How History Enters the Mind of a 13 Year Old Boy

This morning’s news celebrated the release of ten U.S. sailors held captive by Iran. So when my seventh grade son asked me if I remembered the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979, when approximately 60 US citizens were held captive for 444 days, I was impressed.

He seems to teach himself things in a stream of consciousness approach to learning, his path twisting and turning randomly as bits of information catch his fancy. It’s a cool way to learn, even if it distracts from his homework.

“I do remember.”

“Well, do you remember that they broadcast the Super Bowl so the hostages got to watch it? I wonder how they did that.”

Of course! Football!

He actually had not yet read the news about the U.S. sailors. The question on this day was completely coincidental. As a football trivia junkie, his reading about the NFL connects him to a broader history. A few days ago, he wanted to know if Richard Nixon was a good President. I talked through his foreign policy skills, China and Watergate. The important fact, it turns out, was that he “was not a good play caller.”

In school, we often use the art or literature of an era as a way to help us understand the past. He uses sports. Reading about past Super Bowls, looking at old photos of athletes and teams and stadiums, and a close following of the NFL timeline all lead to non-football discoveries. He digs into what that event was, or if people liked that President, or why there were hostages, how long they were there, and what people like me remember.

And the next time the Super Bowl comes up with an unsuspecting friend, he will ask, “Did you know that during the Iran Hostage Crisis, they broadcast the Super Bowl so the hostages could watch? How cool is that?!”


His Two-Pack

My ten year old made his New Year’s Resolution to “exercise four times a week to get stronger, so I’m not the weakest kid in my class.”

He has dreams of being a lineman in the NFL, or owning a team since his skinny arms might get in the way of player dreams.

At dinner tonight, he proudly pulled up his shirt to show us his muscles. “See, working out for a week, and I already have a two-pack.”

He looked down. “Wait! Where’d it go?” Panic. “I swear it was there yesterday!”

His big brother, in an usually generous mood, looked too. “I see it! Right there! Good work!”

Amazing what a big brother celebrating your two-pack can do for a little guy.

Fortune Cookies

The funny thing about fortune cookies is that they either fit the person and the moment perfectly, or they seem purposefully ironic – if you stretch your imagination a bit.

Recently, while trying Thai food again, hoping my sons’ taste buds would be more appreciative, they mostly enjoyed splitting open their cookies.

The sixth grader read, “You will let people free.”

Hmmm…He wants to invent the time traveling machine, so maybe that will do the trick.

The fifth grader read, “Your dream must be bigger than your fear.”

He grinned, “Oh yeah, already on it!”

“Why? What’s your dream?” I asked.

“To be a linebacker in the NFL.”

Given that he has always been in the 5th-10th percentile for weight and is the first to get hurt in any outdoor play, if he is smart, his fear will grow and grow.

The first grader, who recently got sent home for shoving a friend to the ground at recess, had me read his to him, “Your kindness and generosity will be appreciated by others.”

Not this week maybe, but one day….
….if you believe in fortune cookies. Which I do this one time.

Political Reporters: The View from Fifth Grade

“It’s so funny,” said my fifth grader the morning after the election. “Those news reporters all pretend they’re on the NFL Channel. Like the election is as good as a football game.”

Later in the day, I attended a lecture by former Colorado Governor Bill Owens, who joked that the only news he watches is on ESPN.

Perceptive little fifth grader, eh?