Your Best Fan

There are times when I’ve watched my boys and felt as if I were going to explode with pride.  Today, when my eighth grader gave his This I Believe speech about the power of reading, I was so proud I wanted to tell everyone in the room that I think he’s absolutely amazing. (I held back… until now.)

It was beautifully written, laced with humor and a window into he is. He was also extraordinarily poised standing up before classmates, teachers and parents. Looked up at his audience. Paused at just right the moments for laughter.

But what struck me almost more than that was his huge smile of encouragement, whispered congratulations, and the high fives he gave each classmate as they passed him on their way to and from the podium. Not just his crew of his friends. Everyone.

I’ve seen it before – I may have written about it before, because it seems to come so naturally to him – when he came in last in a swim race, but was the first to reach over the lane ropes to shake his opponents’ hands. Last week, when his friend made his first basket in a game, he was as happy as the hoopster. And in past years, in the math competition, when each competitor moved on to the next round, he greeted them with encouragement, as if they had just impressed him like no other.

So, as I walked away from a great speech about the power of reading, I thought about the power of his very big, genuine smile, greeting his more nervous classmates, his teammates, even his competition with… “you were awesome!” and “isn’t this fun?!”

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Nelson Efamehule Agholor

When my 8th grader made his announcement, he did not utter the words we expected to hear. Instead, he said “Nelson Agholor. That’s my answer,” and walked out of the room with a grin on his face.

He waited until the evening before his enrollment letter was due at one of the high schools he was considering to finalize his decision. Go to the school that seems a little shinier, a little bigger? Or follow his brother?

“I’ll tell you at dinner.” So, I made his favorite steak and mashed potatoes to celebrate Decision Night.

Then… “I want to be eating ice cream when I tell you.”

We waited. Maybe he was nervous. Our 9th grader was holding his breath, hoping…

“Four score and seven years ago,” the 8th grader began.

“Remember, that was a short speech,” his Dad said.

He stopped. “Nelson Agholor.”

What? Who? 

We had to look him up. Nelson Agholor, born in Nigeria, is a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. Not the most famous NFLer, in 2017, he became a league leader in third down receptions and made some of the best, most important catches of the Eagles’ season.

The Eagles.

Only our 8th grader would turn his announcement into a sports challenge.

He chose to be with his brother…. but admitted to a second-string NBA point guard picked out for the other school, just in case he changed his mind in the moment.

Our First Bat Mitzvah

Last weekend, the boys and I went to our first bat mitzvah, which began in a temple and turned into the best party I’ve been to in a long time. Beach theme. Burgers, hot dogs and deliciously salty hushpuppies. Dancing with a DJ and someone hired to lead line dances and teach the boys some break-dancing moves. A tattoo booth, a photo booth, skee ball, a carousel. A “penny candy” table as a fill-your-own favor bag.

The day gave us a number of new experiences. Our eight year old wore a tie for the first time. All three boys donned Carolina blue yamakas. They listened to songs in Hebrew. They made new friends. They bore witness to someone their age give a speech she write herself about values and community. My twelve year old danced until almost midnight without going near the slew of thirteen year old girls on the dance floor.

I expected there would be much to talk about. Instead, as we walked back to the car that night….

“Most of those girls look like they’re in college,” said the oldest, who spent most of the night sitting with me.

“And some of those dresses were totally inappropriate,” said his puritanical brother.

Really short.”

Though they did not speak or dance with the girls, they were apparently quite aware of them.

Another first?