Sorry guys but a death in the family is demanding an at a moment's notice trip to New York. Between that and work, something had to give. Unfortunately it's my post this week.
But hey, I think it wil be ok since I thought I'd re-share one of my favorites with you.
You'll see that it's relavent given that my oldest, Trey, just came home from college after the end of Spring finals. He'll be a senior at North West Missouri State next year and for this summer he was one of only 12 college journalist in the country to win a great, paid (the operative word) internship with the Freedom Forum in Nashville and Indiana.
Progress. (check out the vault post)
I once told my oldest, Trey, that he was going to end up being a bum standing on the side of the road holding up a sign that says, “Will work for food… but not that hard.”
Maybe that was a little harsh, but I meant it. I wanted it to cut to his core.
He was about 16 then and in high school. His grades had slipped drastically from all A’s to one A and maybe a B out shadowed by right regular C’s. And, it seemed to me all he wanted to do was wear nice clothing and hang out with his friends. I don’t know whether he was distracted by all the pretty girls in low-rider jeans and bellybutton popping mid drifts, or influenced by the cool jocks andthe partying in crowd. But I felt like it was more important to him to be most popular than it was to be most likely to succeed. And, I wanted him to be both. But if one had to go, popularity would have been my choice. Because, like I tell all young folk who’ll listen, when you’re in your mid 20’s with a good job, your own place and a nice car, you’ll be popular. If that makes me sound old then fine, I’m old.
I was sick and tired of seeing his grades dropping and it seemed like the more I got on him about them, and the more I pressed that if he didn’t bring his grades up no college would want him, the further he slid down that slippery slope.
He looked at me like I had just punched him in the face. Hmm, maybe I'd hit home. I think he even went in his room and cried. And you know what? I didn’t care. I remember being pretty frustrated and I told him I wasn’t going to spend one red cent on a kid who wasn’t going to work hard and he was just letting his life fizzle away. You're darn right I lost it.
I had started prepping Trey to be a good student when he was a tot. As soon as he could talk I taught him to read, and drilled him on vocabulary. We’d go out to a restaurant and he’d stand up in the booth, looking like a mini man in a diaper, and have a pretty intelligent conversation with his dad and I about any number of things. Regularly, some stranger would come over amazed and ask; “how old is he?”
When he was in elementary school and had homework it was a rule, homework had to be done before anything else and I’d check it every night. If it wasn’t done neatly — too may smudges or sloppy writing — I’d tell him, if the teacher can’t read it then it’s wrong and I’d make him do the entire thing over. That happened a few times with him whining or crying about it. But then it never happened again. Everything he completed was meticulously done. He’s still like that. He’s even particular about the way he loads the dishwasher. Every morning on his way out the door to school I’d say, “Go and take on the world.” I swiped that one from Dr. Laura.
I had the kid so serious about his future by middle school that once, on the school bus, another student, jealous about Trey’s friendship with a little girl he’d been buds with since fourth grade, called him the “N” word and tried to entice him into a fight. Trey just sat in his seat looking straight ahead. When he told me what happened — it was all on the bus video tape — I asked him why he didn’t say something back to the little bully or deck him. Trey said, all he could think about was that getting into a fight with this kid wasn’t worth ruining his future for.
So when high school came with slipping grades, and mom’s words of encouragement weren’t enough to get him to put his books ahead of cute butts, sports, and fun, I was just at my wits end.
Ugly as it was, I know Trey never forgot about the day I lost my cool and went on the you are going to be a bum rampage. From time to time, even now he reminds me, “Mom you thought I was going to be a bum.”
I remember the day he graduated from high school with several honor cords hanging around his neck. He looked at me, a smile spread across is face and whispered it in my ear.
The day I dropped him off at Northwest Missouri State University with tears in my eyes, he said it again. “Yeah mom, and you thought I was going to be a bum.”
When he finished his first year at NWMS with a 3.5, got a job as a writer on the school paper and a position as a resident assistant in the dorm, again… “See mom, I’m not a bum.”
Now he is wrapping up his sophomore year at NWMS. A few weeks ago he was named editor-n-chief of the Northwest Missourian, and last week he was named the NWMS Journalist of The Year. He’ll spend the first part of his summer working as a reporter in Kenya and the second half interning at a local newspaper here.
Needless to say, I’m really pretty proud of the kid. I don’t think that bum comment was a good thing for me to say to my son. Actually, it was a horrible thing to say. I know he’ll never forget it though. Then again, maybe it was the thing that got him back on track. Of course, maybe, he would have snapped out of his slide any way. Or, maybe he wasn’t sliding at all, but just trying to adjust to being a teenager. Who the heck knows.
It’s not over yet. He’s still got a long way to go — two more years of college and then he’ll have to fight in the job market. But, one thing’s for sure, I feel pretty certain that even if he does end up on the street corner with a sign; It will be meticulously printed, using proper grammar, and it won’t be because he didn’t try as hard as he could to be successful.
And that’s all I ever really expect from him anyway, to give it his very best shot.