In many places, it's the season of graduation and year-end celebrations, so I think it might be valuable to talk about the giving of awards. Specifically, what to do when your child doesn't get one.
Last week, our school had an awards assembly. During this awards assembly several awards were given. My Kindergarten son did not receive one, although several of his good buddies did.
As we drove home, we had an interesting conversation. At first he mentioned the awards ceremony (I didn't bring it up), assuring me that he hadn't really wanted an award. But as we talked, he opened up enough to admit that he was struggling with the fact that he didn't get an award and his friend did.
Here's the thing: he had a wonderful, wonderful year. I'm talking so wonderful that he cried on weekends and was discouraged over Christmas and spring breaks because he couldn't be in school.
He loved his year! But at this moment, all those happy memories and all the fun he had were quickly minimized because he didn't get an award. Hold that thought for a minute.
Back to the story: I assured him that his feelings were very natural and normal, and then we talked about the choice he had to make. He could focus on feeling unhappy for himself, or try to be happy for his friend. I explained that each of these feelings were sort of like living things. Whichever one he fed with his thoughts and feelings would get bigger. I asked him which one he thought was the better thought, which one he wanted to encourage.
Happily, he decided he wanted to try to focus on being happy for his friend.
It's funny because as soon as he made that conscious decision, it didn't seem to matter to him anymore, and his good memories of the year are back.
Awards are kind of a mixed blessing, aren't they? They are wonderful when you get one. When you don't? Not so much. People really struggle with this. I've found that myself. I have been in many situations where I was nominated for an award that I didn't end up winning. Let's be honest: it stings. It can even hurt. The human response is to be mad at the winner, or the givers of the award. Or both.
But this is the wrong response! It's wrong because it's unfair to the others involved. It's wrong because it's arrogant and narcissistic (why do we assume we deserved the award? Perhaps there were factors of which we aren't aware).
But mostly it's wrong because it will bring misery to the person who indulges in this kind of response.
Here's the point I think is important to consider: if your child is being nominated for an award, chances are it is something they like and are good at. Chances are they have fun or draw some satisfaction from this activity. Focus on that, not the award! Focus on the intrinsic value, focus on what they learned and did. Don't focus on the award--or the lack thereof. If you do, then you run the risk of tainting those happy memories. And that would be a huge shame. It is the definition of being penny-wise and pound-foolish if you think about it.
Over the years I've noticed something. The people who don't get awards are tempted to let the lack of the award make everything that came before suddenly have no value. In other words, someone might have years and years of happy memories from an activity--a sport or plays or something else. They might have had fun with their friends, learned and grown, and had all kinds of other benefits. The day before the award was given, these were good and happy memories, and their recollection of their time in this activity was positive.
But then they don't get the award and suddenly it all changes. Those happy memories fade and hurt and bitterness appear. And that leads to unhappiness. Don't let that happen!
It's not only that memories can be ruined. I've also seen relationships ruined over the lack of an award. Teacher-student relationships that were close and wonderful, or the relationships between two friends or colleagues that became strained. What a shame!
Honestly, short of a Nobel Prize or Pulitzer Prize, most awards don't really tend to mean as much as life goes on. Seriously, how many adults are still all that excited about the awards they won in elementary or middle school--or even high school?
However, it is a sad mark of the times that parents and students are driven to quantify every activity by achievement. We can no longer simply enjoy doing something. We have to be the best--and prove it. I have seen students collect awards and accolades like some people collect stamps. But they get no joy from these awards. Only misery if they don't get one. It's the 21st century equivalent of being a miser; these are adolescent Silas Marners.
Which is my son going to treasure more in the long run? A really great Kindergarten year or getting that award? Chances are, had he received an award, he would have forgotten in a week or two. A year and it would be ancient history. But his good and happy memories of his year? Those can last a lifetime.
So--when your child doesn't get the award, stop a minute. Acknowledge the real sting, but then re-direct. Focus on what they got from the experience. And give them the gift of memories and growth that will last for the rest of their lives.
One of the ways in which things change in Penumbras is the developing relationship between Conner and Melanie.
For Memorial Day, I have this rather poignant song from the musical 1776. "Mama, Look Sharp" by Sherman Edwards." A song from a young soldier singing to his mother at the end of a battle, hoping she will look among the wounded and find him. For me, it captures, what I imagine a young boy, far from home, would be feeling in that situation.
I salute everyone who served their country, and I offer my gratitude and prayers to those who did not come home, and my heartfelt sympathy to those who loved them.
*A few years ago, I made up a recurring meme on bradbenbell.com called "Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned From Showtunes" (EIENTKILFS) Based on the premise that there is a showtune fro pretty much every occasion or emotion.
Note: This week, a beloved class of my students graduated from middle school. On top of that, a beloved son graduated from high school and will leave in three weeks for a two-year church mission. So, we are all a bit wistful and pensive here at bradenbell.com. We'll be starting a lot of fun stuff to count down to the release of PENUMBRAS soon, but there will probably be a few reflective and very-likely-sentimental, possibly downright-maudlin posts. You have been warned.
Every year there are two moments that I find profound and moving, and I'm even going to say sacred. Two bookend moments that I have come to treasure and watch for each year. I find it interesting that they are both moments of silence.
The first is the silence on the very last day of summer break. It's the last day before school starts. Teachers have had in-service meetings, the students have had an hour or two of orientation and then everyone goes home for one last afternoon before school starts again.
I usually have rehearsal on this day, so I often leave campus later than everyone. As I walk around, alone I notice the silence. It is a silence full and latent, a silence rich with possibility and potential. It is a stillness that precedes a wonderful storm of growth and challenge, of triumph and heartbreak and stretching and accomplishment and failure. It is the harbinger of amazing things. It is the silence that comes at the end of winter and the beginning of spring, just before the world bursts into bloom and life again.
During the coming year, children will grow. Minds will stretch and the miraculous beauty of the human spirit will be displayed in thousands of ways, small and large. And it is all contained in that short silence. To me, that silence is the embryo for all that will soon happen.
The other silence came yesterday. I walked through the theatre, past the chairs arranged for the graduates. The diplomas were carefully stacked on a table, awards and medals laid out. The speeches had been compiled in a notebook on the podium, and seats had been reserved.
That silence was different. It was equally full and charged, but it was charged not with the possibilities of the future, but the choices of the past. The choices and actions and the consequences of the past year were all looming in that silence. Accomplishments and growth, disappointments and challenges were there. The silence is rich with the quiet witness that important things had happened in human hearts. It was the silence I feel in my little rural county at the end of autumn when the farmers gather the harvest. It is the silence that comes as we prepare to reap what we have sown.
There is excitement in this silence, excitement about new horizons, and happiness in accomplishments. But there is also a feeling of relief and even fatigue. There has been hard work. There has been some struggle. And now this leg of the race is done. That is worth a sigh or two of relief. We made it this far. We'll sit to rest a spell and then move on again.
It is these two silences that the year is manifest--the silence of promise, and the silence of fruition. The silence of possibility, and the silence of finality.
I have come to cherish these silences. To seek them out, and to try to find them in my own life as I reflect on both the possibilities ahead as well as the harvest that is already in.
I've seen some pictures of really fun book projects based on The Kindling, but I think this is the first actual fan art I've seen. I thought it was so good I wanted to post it.
When people hear about this book, the first question I usually get is, "What in the world is a penumbra?"
We assigned one of our leading creative teams here at bradenbell.com to come up with an answer for people. Our graphic artists, linguists, IT guys and musicians all worked round the clock to bring you the following trailer. Hopefully, at the end of it, you'll know what a penumbra is.
Now that we are only about 8 weeks away from the release of Penumbras, I thought it might be fun to do a meme each week as we count down. Maybe I'll think of a really cool contest at some point to do in conjunction with these. Or maybe I won't.
But I think I'll post them anyway!
This is actually one of my favorite moments in the book and it is my very favorite pictures from the photo shoot. The actress did a great job, but the lighting and everything is perfect. Especially given the whole idea of penumbras--which are vague, shadowy areas. I love the shadows. The photographer really caught this moment from the book.
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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