acquire strong character.

It comes down to this: If you convey to your children that you believe in the value of school, education, and the learned discipline that it takes to be successful, along with the constant monitoring of their school work and events, your child will most likely take it seriously and do his/her best.

After several years of working with students and parents, I have learned the following: When parents are visible, involved, present, and available for their kids’ homework and projects, the kids tend to do well in school. When the parents are absentee, don’t show for school events, and do not assist with homework and projects, well, those are the kids that keep counselors and assistant principals employed and quite busy.

Stay involved, speak regularly with your child about school, as well as his/her teachers and other school officials, and monitor his/her homework to ensure that all goals are being met. Your child will then be given the opportunity to develop into a successful, hardworking, and highly disciplined adult!

9. Make a big deal out of the family meal. One of the most dangerous trends in America is the dying of the family meal. The dinner table is not only a place of sustenance and family business but also a place for the teaching and passing on of our values. Manners and rules are subtly absorbed over the table. Family mealtime should communicate and sustain ideals that children will draw on throughout their lives.

This is one of the tougher goals to keep with busy lifestyles, work, and kids’ activities. However, one only needs to read Dr. Ryan’s point #9 again to understand the true value in eating together. In addition, it gives you at least one time per day to be together as a group. Further, the consistency and setting of traditions will give your kids grounding and a safe feeling in life. 

10. Do not reduce character education to words alone. We gain virtue through practice. Parents should help children by promoting moral action through self-discipline, good work habits, kind and considerate behavior to others, and community service. The bottom line in character development is behavior--their behavior.

Again, your kids will model their behavior after you right from the beginning. Do you go to church? Do you watch inappropriate TV shows? Do you tithe at church? Do you get home at 3:00 a.m. in the morning after a night of “partying”? Do you volunteer and help people? The list of questions can go on and on. However, the point is this: whatever you do with your life and time, your kids will most likely do the same as they get older!

Ah yes, as I am fond of saying, nobody ever said that parenting would be easy! Hang in there and be an excellent role model for your kids!

How about you? Do you have any additional Parenting Tips that have worked for you? If so, please pass them along!

Paul W. Reeves