Saturday, December 29, 2012

Phone Etiquette: Teens vs. Adults

Yesterday I went to see Les Miserables with my friends. It's an incredible movie. You need to see it if you haven't already. But please, parents, don't bring your children. I saw kids young as eight being lead into the theater. It's rated PG-13 for a reason. But besides that...
Gun fights! Sword fights! Unrequited love! Barricades! Escaped prisoners! Tragic death scenes! Forty nine musical numbers!
The woman sitting next to us texted through the whole thing.
If you're going to pay $6.25 you may as well watch it.
I hate people who text during movies, whether it's playing in the theater or my basement. The room's almost completely dark. Do you really think we can't see the little blue light popping up? You could at least hide it.
Any teenager knows the rules of phone etiquette. Maybe it's because we've grown up with movie theater commercials telling us to please turn off any electronic devices.
We hold our phones in our laps. If we can't do that, we hold them level with our rib cages. But not before we locate a backpack, desk, or unwitting friend to shield them from view. That's common sense in high school.
Then I see adults who like to hold them at neck level. Maybe they're trying to read the tiny words. Most phones have a zoom function, but no I understand if some people haven't figured out how to use it yet.
Leaning forward, however, is a practical skill I encourage everybody to master before reaching the age of two.

Seems like he's got it down already.
I can't be too hasty to judge here. Cell phones are a fairly recent invention. Don't say we've grown up with them. I hate that. I grew up with  TV, yes, and computer games, but I didn't see anybody send a text until I was nine. Our parents owned cell phones first and we learned by observing them. By the time we got our first phones, we had a general idea of what to do with it.
We don't need to be taught phone etiquette. We're inventing it. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

That Christmas Feeling

I saw a newspaper article today about religion in schools. Namely, should elementary schools be allowed to sing religious songs for Christmas? It got me thinking. Religion is usually a taboo in school. We study it in high school in World Religions and any AP social studies class. And of course, you have to talk about Judaism when learning about World War II. But as a personal, here and now thing, you're not supposed to bring it up. Especially if you're Christian. Never mind that 78% of America is as well.
When is was in sixth grade we had a musical program with the theme of friendship. There was one song, I can't remember the title, but it inclued the phrase 'we pray'. After a week of practicing, our teacher crossed it out and wrote 'hope' above it. I can't imagine who that would offend. All religions pray to something.
And then there was our annual Christmas program. We sang about reindeers, Santa, and giving gifts. One year we sang the dreidel song. As far as I know, nobody in our class was Jewish. But nobody minded. I know we sang 'Do You See What I See?' one year. The whole thing's about the nativity. I thought it was strange that we'd be allowed to sing about religion in school, but I never heard anybody complain.
My mother lived in Iran for a year as a child. She went to an American school, where they got days off for both Christmas and Ramadan, and learned to sing 'Silent Night' in Farsi.
There are plenty of people who don't have a religion. Lots of them celebrate Christmas anyways just so they can exchange gifts. And then there are atheists. Poor atheists. They have no holidays.
You can debate about it all you want, but no matter how commercialized and popularized it becomes, Christmas will always be a religious holiday.
"It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself."
-Charles Dickens

Friday, December 21, 2012

We Are Awesome

Normally I try to avoid talking about my personal life. Honestly, it's not that interesting. But now it's time to brag.
This is my school.

We get really into the idea of Christmas spirit. It's more of an obsession, really. Every year we pick a charity. And by pick, I mean they send us applications. We've raised about $800,000 since we opened in 1999.
This year's cause, as you can tell from the top, was the Haley Bell Blessed Chair Foundation. We've spent the last eighteen days doing absolutely everything we could to raise money. We went door to door doing odd jobs. Collin Raye flew out from Nashville to do a benefit concert. Two boys had people sponsor their marathon through a foot of snow.
The grand total: $125,084.13.
Well, we call it Silver Rush for a reason. This from 2,000 high school students in a little over two weeks.
We. Are. Awesome.
That's all.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Times Change, Minds Change

I was doing some homework for my history class tonight when I came across this little tidbit:
In 1833, children under the age of nine were forbidden from working in underground mines. Workdays for children between the ages of nine and thirteen were limited to nine hours a day.
My thought process went something like this:
1. Underground mines? Are there any other kind?
2. Nine? That's Weston's age!
3. Wait a second, I've read this before.
Back in fourth grade, I did my History Fair project on child labor laws. It was the most intense research project I'd done up to that point. I read through books and articles and looked at pictures like these:
Miners on break.
Miners at work. They were my age.

                                    Now I'm this age.

I was ten, reading about ten year olds working in mines. And it didn't really affect me. I was greatful I didn't have to live like that, of course. But it was a specific problem belonging to that kid in that picture. I'd think, "That's horrible for them." Not, "That's horrible. How could they do that to little kids?"
At age ten, I would read this and think of people. Now I'm sixteen and think of my little brother.
Of course, there is still child labor going on in the world. And child massacres, child slavery, and child abuse, and child prostitution, earthquakes that injure children...the list marches on. There have always been problems in the world. There are no good old days. There is no tragic past to shadow the bright future. It's all life and life marches on.
When we get older, the rift between 'us' and 'them' gets wider. We don't see them quite as people anymore. Every new story of the horrors inflicted on children cuts us, more so than the daily stream of murders and car bombings we see on TV each day. We pity them and want to reach out.
But we loose that understanding of what exactly it's like to be young.
So many people think children are unaffected. That when a tragedy happens, they'll be sitting on the couch, staring blankly at the screen as they ask their parents questions. Why did somebody do that? How could this happen?
But aren't adults asking the same questions?
The truth is, children have a unique capacity to view everyone equally. Hearing about kids getting shot in a Connecticut school feels the same as adults shot at a movie theater in Colorado.
And don't they get the same answers?
I don't know, sweetie. I just don't know.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Best Advice I Can Give

When I was eight, my mom bought a book called The Parenting Breakthrough. The cover looked like this:

I picked it up partly because I kept seeing it lying around the house and partly because I wanted to know what she was plotting. It actually ended up becoming one of my favorite books. I read it until the cover curled and I could paraphrase entire sections.
Yeah, I was a weird eight year old. Esme, you're not allowed to leave a comment.
I still read any article I see on raising teenagers. It's fascinating to see the other side of things (and, of course, know what they're plotting). There are hundreds of parenting books out there, all of them written by adults, parents and psychologists, people with experience.
There have been days I thought I could write an entire book telling parents what to do. But actually, I think I can get it down to a few sentences.
This first one is the simplified, polite version that sounds like something you'd put on an inspirational plaque:
Listen and be there for them when they need you.
Here's the blunt honesty, euphemism free, real life head on version:
Be there. Teach them to fly but wait to catch them when they fall. And listen- especially when they tell you to shut up and go away. There's so much inside them when they say this that trying to dig in will only make things horrible worse. But when you do shut up and go away, wait and watch from a safe distance. You need to be there for them if only for them to push you away.

They're the same, really, but pick whichever one makes you feel better.