Archive for the ‘Parenthood’ Category

TKAbirthdayHe’s only 14, but this birthday seems like a big turning point, at least to me. Tomas is now certifiably taller than I am. He wears size 13 shoes. His voice has begun to change, and he seems actually to care about how he looks some of the time. Most amazing, next month he will start high school.

Back in the dark ages when I was his age, I went to junior high, which involved 7th, 8th, and 9th grade, so I don’t actually remember going to high school as that big a deal. We all went to the public high school in the suburban Ohio town where I grew up, so there wasn’t much discussion about it.

Not so for Tomas. High school in Memphis is a clear indicator of, well, lots of different things, depending on your point of view. Memphis is one of the few places I’ve lived where one of the first things you ask people who have lived here a long time is where they went to high school, which is supposed to reveal a lot about a person. What neighborhood they grew up in, how much money their family had, who their friends were, who their friends still might be. (Though it must be said that sometimes this facile stereotyping doesn’t explain anything at all.) Especially in the world of Memphis private high schools, long-held assumptions die hard.

What hasn’t changed since I was a rising freshman, though, are the social shifts that come with heading to high school. Who will your friends be? How will you fit in? Then there are simple demographics: Tomas’s middle school class had 31 girls and boys in order viagra no prescription it; all of them looked pretty much like him. His high school class will be north of 200 guys, who come from all over Memphis and the surrounding suburbs. Welcome to the new world, where there’s so much to learn.

As I watched Tomas with his friends at his birthday lunch today, I was glad for the easy camaraderie and trusted relationships the three girls and two boys shared, laughing over Instagram photos and catching up on the news. Even though they are all going to different high schools, I hope they can still rely on each other for friendship and fun (and prom dates) down the road.

Because we have entered the teen years, the only photo I can post of Tomas’s birthday festivities today is the one you see here — Fino’s sandwiches on Happy Birthday plates. He was mortified, even by this photo, and certainly by the chorus of Happy Birthday that everyone at the deli sang when dessert came out.

Come to think of it, some things don’t change that much.

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We always knew he'd be a pilot

I can’t remember a time when Tomas didn’t love planes and flying. His favorite Halloween outfit ever was his pilot costume (pictured, when he was in kindergarten). He loves to look up in the sky and tell you exactly which make and model of jet is currently flying over your head. He plays Flight Simulator like most kids play video games.

So I knew tomorrow would eventually come.

Tomorrow morning he is beginning a three-day internship that all eighth graders at Tomas’s school participate in. He’ll head off to a small airport near our house to spend the rest of the week among the planes. I’m not sure what he’ll be doing, but actual flying lessons will be involved. In the evening, he’ll go with the head guy to a speaking engagement … in one of those small planes. He can’t wait.

I know as much as I need to know about the man who’ll be taking my child up in his plane. I’m sure he is safe, and I know it’s a short flight.

What I also know is that I am not in control any more, not of what Tomas does during the day or exactly who he does it with. Maybe I never really was.

Have fun, my little pilot.


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Every day when I pick him up, it’s the same: “How was camp?” I ask. “Great!” he answers, still sweaty from the pickup project payday reviews football/soccer game he and his pals have just been playing.

Camp these last two direct payday lenders weeks has been Future Builders, the everyone-can-come version for middle schoolers of Bridge Builders, which is something high schoolers need to apply for and be sponsored to do. I am always on the lookout for places for Tomas (and me, too) to meet people

payday loan today

who ace payday loan are different from him, racially, economically, socially. I mean, this is Memphis, after all. But in 2011, we payday loans no credit check all need to know how to do that.

With Future Builders, we hit the jackpot. What a terrific program.

As with everything these days with my rising seventh grader, I sometimes have to wait for the good stuff. The other night over payday loans no credit checks dinner, I tried again: “So, what do you payday loan direct lender talk about at camp?”

Well, racism, he said, and began to tell me how sometimes people “stereotype other people,” and think they know about them just because of how they look. He was obviously quite clear about it, and eager to explain how it happens.

“Are you a racist?” I asked him at one point. It’s a tough question, and one I heard the great Lucius Burch once say everyone ought to consider.

“Sometimes,” he said. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

It took moving to Memphis, a city in which I am a minority, for payday me to finally understand the corrosive power of the snap judgments we make about people because of their race, their politics, the way they look, where they live. I am so grateful that my son, a Memphis native, is able to learn how to ask the tough questions at the tender age of 11. And isn’t fazed one bit by whatever answers he comes up with.

Thanks, Future Builders.

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As many of my friends know by now, we have struggled this year with the fact that Tomas’s grades aren’t what they could be for reasons that viagra tablets seem really dumb to me: He often forgets to turn in his finished assignments, and viagra 100mg loses points (and sometimes entire grades) because he doesn’t put his name on his paper, round to the correct decimal or otherwise follow the directions.

I have read all of those books about 11-year-old brain development, and I know boys are generally late to the organization party, but the fact that he continues to do this stuff makes me really mad. There, I said it. I know that being mad isn’t helpful for anyone, especially at 9 at night when homework



needs to be finished and sixth graders need to be in bed. (I don’t really understand it, either — I never haven’t turned in my homework IN MY LIFE — but that’s beside the point for now.)

I also hate being angry with him: it hurts him, and makes me feel crummy, too. So I channeled one of my own sixth grade memories, and we have begun to read

“The Hobbit” out loud every night before bedtime. (Yes, back at Orchard Park School in Kettering, Ohio, the estimable Mrs. Huffman read it to us for a half-hour every day after lunch.) I still remember the peaceful feeling of letting my imagination dream up the outlines of Middle Earth, and I thought it would be a good way for us to end our day. Boy, was I right — even when we only read for 10 minutes, the whole atmosphere changes, he holds my hand … it’s bliss.

But here’s the second — and much tougher — part of our new strategy. We’re going to try to totally take our hands off his homework and organization issues. The only requirement we’ll enforce: That he look every night at his grades online, so he gets immediate feedback from his day/week at school. We won’t ask him what’s due, what he’s done, etc., though he can ask us for help whenever he feels like he needs it.

To say he is thrilled with this new turn of events is an understatement. But as his dad said, he probably will want to be careful what he wishes for. Taking responsibility for your own work is way harder than I think he realizes. We’ll talk about the details of this strategy with his teachers next week, and the plan is for this to continue until spring break, or mid-March.

I think this will be REALLY tough, for all three of us. Way tougher than the Tiger Mother approach, which I also briefly considered.

Wish us all luck. Especially Tomas.

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So my column Sunday really touched a nerve — I have gotten lots of responses (a few below) to my observations about how Barack Obama’s Inauguration has changed the way our kids will see the world. I hadn’t really thought of it as a confession, but now that I think of it … it was. And I can’t agree with CLJ, below. Even if we eventually leave Memphis, the things we’ve learned here have literally changed our lives. Read the rest of this entry »

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