Monday, May 19, 2008

In My Humble Opinion

Dear Sarah,

Since you found out both your kids' current gradutations are on June 6th, I know you've struggled with what to do and have asked a lot of mothers what they would do in this situation. Now I ask that you listen to what I have to say about the matter.

I hope you've figured out by now that you cannot be all things to all people at all times, despite how you sometimes try. Many people who care about you and care about your health have been encouraging you to cut down on all your "extra activities" and as your dad has recently told you, aside from yourself, you really don't owe anything to anyone except your family and your job. Most people don't get how important your extra activities are to you and that even though they require time and energy and sometimes cause stress, most of the time you'd rather be engaged in these activities and be tired at the end of the day than give these things up and still be tired at the end of the day. Trust me, I get it. I get you like no one else.

I've thought about it a lot, and even after I saw your summer school professor's unflinching eyes when you shared your predicament, I think you should go to Johnny's gradutation from Spanish for Fun Academy. For the sake of weighing the pros and cons, let's break it down into specifics:

You know it's on June 6th and you've been told it will occur between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM. You also know that only one preschool class is graduating, and according to your calculations, that's no more than 12 students. Will it really take 2 hours for 12 5-year olds to sing 3 songs and walk across the stage? In all likelihood, even if you got there right at 10:00 AM, the program probably won't get started until 10:30 AM at the earliest. C'mon, it's Spanish For Fun and after 7 years of associating with the center, you should understand quite clearly now that Latinas take their time with time.

So, Johnny tells you they're singing 3 songs and you know the kids are all going to be individually recognized as they walk across the stage. Then there's going to be lots of food. You know all this. Your class starts at 9:00 AM and ends at 12:00 PM. Somewhere in there, you get a 15-minute break...From 12:00 PM-1:00 PM, you get an hour break for lunch. Your class meets less than a mile on the busline from SFFA. I say, show up fully prepared for class at 9:00 AM and contribute your ass off whenever possible. If MG asks a question, be the first to answer. Be the first to offer up real-life examples just like you did last week. Make relevant comments about specific assigned readings for that class. Sign the attendance sheet if it gets passed around before the break. At the break, hoof it down to SFFA as quickly as possible and make sure Johnny knows when you arrive. I can already see him beaming and it's going to make your heart happy.

Attend and be fully present for the remainder of the graduation for as long as you can without being late for your afternoon class. That means while you're sitting there being proud of Johnny and tearing up with the other moms and dads and teachers because this is the last year for your last child at SFFA, really be in the moment and try not to think about what you're missing in class. If your mind wanders to the topic of mood and anxiety disorders, gently, without judgment, nudge your thoughts back to graduation. (All your hours in yoga class should serve you well with this).

Try to enjoy the graduation as a meaningful transition for Johnny, for you and David, for the teachers and for the center and not as just one more thing you have to fit into your schedule. You know it and everyone there knows it: there's something special about the closeness of this graduating much that Ms. Claudia herself has offered to organize a once-a-month Saturday Spanish-speaking playgroup for these kids when never before in her entire teaching career has she offered to work on the weekends.

You know that it's way more than Johnny's send off--it marks the end of an era in the lives of you and some of your best friends--some of your best friends that are also moms--moms that you've been getting together with for the last 5 years--moms who you've learned to become mothers with. It's also a major transition for you, David, and the center because after this, you and David won't have a sanctioned reason to go by and visit SFFA on a daily basis. You know that your visits are much more than drop offs and pick ups...that you routinely are asked to sit down awhile (and do) because these women have become close friends and close that they are the only ones besides family members who your kids want as babysitters, so close that they break the rules for your kids (to which you don't always agree), so close that even though it sounded preposterous when Adriana first declared that she'd fight with Kate and your dad over who gets custody of Grace and Johnny if something were to happen to you or David, it's now totally within the current realm of possibility. So close that you're now invited to share all major special occasions with this family, and did just yesterday at Adriana's daugther's graduation party.

Maybe MG will take off 5% of your final grade for missing 1/2 of 1 class session; maybe she'll take off the full 10%. If she takes off the full 10%, you won't have a chance of earning an Honors grade for this course. I say get used to this possibility right now. You've already proven that you can make Honors grades in this program--so far you've done it every time. The goal of social work education is to prepare you to work in the field with a very diverse client population. Even though your professor may not agree, I strongly believe that the 1.5 hours you'll spend on June 6th celebrating with your family and friends at the SFFA graduation will prepare you infinitely better from a real-world perspective than the 1.5 you'd otherwise spend in discussion, listening to a lecture, or watching a video clip.

So, there you have it. In my humble opinion, I think you should "split the difference" and go to half your class and to most of graduation. You may not be everything to everyone on that particular day, but I think it's the right decision and one you won't regret. SFFA Graduation on June 6th? I wouldn't miss it for el mundo.


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