Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A forced metaphor, a parent’s delight

It's our little Beatrice's six-month birthday today, and although the past six months have flown by, we definitely have lived in the moment embracing each one as if holding her for the first time.

What to give her?

Words and the empowerment of proper language (yes, it's a fragment). Words were the only children I thought I'd ever birth into this world, but now that we have Beatrice, we want to ensure that becomes a voracious reader and skillful writer and communicator.

It doesn't mean that she has to be a Pulitzer prize-winning author or the award-winning journalist who saves us from the slanted 24/7 30-second media blitzkriegs. It means she needs to be a critical, independent thinker with the ability to string sentences together correctly.

And a best-selling, award-winning author.

Isn't that the way it is? We want the best for our children and even when we say we're not going to push them, we push them nonetheless – a forced metaphor, a parent's delight.

Ugh, I'm up way too early yet again and catching up on work and personal play and as I peruse my latest SJSU Washington Square magazine (I'm a proud Spartan alum!), I came across an article titled Struggling for Words. Here's the first paragraph:

More than 50 percent of San José State's incoming students are not prepared to write at the college level. Much more than incorrect spelling, comma splices and run-on sentences, the problem is that these students lack a critical life skill.

That's staggering and not unique to the CSU system. According to some SJSU faculty and administrators, these obstacles contribute to the problem:

  • a declining culture of reading
  • budgetary constraints at all educational levels
  • increasing numbers of English language learners

The long-term effects of Prop 13 have added to the education budget woes, and the latest California budget fiasco includes the continued gutting of public education in this state. It's bad enough that we rank 49th in the nation in terms of class size – fast forward to today's anemic business climate and we rank dead last in a national ranking of the best states to do business in.

Can you feel the Golden State pride?

I'm not going to tackle that one today myself, but to help combat the illiteracy entering college every year, SJSU launched the Writing Center two years ago and offers one-on-one tutoring, workshops, and classroom "house calls" for everyone on campus.

As parents we can help combat this problem much earlier starting in year one. Reading aloud to your children, even when they're still in the womb, is crucial. Your children witnessing you reading is as important as encouraging them to read in their formative years.

Plus, making sure they're absorbing the grammar skills learned in early childhood and beyond will help them remain competitive in the ever-changing workplace. According to Cheryl Allmen-Vinnedge, director of the SJSU Career Center, "wherever San José State graduates go, they will find that written and oral communication are among the top 10 skills employers are looking for."

Alas, I know jet ski too much I know. I took the grammar skills test and need some immediate remedial help. Between helping to run a marketing/PR software and services firm, unending work e-mail, multiple clients, blogging for work and pleasure, spending an ungodly amount of time on Facebook and Twitter, I'm amazed that I still make time to read poetry, short fiction, and God willin' and the creek don't rise, a novel every once and awhile.

And right correctly. I mean write.

So Beatrice, our gifts today and tomorrow are words and language and proper grammar (maybe two languages if get our schtick together).

Happy Birthday Baby!


Forced Metaphor


My children are my words,

and their lifelong sentence deems

freedom from the illegitimate divine

premise of defined procreation that rattles

millions of already confused and angry sperm.

They beat themselves senseless over a few fertile eggs,

ragged helix river salmon channeled blind to genome sea.


My children are my words,

from their afterbirth clauses and baby babble spelling bees,

to their young rebellious phrases so inarticulate and fierce

that evolve and grow into dusty volumes upon volumes

revised over years resilient, their elder text

now nurtures my bones, yellowed heart

and brief testament crumbles.


My children are my words,

and at the end of my story

they write my legacy wish weeping

for a forced metaphor, a parent's delight.


--KWG, March 2000

(Talk about forced. Ugh.)

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