Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: Why would a child choose school over McDonald’s?

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 1/10/2014

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably had an argument or two with a small child. I know I have, whether it was going toe to toe about nightly tooth brushing or facing meltdowns about leaving the zoo. One of the arts of parenting is figuring out how to avoid these fights. D’ette Corona, our assistant publisher, wrote a story — titled “The Interview” and published in our book on parenthood — about how her husband George did just that.

When D’ette’s son Bailey was 7, he decided he didn’t need to go to school anymore. Mornings turned into arguments that ended in tantrums. Then one day, George tried a new approach. When Bailey said he didn’t want to go to school, as he always did, George said that was fine, a surprise for D’ette and Bailey. “Bailey’s expression changed,” D’ette wrote, “and the excitement on his face showed that he thought he had won the battle.”

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably had an argument or two with a small child. I know I have, whether it was going toe to toe about nightly tooth brushing or facing meltdowns about leaving the zoo. One of the arts of parenting is figuring out how to avoid these fights. D’ette Corona, our assistant publisher, wrote a story — titled “The Interview” and published in our book on parenthood — about how her husband George did just that.

When D’ette’s son Bailey was 7, he decided he didn’t need to go to school anymore. Mornings turned into arguments that ended in tantrums. Then one day, George tried a new approach. When Bailey said he didn’t want to go to school, as he always did, George said that was fine, a surprise for D’ette and Bailey. “Bailey’s expression changed,” D’ette wrote, “and the excitement on his face showed that he thought he had won the battle.”

The family went about their normal morning routine, “and then the announcement came,” D’ette wrote. George told Bailey to put on his best clothes. “It was time to ‘hit the pavement’ and look for a job.” A few minutes later, Bailey emerged in a new outfit, as instructed. “Was he simply calling our bluff?” D’ette wondered.

Soon, all three were walking into a McDonald’s. George told Bailey to ask the manager for a job application. D’ette explained that her son had decided he was “too smart for school,” so he was now ready to enter the workforce. The manager played along, handing over an application and a pen, and Bailey set to work on the virtually impossible task of filling out the form. It wasn’t long before he had a change of heart. “School isn’t so bad. I guess I’ll go,” he said. His parents gamely asked if he was sure and extolled the benefits of working at McDonald’s. His reply: “Please take me to school.”

As far as the art of parenting goes, this is a masterpiece. No fight, no bargaining, just a kid who wants nothing more than to get back to school where he belongs.

•••

If you had one year to live, what would you do? That was the question Esther McNeil Griffin asked herself after leaving the hospital. She was 56 and had just had a cancerous kidney removed. The doctor told her, “Either we got it all or we didn’t.” If they didn’t, she would have about a year. She wrote about what she did next in her story “A Year to Live,” published in our book about finding the good in bad situations.

“If I only had a year,” Esther wrote, “I was going to make it count.” So she retired and started doing the things she’d always put off. When she saw an ad for zoo volunteers, she signed up and took a 23-week class on animal care. When her genealogy society’s newsletter arrived with genealogy misspelled, she became the editor. She resumed writing, an old hobby, and published a few pieces.

A year passed, but Esther didn’t. Nevertheless, she saw no reason to change her new routine since she figured she still didn’t have much more time. She kept checking the boxes of things she’d always wanted to do. She studied Russian and Spanish and taught night classes on genealogy. She savored every moment with the grandchildren she didn’t expect to see grow up.

Then a funny thing happened: The years kept rolling by. Today she’s been a zoo volunteer for more than 25 years; she’s still editing newsletters and writing; and she’s watched grandchildren grow up and have kids of their own.

For me, Esther’s story comes to mind when I find myself thinking that I just don’t have time for that walk or for that night out with my husband. I can always do it next week or next month, I reassure myself. But the fact is that whether we have 40 years in front of us or one, life is made up of moments, and there are only so many of them. That’s why Esther feels pretty lucky these days. “My ‘last year’ of life,” she wrote, “continues to delight me, after a quarter century of making sure that every moment counts.”

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

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