YOU….

As of late there has been a long enduring power struggle taking place within our home. It seems our 15 year old has taken it upon himself to follow in his father’s footsteps despite my best attempts to thwart his actions. To say I am disheartened would be an understatement.

My mother once told me at the height of my rebellious, disrespectful path that she hoped I had children and they were all J U S T L I K E M EEEE! Thankfully that didn’t happen, yet the one that is like me, JUST LIKE ME has embraced my persona of old with full-fledged gusto.

I once had a teacher in high school, I believe she was my French/English teacher who at the end of my junior year grabbed me, pulled me in close and with a quiet voice asked me a question that’s stuck with me for 33 years.

What are you going to do when your looks are gone?

That’s all she said, then with a smile wished me a good summer and went about her business. No explanation, no further words of wisdom, just that, a wink and into the classroom she vanished.

Now it wasn’t that I was a particularly great looking kid, I was average at best. But that damn question would pop into my head out of nowhere and it haunted me from senior year and beyond. 

What are you going to do when your looks are gone?

Why would she say that to me? What was its purpose? Was it a joke? It took many years with it rolling around my head when one afternoon while pondering the good old days I figured out exactly what Ms. Kaplan meant.

It really had more to do with my personality than anything. About buckling down and putting myself and my future first! I treated everything as a joke. I still do to this day but on a much smaller scale as life has honed my ability to recognize the importance in certain situations. Take an average kid who likes to be the center of attention, make everyone laugh at all costs and who is willing to go along with just about any plan that may arise to ensure I was someone’s friend and well you had me. You also had a gigantic recipe for disaster.

Late for class? Who cares, I am with my friends. Disrupting class, oh well I made everyone laugh, who cares that I missed todays assignments and disrespected my teacher. I’ll apologize with an honest smile on my face and a caring tone in my voice. It will all smooth over, it always does. Sent to the office for cutting class? A twinkle in my eye, some cool charm and I will get out of it. Trust me.

Ms. Kaplan saw this in me. She never bought any of my bullshit and there was rarely a time when one of my sly patented smiles ever got me anything other than a smile in return.

And so here we are. Today I asked my son the very same question.

What are you going to do when your looks are gone?

For you see unlike myself, my 15 year old is a very good looking kid (got it from his mother). He has a million dollar smile and has learned to use it to his advantage. But he is struggling ethically and scholastically. He disrupts class to be the center of attention, does anything, anytime, anywhere to make someone laugh, and has a very strong sense of who he is and what he wants to become. So needless to say when I posed Ms. Kaplan’s question to him he merely stared off into the distance not knowing what to say.

He looked just like me.

I explained the importance of this question and what it ultimately meant to me. I explained that for the most part these people he is trying to impress will be long gone from his life 5 years from now. I tried my best in showing him the importance of working hard now for a later reward. That all his dreams of participating in college rodeo are rapidly slipping away as he chooses his in the moment friends first, making them laugh while slacking on his responsibilities and rarely living up to his word. I even explained that saying no to your friends sometimes is ok and if they get mad or don’t want to be friends anymore because you are chasing you’re dreams that’s ok as well! The hardest thing to explain or get him to understand was that a few of my closest friends are the ones who understand when I’m busy, care about my dreams as I care about theirs and at one point or another before we became good friends we may have even told each other to Fuck off at some point. Respect was earned and friendships arose from the ashes. It is ok!

We only want the best for our kids, parenting hopefully through learning from our own mistakes, but one sentence spoken through echoes of my past brought it all home, and it hurt.

It hurts because I don’t want to see him fail yet his stubbornness is strong (yeah that one’s mine). It hurts because if he keeps going he is going to land hard and that will hurt him, although that may be exactly what it takes. It hurts because we love him as we love all our children.

A repeated theme came from our discussion and I thought I would share.

YOU

Only YOU can make a difference in YOUR outcome

YOU are the only one in charge of YOU no one else

YOU are the only one who can chase YOUR dreams

YOU have the power to say no

YOU are the only one responsible for YOUR grades

YOU are the only one responsible for YOUR homework

YOU are in charge of YOUR emotions, no one else

If YOU need help then YOU need to ask

YOU should rely on YOU to complete tasks, if you receive help fantastic but make sure it’s YOU that determines if they are complete

YOUR word is really all that YOU have that explains who and what YOU are

Only YOU can hate and only YOU can love

YOU need to remember we love you always

And YOU were a gift from God, don’t waste that gift.

All of this came from one child struggling to find YOU in himself and one English/French teacher who haunts my past.

Thank you Ms. Kaplan If you touched me this way from so long ago, I can only imagine how many you touched during your career.

And all of this insightfulness was because of YOU.

 

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “YOU….

  1. Wow. As a teacher, it is really powerful to hear your story and how just one sentence from this teacher, who decided to invest a quiet moment with you, lived on in you as you became a man and a father….that’s powerful stuff. Makes me want to think hard and choose my words even more carefully with all the hormonal & impressionable teenagers I work with every day….

    1. Yes, I regularly have to check myself with young impressionable firefighters as well. I am always worried about the mess I will leave behind by either not properly sharing my experiences with our youth or doing so with misplaced words. If you can reach just one then you have accomplished a lot. 😃

  2. James, we met briefly at Snug Harbor. Your words and heart need to he shared with the world. Your true love and devotion inspire and give hope. We have been through hell with our wildfire but you, your amazing wife and family make my heart swell with love. It is so challenging to see our kids take the tough path and I will continue to pray for your family. Thank you for sharing your deep heart.

    1. Thank you for such kind words. I’m not sure the world cares about one little family. But I do enjoy hearing from people in regards to these writings. I think we all have a story to tell and with that story there may be something that helps just one person get through another day. 😃

  3. Ah yes, the challenges of raising and dealing with our almost adult children! We’ve all had these moments…we’ve all been able to relate to them…and sometimes it takes a long while for those children to recognize and perhaps even own up to the fact that they were wrong…after all…it has taken us a long time to achieve that goal. You are a good father…a wise father…hopefully this will pass and you will see good results.You’ve said what you could to your son. Keep praying for your son…keep demonstrating through yourself and your actions and stick to your guns!!! That’s my advice! Susan Joyce

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