Wise Words from an 8th Grader

Tonight, I complimented my son on being self-aware for a thirteen-year-old.

But he shrugged me off, “Everyone is self-aware who wants to be.”

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Going, Going, Gone with the Wind

For fun yesterday, my son’s Honors Math teacher gave her students the opportunity to bet extra credit points based on their movie knowledge. They each bet a certain number of points – my son luckily one of the more conservative gamblers – and then she asked her trivia question.

“What’s the highest grossing film of all time?”

No one got it. No one had even seen it.

“But,” my all-knowing son informed me, “Star Wars: A New Hope is going to pass it soon. No one has even heard of Gone with the Wind.”

What?!

“Kids my age don’t even know what it’s about.”

“Scarlet O’Hara? Southern belle? Civil War? Land is the most important thing?”

He shrugged.

So, I asked, innocently, “Which one was A New Hope?”

What!? The original.”

“Well, we just called it Star Wars.”

“You are so old.”

“At least I’ve seen the highest grossing movie of all time.”

Almost as many times as we’ve both seen Star Wars. But who’s counting? And anyway…

“I can’t think about this now. I’ll go crazy if I do. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

The Optimism Rollercoaster on Competition Day

When we make State,” my son said to the Drowning Robots early on competition day, “we’re going to make a prototype.”

“Yeah!” they agreed. “When we make State!”

They are a middle school robotics team. The competition combines an environmental sustainability project with challenging robotic missions. Three presentations. Three programming sessions. Only six would qualify for State.

“And when we have a prototype, we’ll make Nationals!”

“Yeah!”

Remember, this was early.

“Where do we go if we win Nationals?”

“Disney?”

“Oh, then we’re going to World!”

The presentation of their water evaporation tower project – adapted from a strange looking orange contraption piloted in Ethiopia – to water lawns, golf courses, and recreation fields went beautifully. Their Core Values presentation went swimmingly. Their ability to discuss how they went about building their robot and designing programs impressed the judges.

These kids can talk.

And it was still early. “Nationals are in Houston or Detroit. Which one should we go to?”

But then came the robotics. Tension rising with each round. Round One had them in 22nd. Everything that had worked for weeks in practice failed them. The team buckled down. While other teams threw plastic bottles of water at each other, this team worked on their programming. “We can do this!”

But in Round Two, they dropped to 24th. After the final round, revising programs on the fly, they remained near the bottom of the pack.

One of the Dads gave a beautiful pep talk to unhearing, sad faces about their work ethic, team spirit and grit.

They begged to leave before the award ceremony. “We’re just making excuses,” my son whispered to me.

“Even those toddlers throwing water at each other can program better than us,” moaned one of the girls.

But more than an hour later, they heard, “The Core Values Award goes to the Drowning Robots!”

And… they are going to State. Their presentations were so good that talking catapulted them over 16 teams who beat them at robotics.

And the very first thing my son said?

“We’re building a prototype, and we’re winning the Project at State.”

Football Dreaming

Our eighth grader does not yet weigh 80 pounds, despite much effort to gain weight over the last year. Yet he sees himself as a football quarterback. He has the leadership skills for it, but…

When a high school principal asked him a few weeks ago what activities he would like do at her school, he said, “Basketball, guitar, debate, maybe robotics, and if I gain 100 pounds this summer, I want to play football.”

She thought he was joking, and was totally charmed.

The dream continues to percolate. “Mom,” he said the other day, “how much exactly would I have to weigh for you to let me play football?”

“A hundred and fifty.”

“Seriously?! But I’d be playing quarterback. I wouldn’t get hurt!”

“Okay, a hundred.” Might as well make it sort of attainable.

Meanwhile, his older brother is at the 150-pound mark. Strong. Loves to get in the way. Would make a decent offensive lineman. But he plans to sacrifice his body to football in another way.

When he got his learner’s permit, he registered as an organ donor. “I’m donating my collarbone to Aaron Rodgers.”

…because even the best quarterbacks with bones bigger than toothpicks get tackled. And there are many ways to be a part of a sport you love. Sometimes, when you’re a 13-year-old boy, it’s just tough to see that.

His Arm in a Sling

Yesterday, the name of my sons’ school flashed as the phone rang. Ugh. Images of vomit on his school supplies or his hands around someone’s throat at recess flashed in my head.

“Hellooooo?” Please say it’s vomit.

My fourth grader had apparently crashed into the fence during a football game and was claiming he broke his collarbone. (A potential copycat injury, as our friend broke his last weekend.)

“Jennifer, he’s sitting in the office with me right now, and we have ice on it.” Her voice was sing-songy as if to say “read between the lines, Mama.”

“Soooo, is this a come-get-him kind of broken collarbone or the kind that ice is making better?”

“Ohhh, I think the ice is doing a goooood job.”

I laughed. Ice is magical.

“But the teacher on recess duty is coming to confirm that he’s okay. How about I call you back after she checks out his shoulder?”

“I’m here if you need me.”

Then she whispered, “He’s very cute.”

Ten minutes later, the phone rang. “Now Jennifer, he thinks he can stay for Chess Club, but he doesn’t want you to be alarmed when you pick him up, because his arm is in a sling.”

What a player.

Two hours later, I picked him up from Chess Club. “Oh goodness! That must have really hurt!”

Dropped his friends at their house. And as I got back in the car to take him home, he pulled the sling off, big grin on his face as he waved his arm around.

“Phew,” he said. “I think it’s better.”