Whether it was my family, friends, roommates, teammates, or event wife, everyone thought I was just about that "Math Life". In their minds, I would accept nothing less than a Finonacci protege. Wellllll, I'm thankful that this isn't the case.
This weekend, we had the pleasure of celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday at a casual Italian restaurant. You know the ones, playing ESPN on the big screens and bringing out baskets of store-bought French bread smothered in butter and garlic, then toasted just long enough to make you wonder if they bought them from the freezer aisle. Regardless, it was hectic, but my boys were given the honor of making something cool with crayons and some kids' adventures (a worksheet, I guess you could call it).
As would be par for the course, my youngest offspring swiftly chucked the crayons and tossed his worksheet. He's the kid that I'll be getting phone calls for when the behavior rears its ugly head. He even tried to share his disdain for paper and crayon assessment with his brother by repeating those steps to his paper, but NO! Cooler heads prevailed and my oldest got into the activities.
To a parent who has much older kids, someone who doesn't have kids, or parents who aren't as crazy as I am, what happened next may not seem like a big deal. However, keep in mind that he has been behind the rest of his classmates at school, partly because they have been there at least 6 months longer than him. It may not seem like much, but that's a large percent of his life at this point. He gets behind, gets frustrated, and then becomes quiet. Remind you of a few students???
As he was gripping the crayon like any 3 year-old would do, he began to focus. Not the focus of a kid in school that doesn't get it and is in fear of looking dumb, but a focus that centers around an objective. He was on a mission. In the top left of his paper, there was a maze. "No chance this kid conquers that maze", I thought. He didn't, but he stayed within the lines for every single path he took. He never got frustrated and always checked for my approval. Of course I was there to praise him for staying in the lines and following directions.
Next up was the crossword puzzle. As a kid, I loved crosswords. They were just the right dose of challenging and rewarding. But I wasn't 3. Staring at a large grid of letters (because let's be honest, there's no way he's picking up patterns), my son's eyebrows perked up, he smiled, then pointed:
"This is for Apple, daddy!!!"
Faking no part of this interaction, I happily agreed and told him how proud I was of him. We then worked to color in and identify all of the A's on the paper. After each one, he would look for feedback and I was right there to give it, along with his mom and grandparents (his brother was still wreaking havoc elsewhere).
Suga Mitra talks about his model for dropping a computer into an area and having kids teach themselves. He then reinforces the learning by adding a grandmother-figure, someone who is there to simply encourage and give positive feedback. As I reflect on our dinner, I can't help but feel like I'm filling that role as a father. He didn't color every single A, didn't even identify all of them, but I was able to cheer on my son as he realized that he was completing an objective that was started at school.
Overall, the dinner was good, the garlic bread was awful, and the birthday celebration was filled with laughs and memories shared.
More importantly, the feedback that I was providing had stuck. Today when I got home from work and got ready to wrestle with my boys, my oldest son stopped me and nearly brought me to tears:
"You're so proud of me daddy"
You have no idea, son.