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Blue Cart Below

2 Sep

Sometimes I feel like Will Smith.

Not “Fresh Prince” Will Smith or “Independence Day” Will Smith.”The Pursuit of Happyness” Will Smith—except for the tall, dark and handsome part.

Aidan’s mom and I haven’t stuck to the custody agreement much, but last night Aidan stayed with me as outlined in the agreement. Thursday nights, plus certain weekends, are supposed to be reserved for her and I. On our way to school this morning, I explained those details to her. I didn’t have to do any selling.

It’s heartwarming to know my daughter wants to spend time with me. She even says she wants to spend more time with me. That type of comment makes me smile since I am usually alone in taking her to school, pick her up by myself most days and spend hours with her many days a week. She’s the main reason I’m so tan right now, thanks to frequent trips to the pool.

The strong connection that comes from spending time together gets reinforced by conversations about real issues. This morning, as I carried her to school on my shoulders, we passed over a bridge. She looked down and saw a blue shopping cart. Although a shopping cart left in a seemingly random spot is not rare sight in towns like Lewisville, this particular one inspired a conversation that would last all the way to school.

It wasn’t only the cart that caught her attention, it was the blanket inside. I imagined that blanket providing a bit of comfort to someone last night. It seemed likely that a homeless person used the cart and the blanket and left them in that spot while remaining out of sight nearby or heading somewhere else for the day.

Aidan listened carefully as I suggested someone without a home may have needed the cart and blanket. As a person who who walks a great deal of the time, sometimes 6-8 miles in a day, I have crossed paths with hundreds of people living on the streets of Dallas and Houston. (I remember frequently being approached by homeless people outside the Walgreen’s on Montrose near Westheimer in Houston. Aidan’s mom and I would always give them money, whenever we had cash and change in our pockets.) I told Aidan that lots of people in cities all over America are homeless.

“Why can’t they build a place to live?”

I explained how a homeless person doesn’t have the money to get the tools and materials necessary to build a home. That prompted Aidan to ask how a person on the streets can make money. I explained how I’ve often observed homeless people collecting bottles and cans in order to sell them. Aidan said, “but that’s not enough money!”

She’s right, of course. Even without knowing what a person can make from selling bottles and cans, she instantly knew it wasn’t enough to sustain a life. I did say that places and people offer help to people on the streets, providing money or food, a place to stay, and clothes to wear. But Aidan returned to the topic of homes.

“But they need their own place to live.”

Just before reaching an intersection, the conversation shifted to homeless kids. I explained to Aidan that many kids are also living on the streets. As I looked to my left, a brother and sister walking to another school stood there, mouths opened, observing us. I’m not sure what stunned them more: my candid chat about homeless kids at 7:30 am or Aidan sitting on my shoulders on the way to school.

My daughter has a tremendous amount of empathy and understanding despite her young age. She explained how a child of homeless parents may have to ask for money to help the family. I have to wonder what she’s seen on TV or heard somewhere that made her sound so informed. She even said that if her mother and I were homeless, she would ask for money. She said a kid shouldn’t have to do that but “we do what we need to do.”

She may be an only child and she may be the only grandchild on both sides of the family, but my daughter is not spoiled. At times, she’s a typical six year-old, consumed by her own thoughts and feelings. But when she and I have candid conversations, she always demonstrates an ability to think deeply, show compassion for others, share her thoughts without reservation, and try to create solutions to what really are grown-up problems.

Come to think of it, Aidan reminds me of Jaden Smith—except there are no movie cameras rolling when she’s at her best.

Bieber & the Book Fair

9 Mar

It’s Book Fair Week at my daughter’s school! For a little girl who loves books, it’s an exciting time.  She gets books sent home by her teacher, she saves money for trips to the bookstore, and she’s quickly learning new words to add to her extensive vocabulary.

Our bedtime reading routine has changed a bit, too. She’s now at the point where she and I take turns reading sentences. But I seem to be alone  in my efforts to put the books back on the shelves. Last night I had to move several books off the bed to make room so I could read to her. That was after stepping over a small sea of books on the floor.

Tomorrow her Kindergarten class will go to the Book Fair as a group. She will have access to a wide variety of books. She could pick a story about puppies. Or dinosaurs. Or ballet. But she’s got something else in mind.

“I want a Justin Bieber poster,” she reminded me as we went to school this morning. “Do you like Justin Bieber?”

“What about books?” I wanted to ask. But I didn’t. I took a deep breath and realized the Bieber Era has begun.

A week and a half ago she went to a Bieber-themed birthday party for a 9 year old friend. While we were there, a gaggle of girls squealed as they watched Bieber videos—and spoke unfavorably about poor Selena Gomez. My daughter watched the whole scene in awe but didn’t squeal once. I was safe, I thought. She must be immune to Bieber Fever, I assumed. I was wrong, of course.

The experience must’ve taken a few days to sink in, and now there’s no use in redirecting her. She’s made up her mind. In fact, last night when she first told me about her desire to own a Bieber poster, she mentioned that the poster comes with a book. It seems like you should buy the book and get a free poster. I didn’t say that to her though. There’s no use to trying to apply logic in this situation.

If her plan comes together tomorrow, she will be the proud owner of a brand new Bieber poster tomorrow. By tomorrow night, his fresh face will be on her wall, and I will have to see it every time I walk into her room. But Bieber is not the enemy; he’s an ally.

You see, Bieber doesn’t leave his books on the floor. Also, he always puts his toys away, and he likes to have a clean and organized room. He takes great care of his teeth, and brushes his own hair. He always respects his parents, and he respects other kids and their belongings. How do I know this? Hmm…I think I saw him say all of it in an interview once.