My Children, My Ordinary Heroes

“There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary”

Foo Fighters

Ten fingers. Ten toes. Arms, legs, torso, beating heart, and a little bit of hair. I could let out a sigh of relief.

Both my babies came into the world perfectly formed, fast and furious-especially the first one. At that point, I thought the worst was over. They were alive, named, and we were ready to start the rest of our lives as parents.  No expectations, right? All we wanted was for them to be born healthy. We knew we had a lot to learn, and as I’ve written before, were fully aware that no parenting handbook would provide all the answers to our questions.

"Parenting"
“Parenting” (Photo credit: vanhookc)

So we set off on parenting in the trial and error method.  Baby screams, we hold her. Feed her. Change her.  And if that doesn’t work…we had no clue. Repeat. We fell into parenting with a natural awkwardness that somehow worked out; both our kids survived infancy, and so did we. Barely.

As our babies became full of personality, we couldn’t help wonder what they would turn out like. Would they be readers and writers like their mom? Share their father’s passion for music and travel? Would they be athletic, funny, scholars, introverts…the ‘what ifs’ of uncertainty certainly provided fodder for our dreams about the future. We cautiously introduced a myriad of activities and experiences to see which they would gravitate towards. We enrolled them in a bilingual school without ever considering that they might not have chosen it for themselves. Our good intentions propel us towards what we consider the right decisions, but sometimes I wonder if we’re creating the path we want our child to walk, rather than watching them choose their own direction. And what if they turn out…ordinary?

Parent’s dreams for their children can create awfully big shoes for them to fill. Our undying love for our kids can teeter precariously on the edge between what we think they should be or do or feel, and what they dream for themselves.  As parents, I think we must strike a balance and show our children that whatever they do, and whoever they become, whether they end up just like us or follow their own path, that they are everything we could possibly wish them to be. Just like when they were born-alive, healthy, with the world before them.

I think the Foo Fighters said it best-my children are my heroes every day.

This post was inspired by Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives by John Elder Robison. Parenting is a challenging job, but what challenges does a parent with Asperger’s face? Join From Left to Write on March 12 as we discuss Raising Cubby. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Teaching Middle School is Not Insanity: How to Change Behaviors Einstein-Style

Albert-Einstein-Insanity-Quote-300x253

I started teaching 22 years ago, full of energy and sure I could make change happen.

Twenty-two years later, I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but ultimately I’ve had more success than failure.

I guess that’s why I keep teaching middle school.

Middle school teaching isn’t for everyone. Some say it’s the worst possible age group, but I disagree. I love it.

Challenging? Yes. Frustrating? Often. Fun? Usually. Rewarding? Definitely. Insane? Sometimes.

For the last five years I’ve been building up the AVID program in our school. AVID is an acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, and is a nationwide program to ‘level the playing field’ for students stuck in the academic middle.

I love it.

In fact, I’d bet that Einstein would have been a perfect AVID student.

Einstein's high school transcript
Einstein’s high school transcript (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes students are stuck through no real fault of their own-their family situations, socioeconomic status or access to education may have caused them to slip behind their peers. Sometimes, however, it’s just good old fashioned stubbornness, with a dash of insecurity, that results in their underachievement.

That’s where Einstein comes in.

His definition of insanity is one I share over and over with my students, as many times as it takes for them to believe me.  Sometimes is takes all year. Sometimes two years, depending on their stubbornness factor.

Middle school kids, especially eighth graders, like to think they know it all, and their parents know nothing. Teachers usually hover somewhere above or below parent status: we often are listened to a little bit more by virtue of not living with them, but sometimes students see all adults in the same light.

When my AVID students arrive at the beginning of the year, I lay down some basic rules about school: organization, responsibility, collaboration, and critical thinking are high on my list.  And always, there are the kids who say they like it ‘their way’, despite the fact that ‘their way’ hasn’t been working for them. They want to hang on to what they know. They are afraid to change, even when what they’re doing isn’t getting the desired results.

I know some adults like that, too.

It almost always happens the same way: the kids who try it ‘my way’ find that it works better, and their grades improve. The stubborn ones who won’t change, and have parents who don’t know how to support change usually take a very long time, if ever, to get where they want to be.  Their binders stay messy, their planners incomplete, their homework missing, and their grades below average.

So, ironically, I keep insanely repeating Einstein’s words, knowing that deep down, kids will realize that just because an adult suggests change, it isn’t all bad. Sometimes the kid has to hit bottom and decide for themselves to try it another way.

I say, whatever it takes. I know that my way gets results, eventually.

I’m pretty stubborn, too.

*  *  *  *

This post was written as part of the Saturday Sayings series on:

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Macklemore: Why Moms Should Know About Him

English: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performing at...
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performing at Sasquatch 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Macklemore. Have you heard of him?

If you’ve got a teenager in the house, chances are you have. Or if you’ve listened to the radio, surfed the internet, or watched Saturday Night Live.

And if you’re a mom, you should know about Macklemore and why teenagers love him.

Just in case you stilll have no idea who I’m talking about, here is Macklemore’s recent appearance on SNL:

You really should watch it.

Macklemore is a 29-year-old rapper from Seattle, Washington, who just happens to have a hit song, “Thrift Shop”,  topping the Billboard charts-and has sold over 3.9 million copies of it to date. He and his musical partner, Ryan Lewis, have achieved unlikely success in today’s music scene, starting with their rise to fame as artists not signed to a major label. But that’s not the reason moms should know about him.

And it’s not that your teenagers are suddenly turning to rap music instead of Taylor Swift (but I love her, too).

American country musician Taylor Swift perform...
American country musician Taylor Swift performing live. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You should know about Macklemore because he’s different.

Yes, he’s a rapper. I’ll admit that I’m not a big rap fan, mainly because I object to much of the lyrical content and suggestive ideas many rappers base their music around.  But Macklemore, he’s not like them.

I first heard him through the walls of my 16-year-old daughter’s bedroom. Surprised to hear thumping bass and rhythm over melodic pop songs, I questioned her.  She tried to tell me he’s different, but I just walked away, puzzled.

Finally, after weeks of persuasion, we listened to his newest album start to finish on a long car trip.  I have to admit-I was impressed.

Macklemore has been called a ‘conscious rapper’-a label he doesn’t entirely love: “”Am I more or less conscious than everybody else? I’m a full spectrum of a human being. There’s songs that are deep and personal and might bring up some social issues, but that’s not the full side of me. I think it’s just a box, that’s just corny. It’s very outdated. It’s very underground and backpacker-ish and that’s not the music I make,” he stated.

But when I hear songs like “Thrift Shop”, and especially “Same Love”, I see how it fits; Macklemore writes about real life, real problems, and real people. He breaks the negative stereotypes of rap, and had the courage to break through trends and challenge his listeners to do the same. He writes about issues that I see teens struggle with every day, like wearing the ‘right’ clothes in “Thrift Shop”, and dealing with sexuality and discrimination, as in his hit “Same Love”:

We press play/Don’t press pause/Progress, march on!/With a veil over our eyes

We turn our back on the cause/’Till the day/That my uncles can be united by law

Kids are walkin’ around the hallway/Plagued by pain in their heart

A world so hateful/Some would rather die/Than be who they are

This is why moms need to know about Macklemore. At least read his lyrics.  Hear the issues he writes about, and ask your kids what they think. When I asked teens why they liked Macklemore, they responded with things like “he’s just so good” and “a lot of his music is spoken word, which I like. It’s not all hardcore rap-he has a lot of variety.”

Teens liking spoken word? Wow-that means they’re actually listening to what the artist is saying…and in my opinion, that’s a very good thing. Well, except for the foul language, but if they can look past that and focus on his messages, Macklemore is ok in my house. Teenagers love him because he writes what they’re living-bullies and styles and fitting in and love…and moms, if you want to understand your teenagers a little bit better, you might just take a listen to “Wings”:

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Finding His Voice

Alpine Meadows morning by Cameron Wolfe
Alpine Meadows morning by Cameron Wolfe

In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice.

When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard.

John Grisham

My kids spend a lot of early mornings on the ski hill. They often must roll out of bed, stumble to the car in the pre-dawn night, and ride for several hours to make it to early training on time.  My thirteen-year-old son used to grumble about it, but this season, he goes willingly.

Ski racing is not an easy sport – there’s a huge amount of equipment to keep track of, travel at hours when most people are sleeping,  dealing with weather conditions that soak you to the skin or make you feel like you’ll never be warm again, and, most difficult for me, frequent days when we’re separated as a family.

Last weekend the four of us were on two different mountains, one parent with each kid.  As I was waiting for my daughter’s ski race to start, a text came through.  Pulling my phone out of my pocket, hoping for an update from my son, this image popped up.  I knew exactly what he was doing and feeling, and I smiled. A sense of calm settled over me, and I knew he was safe and happy doing what he loves.

When I see the world through his eyes, it frequently stops me in my tracks. So often teenagers struggle to communicate, but not this one – he is finding his voice and creating his own story.

I hear it loud and clear.

How does your child create his or her own story and find their voice?

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Not Saying A Word Today

UCD arboretum bloom

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

~ Mary Oliver

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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