Last week Amery students survived the first week of school. Some were excited to head back, others climbed on the school bus steps with more lackluster looks on their faces. The beginning of the school year coincided with an ESPN program I recently watched entitled, “The First Day.” ESPN has had some compelling stories that have sucked me in. My most recent watch featured Chris Herren.
Herren was born in in Fall River, Massachusetts and grew up to be a talented basketball player. In 1994 Herren was one of the top high school players in the country. He was the Gatorade and Boston Globe player of the year.
Herren dabbled in drugs and alcohol in high school and in college developed a heavier drug habit. After being let go from Boston, he had a great sophomore year with Fresno State. His Junior year he was set to be a first round draft pick in the NBA, but drugs were taking a stronger hold on him. He ended up as the 33rd pick overall by the Denver Nuggets. Eventually Herren was traded to Boston Celtics, and after being cut, he went overseas to Italy to play ball.
Drugs consumed Herren’s life for quite a few years before numerous stints in treatment paid off and he turned his life around. He now travels around the country and shares his story.
“Everyone thinks this talk is about drugs and alcohol, but this talk is actually about struggle,” said Herren. He shared there are times when he walks into an auditorium; his hope is that he can help just one student.
His words resonated strongly with me. Whether my columns have a humorous spin or I share something that is weighing heavily on me, my hope is always that at least one person can associate with my thoughts.
The start of the school year has had me thinking about how as parents we tend to hover our children academically, we apply pressure athletically, but how do we help our children socially? How do we help our kids go through the roller coaster of high school and survive it?
High school is hard; it is not easy. Unfortunately I am guilty of telling my kids it will be the best four years of their life. With most teenagers having self-esteem problems, how can I possibly look them in the face and tell them the ages of 14-18 should be the easiest of their life? It is peak timing for not feeling good enough, pretty enough or that you have enough.
It is hard to explain to kids that someone who might seem to have all the confidence in the world might be pretending. Heck- how do you explain something that plagues people in adulthood as well?
During his presentation Herren said, “There are kids pretending, I pretended too. I wish I would have walked out and grabbed a coach or talked to a teacher, looked them in the eye and said, ‘I am tired of pretending that everything is cool when it is not.’ There are plenty of kids who know that feeling.”
My biggest take away after watching the program was the need for open communication with kids. Sometimes getting our teens to talk to us is like pulling teeth. I know I am also guilty of being the mom who has forced myself to believe my children when they say, “Everything is fine,” knowing it is not.
Anytime a kid opens their mouth to say something, it takes guts. Herren said, “For as much as I struggled in my life, I truly believe that struggle ended the day I started talking about it.”
Every kid knows a little bit about struggle, some more than others. Not every student has the luxury of going home and having a parent to discuss their day with. My goal is to be better about making sure my children know we are here to listen. I guarantee there will be times the listening is much scarier than the telling.
The only roller coaster that might be bigger and more frightening than high school just might be parenting.
I enjoy sharing my thoughts with you, and look forward to readers sharing their thoughts in return.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery WI. 54001 or I can be reached by phone at 715-268-8101