As many of you know, I teach high school biological science, math, and computer science. As the calendar year and semester come to an end, and I am writing a new final for my science class, I find myself reflecting on what is truly important. I sift through the material and events of the past four months, separating trivial from fundamental, and try to make an assessment for my class that has as much intrinsic value in its assessment of learning as it might in teaching students a thing or two. Students laugh that my tests give me a chance to throw out my “two cents” about popular topics related to personal or environmental health, usually tied to current research. I would like to think that my tests instruct students so they can make wise decisions in their lives. In the past, I’ve included topics about the evils and merits of the world, from poisoning from alcohol, cigarettes, artificial sweeteners, metals, and plastics, to the molecular nature of cosmetic treatments, to healthy eating and exercise.
Speaking with one of my most interesting high school students yesterday, I had a chance to reflect further on what really matters. Revati had always stuck out due to her maturity, assertiveness, and creativity, and she had that certain “je ne sais quoi” that I figured had to do with the fact that she was new to my school. I really had no idea that what made her so unique was largely her situation, which has required her to grow up very quickly. Revati is in her final year of high school, and has only recently come back to the US after spending the last three years in India. She spent virtually all of her adolescence in the US, and through rebellious insistence, some very supportive parents, and the help of some friends, she was allowed to return to complete her last year of high school in the US. I had no idea that she was essentially living on her own, having to be responsible for so many things that her peers were oblivious of.
Revati is living with family friends, but she does her own laundry, much of her own shopping, and has to deal with all of those little things that mom and dad did for us when we were teenagers. She very much is having to grow up quickly. Her situation reminded me a great deal of my later college years, but even then, college campuses come with several conveniences that remove the need to take full responsibility of one’s situation. The most sudden period of “growing up” hit me when little Max was born. When I became responsible for the wellbeing of another, every decision become all the more important. I still did my own laundry, as I had for years, but now I wondered if I should use special detergent. I still cooked for my family as I had for years, but now I wondered if I should be buying organic, and if we were getting enough vegetables. Revati is certainly not wrestling with many of these issues I am sure she relishes some of the conveniences of modern life and can miraculously flourish off of processed prepackaged junk food like so many of us did when we were in high school but she has to deal with money, insurance, and plenty of bureaucracy that I somewhat ignored until I was in my mid-20s.
When Max was born, it felt like every mother around was telling me how he was going to grow up so quickly. In those first months, I cringed at this sentiment when faced with the shock of motherhood, every day can go so slowly. But after several months, and now, after several years, I have to agree. Max helps with the cooking and laundry, but I am more than happy to keep him from too much responsibility. My husband and I have decided that with his accelerated growing up, he need only be responsible for eating healthily (thus candy is not for breakfast, and dessert only comes after eating everything on his plate including his vegetables), exercising regularly and smartly (thus biking, hiking, and running every week, and wearing his helmet when on his bike), for minding his manners (thus saying “Please” and “Thank You” and practicing pleasantries with house guests), and for being kind to his world (thus not littering and squishing living critters with the intent to kill them). We notice Max is a sponge soaking up language, ideas, values, and worries from the world around him, but we hope we can raise him well enough so that as he grows up quickly, he can take it all in stride, just like Revati does.
Here are this week’s events (as long as they don’t get chilled or rained out):
Tuesday, December 15th at 9 am Loren and little Angelo will lead a hike around Almaden Lake and down Los Alamitos Trail. Meet at the water dragon by the big playground near the bathrooms and swimming beach in the main parking lot near the intersection of Coleman Avenue and Almaden Expressway. No dogs allowed! Any baby transport or stroller will work. For more information about the area or directions, see The Los Alamitos Creek Trail Webpage (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/LosAlamitos/LosAlamitos.html). If you’re running late, call Loren at 831-227-6737.
Tuesday, December 15th at 2 PM join Amy B. and her wee ones for a hike at Crystal Springs along the Sawyer Camp Trail, West of San Mateo and Burlingame. This is an entirely paved trail (well, I doubt it if we’ll make it to the short gravel section connecting to San Andreas Trail near mile 6) so all strollers work fine. Plenty of benches and port-o-potties along the way, and a nice picnic area with water near the 3.5 mile mark (if we make it that far). For information about the hike or directions, see Crystal Springs Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/CrystalSprings/CrystalSprings.html). Meet at the benches just inside the gate at Crystal Springs Rd and Syline Blvd. If you’re running late, call Amy at 408-368-7161.
Saturday, December 19th, at 10:30 am join Bike Buddies for a Family Friendly Bike Ride through downtown San Carlos, starting from the public library. The ride will last up to an hour. For more information, see SanCarlosGreen.org’s Website (http://www.sancarlosgreen.org/home/bikebuddies.html).
We hope you can slow down and relax a bit!
-Debbie and little Max