Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

I want to tell you about a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which I hope I won't experience only once. Yesterday I stood in the freezing cold for 5 hours with two million other people and had one of the happiest most positive days of my life. I have been in crowds before, we all have, but this was completely different. Though the subways were so packed you could hardly move, and the only toilets were port-a-johns, everyone was completely joyous. There was literally no anger, no resentment, no complaining, no whining. Just happiness, hopefulness, and the most positive kind of pride. On the subway we sang and joked and passed the time by naming all the fifty states and capitals, and by helping our neighbors name all the countries with four letters (apparently there are ten).  When we exited the underground we were greeted with a sight I have never before seen: every street, block after block in every direction, was completely full of people walking toward the mall. It looked like some sort of apocalyptic movie (except everyone was happy!)  When we got to the mall it was a sea of people as far as you could see. We wandered around for while, got a glimpse of the Capitol, then chose a spot near the Washington Monument and a jumbotron to camp out and wait. We had a picnic lunch and tootsie pops, and there was nothing to do but observe the scene. It was AMAZING! Black and white and Asian and gay and straight and young and old and women in fur coats and people wrapped in blankets, everyone was there to celebrate.  People talked and made friends with the people standing next to them and shared food and were polite and thoughtful in a way that I have never seen in a large crowd. I have been trying to figure out exactly what made it so different. I think one thing is that everyone was there for the same reason. You know how you go to a festival or a concert and some people are there to listen to music, and some are there to dance, and some are there to eat, or drink, or find a date? Well yesterday every single person in that crowd was there to celebrate this historic moment. No one had any other agenda. We were all on the same page. It really felt like we were all connected by our humanity. Being in that crowd made you feel like you could do anything. It made you feel like America is still the best hope that the world has for peace and prosperity and good will toward all. It felt like you were a resident of a city where everyone was positive and energetic and confident of success all the time. It felt the way life should be. When President Obama finally spoke a hush fell over the crowd and two million faces were turned, quiet and focused for over 15 minutes. Later my children said they had no idea the speech was that long. Time stopped, and as corny as it sounds, we were one.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


A friend likes to tell the story of being in the grocery store before she was a parent. A child in line in front of her was whining and squirming and complaining. Sherri couldn't take it any longer and finally said to the woman, "Why don't you take that child home and give her a nap?" Ten years and three children later, Sherri says that comment haunts her to this day. She now has two rowdy boys who NEVER behave in grocery store lines. I have a similar story. When I had only two "perfect" little girls who were calm and easily separated from me, I used to sit in judgement as my friend's son jumped on my couch with a sharp pencil in his hand, or at events where boys sat in their mother's laps while my girls confidently sat down in front enjoying the show. Then I had Frank. Though he is calm now, as a two year old we called him "Bam Bam" and he is a momma's boy supreme.  But that's what you get. Call it Karma or simply getting what you need to learn most in life.  One thing I have learned having three children is that each of them, though raised in the same household with the same biological parents, is an individual. They each have strengths and weaknesses, and while I would like to take credit for their strengths, I certainly don't want to be blamed for their faults. Of course you can't have it both ways, and that helps us at school as we strive to help our students grow.  If a child is struggling, rather than looking for fault or assigning blame, we look for solutions. We believe that everyone is doing the best that they can, given their present circumstances, and this includes both students and parents. It is easy to judge. It is hard to reserve judgement and focus on solutions. The bottom line is it doesn't matter why Johnny is rude, or Susie cries when she gets "out", or Billy hides under the table when he gets upset. What matters is that we help that child overcome those issues so that whatever their genetic makeup, and whatever their home environment, and however crazy their parents may be, each child can become their very best.