School Begins

My three year old daughter Soleil began her long journey through school last week. Her first day of Montessori was on Wednesday the 8th, and today completes her first full week.

It’s kind of amazing really.

I am sure most parents feel this way, but the first time you drop your kid off at school just bowls you over. And yes, I teared up.

I am so thrilled for her. Soleil’s meeting new kids, and painting everyday. She even has a friend named Johnny, who’s real name she doesn’t know. But depending on the day she calls him her boyfriend. Today she said, “He’s not for me.” I need to meet this boy.

Her vocabulary is rapidly improving in just a week and a half, and of course, she is picking up some mannerisms from the other kids. For example, Soleil likes to comment on her hair all of the sudden. “It’s so crazy,” she said after her bath earlier this week. Then for the first time, she asked me to brush it. The poor kid has a double cow lick and a small dose of Daddy’s curls (that was before I went bald).

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She cries or whines about going to school most days. Then she comes home and says she had fun!

Soleil’s sense of responsibility is picking up, too. We definitely encouraged her to put away her dishes and clean up beforehand, but the Montesori regimen (and seeing her peers in action) is kicking in. It’s great to have a little helper.

All in all, it’s a magical experience to watch.

Thoughts on New Mexico

This week the country experienced two more school shootings, most notably a 12 year old who opened fire on his fellow students with a 20-gauge shotgun in Roswell, NM. I am sorry to bring it up, but the danger of such an incident occured to me as we helped Soleil through her first days of school. It was not an overriding fear, just a tiny shadow.

It seems like every month there is a school shooting now. It’s hard not to think about this rash of senseless violence.

You probably noticed in the picture Soleil is wearing a private school uniform. There is a lot to say about private versus public school. For starters, the results tend to be better for the kids. But given that some of the public schools in our neighborhood are very good I cannot say that Soleil will always attend a private school.

Certainly, it is more expensive. I suddenly find myself taking my lunch to work. And as someone who went to public school, I have my own preconceived notions about private schools.

Private school also feels safer to me. They rarely experience the type of violence that you read about in the papers at public schools, and in particular the disgusting rash of shootings that are occuring at public schools.

I can’t imagine picking up the phone and having to pick up my child after a school shooting. Then there is the horror that dozens parents across the country have experienced on the past few years: Finding out your child is wounded or dead.

Private school is not a silver bullet to avoid violence, but it does reduce the risk. And I realize that it is impossible to shelter Soleil from everything.

Do we really have to consider our children’s lives are at risk when we send them to school? We live in a country where a school shooting happens almost every month. Yet our lawmakers won’t take the necessary steps to protect children. Insane.

Whatever education path we choose for Soleil, I hope that she and all of the other children across the country never have to face this kind of tragedy.

The odds of it happening are minute yet that tiny gnawing fear remains. May the madness stop.

Big Britches and the Beggar’s Bowl

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Image by wwwarby

Now we know it’s true. The Kellogg School of Management has issued a study (hat tip: Rich Becker) that shows the more social connections one has, the more likely they are to treat others as less than. We see that big britches are a common by-product of doing well online. So all of the big bloggers who protest, “Not I,” really need to take a serious gut check.

Here’s the truth about this phenomena: It is timeless. It’s the stuff of novels and movies. Anyone read Faust lately?

Now we’re just seeing hot shot-itus played out on a very public stage with our colleagues, people who take tens of thousands of followers and the attention that comes with it all too seriously. It’s sad watching success change people, really.

It’s also sad that connectedness makes one feel better than other people. It fulfills a need to feel important. Yet twitter shout-outs, klout scores, blog rankings, etc. provide an empty sense of pleasure.

The whole phenomena is reminiscent of the old buddhist tale of the Beggar’s Bowl. A King eager to demonstrate his power fills a beggar’s bowl with silver, but it is not enough. As soon as the bowl is filled, it empties to the dismay of the monarch. There is always a need for more to fill it. The bowl is a metaphor for human desire.

In the real world, most of my friends are government contractors, ex-military types and general contractors (a.k.a. construction). We don’t really talk about social media, marketing and the Internet much. I come off like Spock when we do.

I’m actually grateful that most of my real life friends are not in the same field, that they have have known me for years, decades even. They keep me honest. I always know where I came from, and where I was 16 years ago when I was still an entry level writer working in yet another DC area trade association.

The truth about personal desire for fulfillment by peer recognition: The greatest successes are when others learned from our work, writing, and advice. When they are able to use our experiences to affect change, strengthen communities and/or make a better, happier world, we become stronger. We grow together, and in that sense, using our time as an investment in each other is the greatest gift possible.

That’s it. It’s help others, or it’s nothing.

Fame, awards, prestige, etc. are short sighted, unsustainable sources of pleasure. Money is necessary to feed our families, but that, too, does not make the soul stronger. Nothing else fills that giant hole in the bowl. Only the socially responsible outcomes seem to work, at least for me.