My son starts school as a Junior next week. Reflecting on his years of school thus far, and of the people who have come into our lives because of his education, I cannot help but feel blessed by the opportunities he has been given, the teachers and friends who have touched his life, and the joy he has given to us as our son.
Nick is a complex, multi-layered young man, with unique interests and abilities. Some people are quick to label him a “geek” (not that there is anything wrong with being a “geek”, we embrace our “geekness” in this house) but he is so much more. From the time he was young, he was passionate about many different things, and as his parents, we tried to encourage and nurture those passions. When he was six, he was interested in Egyptology, so we got him books on the pyramids, pharaohs, and hieroglyphics. Not only did he read those books, he taught himself hieroglyphics to better understand the Egyptian culture. At eight, he found a love in writing short stories. A teacher, who noticed this love, got him into a gifted writing program, where he developed binders full of stories. She liked one of those stories so much, she sent it in for consideration to the Anthology of Young Writers, and it was published in the 2008 National Edition. We are thankful that he has had so many teachers like Mrs. Sunbury, Miss Moses, Mrs. Parker, Miss Renzi, Mrs. Becker, Mr. Zoutendam, Mrs. Gregg, Mr. Vanderworp, Mrs. Gunn, Mr. Bertain, and Mr. Poppleton, who recognized his hunger for learning and fed him well.
Nick has been blessed with a few great opportunities over the years. He’s dedicated to bettering himself and has worked hard to achieve his goals…very hard. Some people think that everything comes easy for him, and I want to make this very clear…he works his butt off in everything he does. There is no secret pill, no special treatment, no buttering or bribing of the teachers, no parents doing his work for him…everything he does, he does because he rolls up his sleeves and “gets it done”. Most nights are 3-4 hours of homework, then another 1-2 hours for Yearbook, Latin Club, SAT Prep, and more. For the most part, since 6th grade, we have not helped him with his homework, papers, essays etc. We knew he was going to a difficult school and the only way he would survive was to learn to do the work himself. We are there to guide him, nurture him, give him downtime to relax and be himself, and provide lots and lots of love, but everything he does, he does on his own merit.
When Nick does something, he puts his heart into it, but he always gets so much more out, so that is why we encourage him to grow. Hard work has always been an important goal in our family. His grandparents worked hard all their lives, his father and I work hard, and we expect him to work hard for his dreams. Some people just don’t understand this concept, so try to tear him (and us) down. Nick is very motivated, with clear goals for himself-we do not push him to excellence, we embolden him-he does the pushing all on his own. We do have high expectations for him because we believe he can achieve anything he dreams for himself, but if his dream were to become an artist or gardener instead of a doctor, we would love him the same. His strength is not in his success as a student, but in his success as a man.
This past school year, he juggled many in-school and out-of-school projects, and it was a very real challenge for him. He completed everything he did with grace and lots of sweat on his brow, all from hard work. Under the radar, I heard grumblings from a few people who thought he was a “teachers favorite” and why he received the awards he collected at the end of the year. This infuriates me to no end because anyone who could say that does not know Nick, nor see how hard he worked this year, and all he had to juggle to succeed. He is not any more deserving than any of his classmates, who work extremely hard too, but he is not any less. No one is handing him anything on a silver platter. When I hear someone say “Nick does not have to worry, everything comes easy for him”, I want to scream. He has the same dreams and worries every other teenage kid has, he’s just more proactive about doing something about it. Just like everyone, he has hopes and fears. He has the same heart and soul, too, so when people try to invalidate those hopes and fears, they disrespect who he is, and discredit the hard work he has done. Nothing has been easy for him, except the love of his family, which comes very easy.
99.9% of the people who meet Nick love him, but who wouldn’t? He is kind to everyone he meets, is accepting of his friends and their “quirks” and loves those who understand and love him for his. He unabashedly celebrates life for all it is, and strives to be around people who feel the same. There are a few, though, who want to label him, without truly getting to know what makes him tick. They take him at face value, without looking into his heart and his soul. If they opened their eyes, they would see what an incredible human being he is, and what a loving, loyal friend. Even some of his so-called “friends” don’t get him nor realize what a loving and loyal friend he is to them. They take advantage of him, but because he is a nice guy, he excuses their behavior. If only they knew how their words and actions bruise him. Sometimes it is hard for me, as his Mom, to have patience for those people, because I see the sadness in his eyes. I hope in time Nick will learn to rise above the people who bring him down. Life is too short to be around people who hurt you. Thank goodness he has so many wonderful people who do love him for who he is.
Beyond the usual “labels” he is given by some people, Nick is charming, humble, and one of the funniest people you will ever meet. When he’s away from school (where he is expected to conform a certain way) he is clever and mischievous. He is a a great road trip sidekick, a ruthless board game opponent, a chivalrous gentleman, and a dapper bow tie wearer. In a nutshell, he is amazing.
When I see teenagers (who think they are so cool) judging people by the size of their wallets or body shapes instead of the power of their brains; who constantly reach for the new car, new clothes, and new fads instead of reaching to build a better world; who put down others to build themselves up, rather than harnessing the power of friendship, and who worry more about their own popularity than making a difference in the world, I count us lucky that we have the kid we do.
Yes, he’s our kid, and he is awesome!