Inspiring Okeechobee: Out of the Mouths of Babes

OKEECHOBEE — This week I am still trying to track down information on my latest person of “interest” for Inspiring Okeechobee, so you’re getting something pretty cool instead. A glimpse at the thoughts of a teenager.

Scary? Nah!

Here goes:

I asked my son, “Who inspires you?” That’s a hard question sometimes to put into words, and after an awkward attempt, here is what came pouring out of him:

“You inspire me because, through everything we have been through. You have been the rock. I didn’t think my life would get this crazy. Just a few years ago, I was helping you recover from back surgery. You’ve have job changes and all that. Just when I think it will get better, it gets crazier and Amanda died, and all this….”

“All this” means that we went from a quiet household (if you can believe that) to one that is in constant chaos, because we have four little ones in our midst.

“You’ve just always powered through it, mom. I can’t imagine kids that don’t have someone to talk to, vent to, talk about a bad day. I just always have you.

Even through all the bad things that have happened in your life, you’re as constant as the sun coming up. I always know you’re gonna be there,” he said.

WOW! This just poured out from my 15 year old! They say out of the mouths of babes, but when I look at my six-foot-two baby of the family, then it makes me realize that we are the inspiration for our children. Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas and others guide these children in our community to adulthood. What an awesome responsibility we have?

A bit about my life, is that right now I happen to be teaching fourth grade (something I have never done). That’s not to say I haven’t taught, just much bigger people! I have learned over the past few months though that the bodies may be different, the thirst for knowledge or the lack thereof is still the same whether it’s a fourth grader, a college student or an adult who is learning. The huge difference is that we can mold our young people, and show them by example that their thirst for knowledge does not have limitations. Almost daily my students will tell you that I urge them to want more. One more point the next time, one letter grade better — anything to show growth! Let’s be honest, I’m happy they are not flopping out of their chairs when the principal walks in the door, but that’s another story.

In the Spanish culture, we talk about “con ganas” which is something I share with my students. Ganar, means to win, in Spanish. Con ganas just has such a deeper meaning, like to do something wholeheartedly or to desire something so much that you pour your heart and soul into it.

The students we see may not have moms at home who can be “vented” to when they’ve had a bad day. My grandchildren are just struggling with the question, “who are we going to call mom?”

I think about the individual students I see every day now and know that for some, school is their sanctuary; but so much gets in the way that it’s hard to see them pour into school what they can. We see the bodies, but don’t always know the story of why the homework was not done, why the child may be acting out, and just having this opportunity to ask my own son what inspires him, gives me inspiration to be a better mother and teacher.

It reminds me of some of my work in the business world surrounding the topic of cultural competence, and using the iceberg as an example. We only see the tip, without knowing what’s below the surface is so much larger. How can we know what another’s experiences are or were? How has it shaped them? How can that change our feelings and reactions toward them? How can we encourage them to do things con ganas, when they are doing what they can to survive?

We can do it by each playing our part. If you have a gift of coaching, then coach. If you have the gift of teaching, tutoring or mentoring, then do it. If you have been given some other talent or gift — USE it even if it’s only for an hour a month! Go get that volunteer paperwork filled out. The schools need volunteers. There are many things you can do to support teachers that don’t involve being in a classroom all day. Community organizations that serve kids can use your help too! Sometimes it’s help answering phones and making copies.

Parents, this is for you! If you are a parent or in any way influence the life of a child, spend time with them. You have about 936 weeks from the birth of a child until their graduation. Authors Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy write: “It goes by fast. The responsibility to shape a child’s faith and character can seem overwhelming. If you are a parent, you have probably realized by now that you can’t make a toddler share, can’t force a child to have faith, and can’t compel a teenager to make smart decisions. But there is something you can do. You can make this week count. And then do it again, and again. What you understand about your kids now has the potential to change their future. So don’t miss it.”

Do it. You’ll be glad you did. To my son, Cristian, you are the one who inspires me to be better tomorrow than I was today. Thanks for the inspiration.

 

Leah Suarez is a freelance writer.

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