Month: November 2015


A Thousand Tickets Are About to Come Out of That Machine.

Shane went to Dave & Buster’s with my parents, who apparently can handle the blinding lights, deafening noise and overall chaos of the place better than I can.

They wandered amidst the clamor for awhile, when Shane noticed something odd.

“We saw this guy who was doing something with the machines,” he said. “He was wearing all black, and a black hat, And every time he walked away from a machine, all these tickets came out.”

Shane didn’t know what to make of the situation. Tickets are the entire goal of an arcade. The more tickets you collect, the better the prizes you can “buy” at the end of your arcade experience. And this guy, for whatever reason, kept leaving tickets behind.

“So then the guy walked right up to me,” Shane said. “He said, ‘A thousand tickets are about to come out of that machine, and you can have them.’ But I didn’t know what he was doing. Like maybe he was cheating on the machines, and I don’t think it’s fair to take tickets if someone is cheating. So when they came out, I didn’t take them. And later, we noticed that someone else probably took them, because they were gone.”

A thousand tickets! That’s enough for some incredible prizes.

But Shane passed on the tickets because … he wanted to do the right thing.

Then karma intervened. Shane was playing a game where you “spin” something and then stop the spinning by slamming your hand down on a button. When the spinning stops, the electronic wheel registers a number – and that’s the number of tickets you get. Sometimes the number is two.

Shane hit the MONSTER JACKPOT. He ended up with something like 3,000 tickets – way more than he would have had if he’d simply taken the tickets from the guy in the black hat.

And he knew that he deserved them, that he earned them, that even in a game of chance, the odds had been in his favor.

So he reveled in his tickets for awhile, and then bought a ton of stuff at the prize store. He felt happy and fulfilled and proud. But no one was prouder than me, even though I wasn’t there.

My boy chose to do the right thing.

Or Is He Just Guessing?

Dylan hopped onto the computer one night, researching something on the internet. My blog popped up.

“I did not say I hated computer class!” he yelled. “I never said I hated computer science! This is a lie! Not the truth! You’ve broadcast something for the whole world to see that just isn’t true!”

I was in the other room. He just kept bellowing about truth, and the media, and how I’d “lied!” to the public about what he actually said.

So I thought about it.

And perhaps Dylan did not say he hated his computer class. Maybe he said something else. Maybe he said, “I can’t stand my computer class!” or “I really don’t like my computer class.” I suppose he could have used those words.

But the way I remember it, he said he “hated” computer class.

I often think about Angela’s Asheswhich is maybe my favorite book of all time. The writing was so superb, and the details so compelling, that I devoured ‘Tis almost immediately afterward.

At the time, in spite of being a mom to two toddlers, I was taking a fiction writing course at the local writing center. One day, I asked the teacher about Angela’s Ashes author, Frank McCourt.

“How can he possibly remember all those details?” I asked, genuinely confused. “There are pages and pages of dialogue from his childhood! Does he have a photographic memory? Or is he just guessing?”

The writing teacher laughed. “I think he takes some liberties with the exact words,” she said. “It’s called ‘creative nonfiction.'”

So the next writing class I took was called “Creative Nonfiction.” And since that time, I have done the best I can, reporting as accurately as possible.

Perhaps Dylan did not say he “hated” his computer science class. Perhaps, no matter how I remember it, those weren’t his exact words.

And it no longer matters. Today, he loves the class.

I Suddenly Totally Got It!

I sent an email to Dylan’s computer teacher.

I am trying to back off. I really am trying. But I felt so awful about Dylan disliking his class – and watching his grade plummet – that I sent a quick note:

“Dylan is struggling mightily in computer science class. He refuses to ask for help, so if you could just wander by and make sure he knows what he’s doing, it might help get him back on track.”

The next day, Dylan came home from school practically gleeful.

“Mom!” he squealed. “I suddenly totally got it and then I coded a whole website in one day!”

I swear, he was almost dancing. The light bulb was on and shining brightly in his brain. Thanks to something called Google Classroom, he even pulled up his work on the computer and showed me what he’d done.

I emailed the teacher again – of course – to thank him for checking in with my son. The email I got back from the teacher was rather unexpected, though:

“To be honest, Dylan was doing some things that may have put him behind a little in class (caught him playing video games a few times) and I think when I sat him down and walked him through an assignment a little bit…he found it wasn’t as difficult as he first thought.

Hm. Video games.

I think when Dylan falls behind, he tends to kick himself a bit too hard, and maybe give up a bit too quickly. I think playing video games was his way of saying, I don’t know what I’m doing, so why even try?

This is a dangerous mindset that I recognize only too well from my own youth.

But now, hopefully, he’s on the right path again. Best of all, he’s really enjoying computers now!

And also, I’ve threatened to take away large chunks of time from his at-home video game time if he’s ever caught again playing video games in class.

Most interesting, though, is that both Dylan’s teacher and Dylan believe that the light bulb went off without any assistance – that Dylan discovered what he was doing, all on his own.

Which tells me, again, that I should really just stay out of it.

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