Friday, May 10, 2013

These soundbites pack a mouthful

From today's Briefing:

At home I cycle through sound bites, depending on the current state of affairs.
“Make good choices.” This catchall is especially helpful when children are walking out the front door or walking in to the school building. It’s an umbrella statement, designed to cover the basics of safety and respect. It means use kind words, think before you react, follow the rules, apply wisdom to decisions.
“I am not a servant.” This is used when towels are left on the bathroom floor or dishes on the kitchen table. It’s shorthand for a much longer diatribe that addresses responsibility, cleanliness and gratitude.
“We are a team.” This is a handy phrase when one child doesn’t want to fold socks that belong to others or put away clean towels in all the bathrooms. It’s also good for explaining to one child the necessity of small sacrifices of time or money in support of the other.
“You get out what you put in.” This phrase is in heavy rotation. It’s helpful for explaining why we study for spelling tests and vocabulary quizzes, why practicing an instrument daily makes you better, why we invest in relationships.
Over the weekend, both Cooper and Katie experienced the joy of reaping rewards from hard work.
Cooper was recently selected as a candidate for Order of the Arrow, an honor society of the Boy Scouts of America that recognizes Scouts who exemplify the group’s oath and laws.
Cooper is serious about Boy Scouts. He rarely misses weekly meetings. He’s reluctantly missed just a few camping weekends because of conflicts. He works with a Cub Scout troop as a mentor. He spends free time at merit badge classes.
Being tapped for Order of the Arrow is an honor, but that’s just the beginning. Last weekend, he and a bunch of other candidates camped in less-than-ideal conditions. They remained silent, ate little food and performed manual labor to improve the campsite.
He arrived home Sunday morning dirty, exhausted and genuinely happy. He had survived the Ordeal (the descriptive name of the weekend) and was inducted into the Order of the Arrow.
He didn’t have much time to rest after camping. He unpacked, cleaned up and joined the rest of the family for Katie’s first violin recital.
Katie started violin lessons in January. She’s practiced almost every day since. (You can’t possibly understand the meaning of the word “squeaky” until you’ve heard a beginning 7-year-old violin student practice every day for four months.)
She began by learning to stand and hold the instrument, tucked between her chin and shoulder. Then she learned to pluck the strings. Then she learned how to hold the bow. Then, finally, she learned how to hold her fingers and move the bow along the strings to make the strings sing.
We have heard “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” more times than I can count.
On Sunday, she stood in front of a friendly audience, bowed and played both songs with practiced precision. There was a little bit of squeak, but it was her smoothest performance yet.
She smiled slightly as she bowed again, returned to her seat and beamed, buoyed by pride from a job well done, after weeks and weeks of dedicated work.
“I’m proud of you.” I try to remember to use those words at every bedtime. It’s what I say when they’ve brought home quality work. They are the words du jour when they’ve made good choices, acted like team players and worked hard to accomplish goals. It’s one of my favorite sound bites, and I don’t think it can be overused.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. She can be reached at tyradamm@
Coop, just after arriving home Sunday from his OA Ordeal

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