Wednesday, December 10, 2014


The Boy on the Campaign Trail

“And by ‘listen,’ I mean really try to understand your concerns, so that I can represent them to the school.  This isn’t a position of government; it’s a position of representation.” - The Boy, from his campaign speech this week

The Boy is running for student government this week, which means he’s giving a speech to each of six different classes.  (He did three on Wednesday, and will do three more on Thursday.)  He’s one of several candidates in a competitive election.

He asked me to help him work on his speech.  

The lines above are entirely his.  He wrote them before asking for my feedback.  My only contribution, really, was to listen to several run-throughs and suggest paring some language that sounded a little too written.  Everything that remains is his, and his alone.  

I’m insanely proud.

Eighth grade can be a painfully self-conscious time.  For me, it was probably the single worst year.  But TB is navigating it with uncommon grace.  He even handles stage fright well, which is no small thing at any age.  

At home, we see him every day, so it’s easy to lose sight of how he stands out among kids his age.  The height -- six-one and counting -- is only the most obvious way.  He’s smart and funny, with a sense of humor that’s entirely his own.  He’s much, much more outgoing than I was at his age, but not in a dominating way; as his speech indicates, he actually listens.  The kindness comes through.  And with a younger sister who takes no prisoners, he has learned not to fall into some of the sexist habits that many of his peers have.

He’s aware of girls -- some more than others, inevitably -- but so far has made the choice to occupy the barely-contested “gentleman” niche.  (The “knucklehead” niche, by contrast, is amply represented at school.)  I’ve been encouraging him to stick with the “gentleman” niche, since it plays to his strengths and attracts the ones you’d want to attract.  So far, he’s on board.  I’m hoping that sticks.  The “tall, handsome, smart, funny gentleman” role may be cliched, but it still has its fans.

His campaign speech has given me a chance to fill the role other Dads play with sports.  I’m entirely useless at helping him with basketball, and baseball is out of season.  But public speaking is another matter.  For once, I get to be my version of a coach.

Watching his creative process at work is a hoot.  He has good focus, for his age, and he understands the concept of revision.  (I know some adults who struggle with that.)  He also has a pretty good ear.  When he reads his script out loud, he usually spots the clunkers even before I point them out.  I’m mostly an excuse to read out loud.  

He reports that the first day of speeches went well, and he’s looking forward to a second one.  

In the eighth grade, “politics” consists of speeches and a few posters.  It would be lovely if adults could say the same.  The school even provided poster papers and markers, so there would be no issue of some kids not being able to afford them.  

Whether he wins or loses, whether he sticks with student government or not, watching the wheels turn as he writes and rewrites is great fun.  I may not understand what he does on the basketball court, but this, I get.  He’s rapidly emerging as a recognizable, and very impressive, young man.  I’m lucky to have a front-row seat to watch it happen.  

Wow, that's an awesome line! And a beautiful post, thanks for sharing! Your son seems to be a true (tall handsome) gentleman. Mine is only a year younger, but very short, barely 5 feet tall.

In his really small K-8, 122 student school there aren't many stereotypes for either boys or girls, maybe sporty/non-sporty & he's definitely non-sporty and, hopefully gentleman-like. 7th & 8th grade share a homeroom & have science & social studies together, so he is around the 8th graders, but has no interest whatsoever in holding a class office... oh well.

Your son seems to be very different from you and in that sense both of my boys are more like me & their dad -- very geeky, love to read, love science, aren't very good at sports.

Oh, I like what you said about your daughter's effect on her older brother. With two boys I don't know how much of an influence I can have on their attitude towards women as compared to a hypothetical sister. OK, I write too much (and too much about me, sorry, ADHD me)!
That is a really impressive line for a campaign speech. And kudos on taking a light hand with his speech while teaching him the "less is more" skill that is so essential.

On basketball: TV follows the ball, as do the commentators (except in replays). Turn off the sound and simply help him look at the spacing of players on the court and how the good ones move without the ball to create the space needed to score -- and reduce it to be a better defender.

In addition, rarely do you see how hard really good players work on what seems like a random inspired move during a game. Share this video with him showing how even a star needs to learn how to change the height of the ball when he pivots. (whoosh) Over and over again.
That's a great tribute to your son, who is in turn a wonderful tribute to you and your wife! Congratulations. The world needs all the smart, kind, funny gentlemen it can get. Thanks for sharing.
'The “tall, handsome, smart, funny gentleman” role may be cliched, but it still has its fans.'

He's Jimmy Stewart! [Melts]

You are a lucky father, both to have such a kid, and to recognize him for what he is. And he's a lucky kid, to have a father who does recognize him for what he is and openly and honestly supports him. Doesn't always (often?) work that way.
That's a pretty impressive line, I must say.

That is a really impressive line for a campaign speech.
What a thoughtful, mature concept for someone his age to grasp. Best of luck to The Boy. It doesn't hurt that tall people are often seen as leaders. That will likely benefit him now and throughout his life.
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