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Our Story Begins: Why Other People’s Kid Problems Make Me Grateful

Kids
Our Story Begins:
Why Other People’s Kid Problems Make Me Grateful

There have been a lot of bizarre stories in the last couple weeks of kids and parents just behaving . . . well, let’s call it what it is . . . bat-s**t crazy!

First, there was the case of Patrick Snay.  The former prep-school headmaster who sued over discrimination had to forego the 80 grand settlement.  Why?  Two words: “suck it.”  The Snay family is now famous (read: infamous) for their daughter posting those two words on her Facebook page and informing the social mediaverse that she’s getting the money for her vacation to Europe.  That violated a confidentiality agreement and quicker than you can say “Stonehenge is a magical place” the money’s gone.  By the way, the elder Snay has a job at another school so I don’t suppose you have to feel too badly for him.  You might because of his daughter, but hey . . . he raised her.

Then comes perhaps the craziest story of the week: Rachel Canning.

Related: Top Talker: High School Student Sues Parents for Private School Tuition

I think the headline for Miss Canning says it all: she’s suing her parents to be able to stay in her private school . . . basically a monthly stipend along with her tuition savings for college.  She’s living with a friend whose father filed the lawsuit – which didn’t do well in its first hearing, by the way.

All this makes me proud.  Not of the people in the stories, of course . . . proud of my children.  Grateful for them.

Here’s why: in 2011 my wife, Andrea, their mother, passed away. We had two incomes and Andrea made more than I did.  My sons were – calling it what it is – spoiled.  One son screamed until he got what he wanted all the time.  All four kids went to private schools, my oldest in a private high school.  In the period of about two to three months the kids lost their Mom, we moved out of our home, and I had to make tough choices about their educations.  Thanks to the kindness of others, the tuition was paid for the Spring semester of 2011.

Related: Our Story Begins: The Lift of a Thousand Cranes

That summer, my oldest daughter was in tears as we talked about whether she could stay in her private high school.  We didn’t just lose half our income, Andrea made a really good living.  Hers was more like 2/3 our income.  When she passed, with no life insurance, all savings drained to pay off debts related to death.  Dying, my friends, is very, very expensive.
One evening, in the middle of June, my daughter came to me saying “it’s okay, Daddy, I want you to move me to the public school.” She saw the confusion in my eyes as I tried to see if I could find a way to keep her there.
“I talked with the registrar,” she told me, “and they gave me the list of what it costs to go there.  That tuition is higher than Penn State’s out of state tuition each year!”  She was right, it was.  “I’d rather we use the money where we need it.”

abbi concert

Dave’s oldest child, Abbi

Public school, your junior year, as a new kid, is insane.  I know that.  She weathered it, though, like a trooper.  There were certainly tears, angry words at times, and much teenage angst.  Never once did she blame me for how things were.  Not once.  None of them did.  From the day Andrea died, I haven’t seen one temper tantrum or meltdown from any of my kids.  Not one.

This isn’t just a proud father moment.  There’s a lesson here for all parents, one that my kids say should be our family motto: “stronger together than apart.”  We all realized that we could be self-aware without being selfish.  When one of us feels the weight of grief, we all carry some of the load for them.  When one falters, the others pick them up.  Those first days each single step felt like our feet were encased in concrete.  But when my kids saw me move, inch by inch, down life’s road . . . they followed.

So when I see so many crazy stories about insane behavior and possibly terrible parenting I have to look to my kids.  We had a wonderful life with their Mom.  It’s a strange feeling to know that we’ve gotten a second chance to do it even better.  That means doing it together.

Stronger together than apart.

What about you?  Do you ever cave in to your kids or listen to the tantrums?  Does the routine take over, or do you break it just to have a little fun with the kids?

Dave Manoucheri

Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California.  A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan

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