Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Learning the Big Lessons

 Dear Henry,

We signed you up for basketball about three weeks ago and not five minutes after I filled out the registration paperwork you were asking if you could get a new pair of shoes.  Dad and I talked it over and decided that we wouldn't buy you a new pair of shoes since you have a perfectly decent pair of high tops that would do just fine for your 6-week basketball season.  This was hugely disappointing news for you.  Your shoulders slumped over in defeat, you walked down the hall, got into your bed and cried.  We came in to console you and suggested that maybe you could save up some money and buy your own basketball shoes.

"How could I ever get that much money?" you asked, tears streaming down your face.
We started talking about jobs you could do - two dollars for washing the van, a dollar for helping to clean the windows...  The tears stopped, but you were still skeptical as you thought about how many little jobs you'd have to do to earn a sum large enough for shoes.  Then dad suggested that you could mow some of the neighbors' lawns.  (You've been mowing ours for about a month and are getting to be pretty good at it.)
"How much could I charge them?" you wondered.
"I think five dollars would be reasonable if you did the front and back lawns," dad suggested.  (We live in a neighborhood full of postage stamp lots).
A little light started to flicker at the back of your eyes.  Hope.  Possibility.
"How much do you think basketball shoes cost?" you asked, as you pieced this proposition together in your mind.
"Well, it just depends on what kind you want and where you get them...but probably around $40," we told you.
That number settled heavy on your mind.  "That's a lot of money."
"Maybe dad and I could pay half," I suggested.
"So I'd have to earn twenty dollars?"
"Yep.  So how many lawns is that?" I asked you.
"Well, that just depends on how much I charge for each lawn," you answered, your confidence burgeoning.
Right :)  "So if you charge $5 per lawn, how many would you have to do?" I got more specific.
"Four lawns." A tiny smile turned up the corners of your mouth. "I could do that in one Saturday!" you realized.

And Saturday morning you woke up ready to work.  Even more impressive than the fact that you mowed the neighbors' lawns was the fact that you knocked on their doors, introduced yourself and your cause, and solicited the jobs all by yourself.  I was planting flowers in our yard and from where I was working I could hear you give your pitch:

"Hi, I'm Henry. I'm trying to earn money for basketball shoes and I was wondering if you'd like me to mow your lawn.  It will be $3 for the front and $2 for the back, or $5 for the front and the back."

The neighbors were so good to you, agreeing to let you mow and paying you even more than you asked for.  Dad went with you to every house, weed whacker in tow, helping with the edges and making sure your lines were straight.  Mimi & Grandpa really boosted your shoe fund when you did their yard.  It was a BIG job.  We did it together and it took us an hour and a half.  I was so proud of you, Henry.  You worked so hard, little sweat droplets beaded up on your temples and the mower blew hot gusts behind it, but you pushed like a champ - back and forth, back and forth 'til it was done.

It took two Saturdays of work to earn enough money for shoes.  Monday morning you asked, "mom, if I'm cheerful today, can we go get basketball shoes this afternoon?"
I agreed, excited to let you feel the satisfaction of getting something you'd worked so hard for.

Monday afternoon we went to Big 5 and found some basketball shoes that Kevin Durant would be proud of.  They were on a great sale - you had enough to pay for them and get a cool new pair of basketball shorts, too.  I was so proud of you as you asked how much things cost and evaluated your choices based on price.  And you were so cute to make sure you had a little money left over to buy something for Lily.  She was thinking a princess barbie, but you adjusted her expectations to fit your budget.  "I don't know about a barbie, Lily," you told her, "I don't have that much money.  How about a piece of candy?"  Hahahahaha!  

We've struggled with some things this year, pal - a few behavioral issues, but mostly wondering if you're really applying yourself and reaching your potential academically.  It's been a challenge for you.  And for me.  Unfortunately, I've let it become a sore subject between us on several occasions - I have not handled it well at all.  It is something I am trying to change about myself - not having such perfectionistic expectations and not dwelling in the deficit.  And as we were pushing that lawn mower together on Saturday morning some tears rose right to the edge of my eyes and I felt so chastised for any disapproval I've let you detect from me.  I thought about how strong you are, how inquisitive and wise, what a hard worker you're becoming, how tender your heart is, how you'd fasted with us for a baby the Sunday before, how perceptive you are of other peoples' feelings...
And how much I need to be your advocate and your ally.  Always.

I see your effort, Henry.  I hope you can see mine, too.  I know your heart.  I hope you know mine beats for you.

I love you big as the world. And you look awesome in your new shoes ; )


  1. I think I would be weeping with joy if that was my child! Henry sounds like such a gem. And kudos to you for providing him with that opportunity to stretch and grow.

  2. Sheesh. Either I'm a boob or you're a gifted writer...I'm pretty positive that both apply :)
    You are such a good Mama, Em.

  3. Oh. my. word. Emily. Tears...i don't know if i felt more weepy over that picture of him mowing the lawn or the fact that he saved a little for Lily's treat or your heartfelt words or the fact that my heart aches over such tender stories about a little basketball loving boy. If I never get a son of my own, just know i have appreciated feeling so warmed by seeing you with yours!! Thanks for sharing!


  4. What a sweet, tender note. Thanks for sharing it, Em! Love you & hard working Henry!