It Does Take a Village to Raise a Child

Lest you think I am in any kind of agreement with Hillary Clinton on this subject, I am not. A more accurate rephrasing of Mrs. Clinton’s position would be that it takes a state to raise a child. And I’ll never buy that.

The village, however, is another matter. Now that Big Brother is 18 and getting all set for his high-school graduation and enrollment at LaSalle University, I’ve been reflecting upon everything that the village has done, and meant, for him–and for me as his mother.

In our world, the village (outside our own immediate and extended families) is composed of three parts: church, school, and Scouts. In no case did we abdicate our parental responsibility and leave church, school, and Scouts to pick up the pieces. But church, school, and Scouts influenced our son, and our parenting, in many ways. All three were truly part of his growing up.

At church, Big Brother learned about sacrifice and about ministry. He grew up watching me particpate in music ministry; he was an altar server during his middle-school years, and in the past year he’s gotten quite involved in music ministry himself. He plays in the folk group at our church, in the contemporary group at another church (with his friends) and at school. He’ll continue that next year. He’s gone from a cautious beginner at guitar to being unafraid to tote that same guitar, as well as a mandolin and a harmonica, to church–and he’s learning as he goes. All of this would not be possible without the acceptance and welcoming spirit of the adults in our folk group. They know that you have to start somewhere. They know that teens are the future of the Church. So they make sure to nurture the gifts of any teen who wants to sing or play with us.

Big Brother is completing his thirteenth year at Catholic school. He’s had more than his share of outstanding teachers who are there for the love of it–they’re certainly not there for the salary! He’s been challenged and inspired, and he’s definitely the better for it. He’s part of a school community in which the principal will hear of a kindness a student has done for a teacher or staff member–and take the time to send that student a handwritten thank-you note.

At Scouts, from the time he was a first-grader in that Tiger-Scout t-shirt right up until he earned his Eagle Scout rank, he has been challenged to live up to the high ideals of Scouting:
A Scout is trustworty, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
He’s encountered many committed leaders whose own sons are long done with Scouting–but who give up several hours each week (and one weekend a month for camping) to pass along these ideals to the next generation of boys.

Without this village, our son would not be where he is today–and neither would we, because his village is our village. We are thankful to be part of it–and hope that we can be a part of someone else’s village as well.


Two of my kids will be graduating this year: one from high school, the other from eighth grade. And I’ve got Senior-Mom-itis.

Both my graduates have senioritis pretty badly. My daughter’s teachers aren’t helping; there’s not much homework being assigned these days. And once Big Brother made the commitment to accept the very generous scholarships offered him by LaSalle University, it was like a switch had been flipped.

Turn him over–he’s done.

I’m just as bad. Today is report-card-and-conference day at his school. They don’t mail these report cards home; parents must show up at school and pick them up. If they want to, they can have a short conference with any of their child’s teachers as well. I usually take advantage of that. There’s almost never a problem, but it is nice to go in there and hear nice things about my kid from several teachers. Conference day is good for my ego.

I think, though, that my ego’s going to survive without today’s conferences. Big Brother has three A’s and one B in his four classes. He’s only got six weeks more of school. He’s done. And I’m done. I’m proud of his hard work and thrilled that he’s been accepted into a good college and rewarded for his studies and other commitments. So I’m going to pick up his good report card, thank the secretary who’s handing them out at the door, and head back home.

Committed and Challenged to Serve

Big Brother has been offered a “jackpot” scholarship package by LaSalle University, which was my top pick for him even before scholarship offers were on the table. I was impressed with the university for many reasons, not the least of which was the interest in the prospective students that was displayed by professors, department chairs, deans, and others at the Open House we attended last fall.

One of the three scholarships Big Brother was offered at LaSalle was academic: a half-tuition award. The second was the Community Service Scholarship, requiring a separate application, special recommendations, and a personal interview. This one offers money toward tuition and a perk: he’d be guaranteed a spot in a certain (air-conditioned) dorm. All the Community Service Scholars live in this desirable location and participate in certain activities as a small community. In return, he would commit to 10 hours per week of community service.

Finally, he just learned yesterday that he is also offered a Liturgical Music Scholarship. He’s been playing the guitar and mandolin at Mass for just under a year (the first time was last Easter) and he’s scored a scholarship for this! Clearly I went to the wrong college, because I was never offered a scholarship for doing something that I willingly did for free, twice every weekend. In return for this scholarship, he will have to commit to playing at a certain number of campus Masses.

I won’t have to worry that he isn’t making time for Sunday Mass now.

What impresses me about these two (non-academic) scholarships is that they are offered at all. Clearly the University wants to make a point: by rewarding service such as community service and music ministry, the University shows how important and valuable such service is. I know that my son, given the opportunity, would find a way to continue working with Habitat for Humanity or other service organizations, and I’m quite confident that he’s going to want to keep participating in music ministry (something he does twice every weekend, at two different churches, just because he enjoys it so much). He would do that without any financial compensation. But he is being challenged now, by these awards. His challenge is to make time in his student’s schedule for serving others, to balance his commitment to schoolwork with his commitment to the community, to give up some of his free time that might otherwise be spent playing video games and instead use it to help others.

So I’m proud that he has received these offers and excited about the opportunity he has been given. What a gift!

Winter Cleaning

I guess Big Brother has resolved to take to heart the Boy Scout virtue: “A Scout is clean” because I just discovered that he cleaned out “his” car. I know this because when I walked into the kitchen, I found not one but TWO lunchboxes that had been hiding out in his car for the past few weeks.

But the icy packs inside were still cold.

Giving Thanks, a Little Early

Big Brother traveled to Mississippi with a cold and came back with airplane ear. So today I made a doctor appointment for him; this way he won’t have to suffer through the weekend. The plan was, I’d pick him up at school to sign him out at 11:30. He wouldn’t miss much class time that way.

The phone rang at 10:45; it was one of Big Brother’s former teachers. She wanted to let me know that Big Brother had fainted during Mass, and that an ambulance had been called.


We only live 5 minutes away from the school, and I explained that I was taking Big Brother to the doctor today anyway. Did he have to go to the ER? The teacher passed the phone to the principal, who promised to hold the ambulance until I got there.

Let me tell you, it’s pretty freaky to run out your front door and hear sirens that you know are responding to your child’s medical emergency–and that will get there before you do. Naturally, I hit both red lights on the way to the school, but once I was in the school’s long, narrow, windy back driveway, I set a new land-speed record (42 MPH in a 15-MPH zone, in the van. Usually my top speed is 37 in TheDad’s zippy little sedan.) Let’s just say it was a good thing that the police officers were already inside the school and not following me up that back driveway.

Running into the building, I was met by the principal, vice principal, several teachers and other staff members, some police officers and a paramedic–and a very pale Big Brother in a wheelchair. His worried-looking girlfriend was also in the hallway. I explained to the paramedic that Big Brother had a medical appointment in an hour, and signed the release form. Big Brother’s girlfriend headed to his locker to get the books he needed for the weekend. His English teacher teased him about going to great lengths to avoid the vocabulary test scheduled in her class later that morning. The priest exited the auditorium and spoke with Big Brother, making sure that he hadn’t scared him when he anointed him after his fainting spell.

I’m thankful that the doctor thinks Big Brother will be just fine; he was a bit dehydrated and has bronchitis. A Z-pack and plenty of fluids will get him past that. I’m thankful for the priest who took the time to anoint Big Brother and to stop by and see him after Mass. I’m thankful for the vice-principal who walked us to the van, just to make sure Big Brother was steady on his feet. I’m thankful for the teacher who called the house just after we got home, because students in her homeroom were worried, and for the teacher who told me to send her a text message after the doctor visit, because she was worried. I’m thankful for all the kids who texted Big Brother throughout the afternoon, checking up on him.

He’s feeling fine now, and I’m just feeling grateful.

A Taste of Things to Come

I miss Big Brother. He’s spending the week in Mississippi, participating in Project Hope and Compassion with 15 other students and 3 teachers/staff members from his school.

Being that he’s very busy and cell-phone reception is spotty, we don’t hear much from him. He did text me yesterday to say that he’s recovering from the cold he’s had for the past week and working very hard.

I miss having him around, though. Tonight’s folk group practice will be a little less lively. Meal planning was tough–there was a lot of “Big Brother likes this. I should save this for when he’s back from his trip.” And I don’t get to share a laugh with him over Zits comics and

I guess this is what it will be like next year when he goes to college.

I’m proud of him and what he’s doing. I’m glad he’s having a good time and getting this invaluable experience, helping others and building houses.

I still miss him, though.


…that Big Brother, who has had his driver’s license for a full 8 days now, isn’t in danger of getting any speeding tickets:

This morning I picked up the plastic-bagged newspaper off the wet front lawn, and put it down on the trunk of Big Brother’s car while I chatted with a neighbor. I walked inside without the paper and didn’t think about it again until Big Brother was long gone, on his way to school.

He made it more than half a mile to the jughandle, where he stopped for a red light and the driver behind him got out of her car, picked up the paper off his trunk and handed it to him.

I know he’s not flying around the corners, or the paper would have sailed off by that point.

I’m thinking that this knowledge was well worth the 75 cents for the replacement paper that TheDad bought me.

Landscaping Woes

Last night, we were sitting at the Vacation Bible School Hot-N-Crowded Finale Celebration in a small church that appeared to have exceeded its fire-code capacity several times over.

And my cell phone rang. It was Big Brother, who had stayed at home, mowing the lawn. Things were so loud in there that I was amazed to have heard it ring, so I picked it up and said, “Send me a text message. I can’t hear a thing.”

Then I got the text: “The mower took out the cap for the sewer thing” (the outdoor sewer cleanout–a plumber was here Monday with a snake to take care of a clog. Guess the guy didn’t screw that cap back on tight.)

I asked him if he could find any pieces. I get back: “Well its gone. The pipe has no cap” (Note the lack of proper punctuation there.)

Then I told him that we needed pieces so we could figure out what size the replacement should be. “Its. Gone.” (I guess he just uses periods for emphasis. Apostrophes, however, are expendable in all circumstances.)

I’d be willing to bet that I’m the only parent to ever be interrupted at a VBS show, to be told that Lawn Boy had run over part of the plumbing. I was (silently) laughing my head off.

This is not the first time Big Brother has run stuff over. He mows like I vacuum. If you leave your Legos on the carpet, and I have given you fair warning that I’m vacuuming later, then it’s bye-bye Legos. Big Brother ran over a Little People ship captain once, decapitating it. He’s got a sick sense of humor, so he kept that captain’s head. When he still had a fish, it was in the fish tank. A couple of weeks ago, it was a tennis ball, which he neatly cut in half. The next week, it was shredded all over the lawn.

I think it’s safe to say that he doesn’t have a career in landscaping ahead of him.


Summer brings out the evil genius creativity in my kids.

Last week Big Brother cleaned out his closet. I use the term “cleaned out” loosely because I think it could use another 3 hours of attention. My idea of “cleaning out a closet” is taking everything out and only putting back what belongs. His idea is more like rummaging around in there and maybe finding something that doesn’t belong, and then leaving it on the floor until he’s tired of tripping over it and moves it back to the closet.

I digress.

He found the “fake fur” that he’d unbuttoned from his winter parka. It comes off so you can wash the jacket, but he’s no fan of the “fake fur” so he just took it off right away.

He and Middle Sister decided that this long strip of “fake fur” looks like a weasel. She offered to hot-glue some googly eyes onto one end, and now Big Brother is the proud owner of The Most Awesome Weasel Ever. How many other kids have a stuffed weasel in their room?

I have the feeling that this thing is going to make its way into a lot of lockers at his school this fall…