AND THEN AGAIN……by Tamara Pettit

….I see them everywhere.  Parents with kids buying all the supplies to go to school.  Parents helping a kindergarten student pick out that first backpack.    Parents tearfully looking at bedspreads and laundry hampers for the college dorm.  Yep, it’s that time of the year.    Kids of all ages will soon be departing be it kindergarten or college and every parent reading this needs to know there is just a nanosecond between the two.  You take a breath when your kids go off to kindergarten and before you exhale they’re off to college.   And, as the list for what they need  grows longer and the time grows shorter the question is “ What can we give our kids to prepare them for the challenges ahead, the disappointments…. the down days…… the challenging times?”   

…..How about a star?  Yep.  In a day and age when critic scorn those who give every kid a trophy claiming it doesn’t prepare them for the real world, I propose a “star” to do just that.  Why? Well, let me share a story about the power of a star.

  It was a simple, five-point star that made all the difference.  The first one was drawn with a fountain pen…not perfect….but drawn deliberately on each of my hands.  Getting that star each night was magic to me.   After my nightly bath I would tiptoe down to my Dad’s office.  He would pull out the side panel of his desk and I would offer up both hands so that he could draw a star on each of them.  Because after all, I was his star.

As the years passed the knowledge of how special I was to him became imbedded in my identity.  My Dad’s belief in me prompted me to finally get my college degree at age 42 and to put my self-worth out there for all to judge when I ran for public office.  His unwavering belief sustained me through divorce, job loss, near death car accident and breast cancer.  It was there when I won elections and it was a life raft when I lost.  Stars, you see, don’t give up when the going gets tough.

And, when his grandchildren could understand what it meant, they too held out their hands for a star.  It was a little more difficult for my son, Doug.  A severe speech problem was a big obstacle for him.  At age five when he entered kindergarten, no one could understand a word the talkative little boy said.  His grandfather took the extra step for him.  He would remove Doug’s socks and shoes and inch by inch draw a star on his instep.  It was not an easy task for this five-year-old was ticklish.  It involved giggles, jerky feet and his grandfather dodging a wayward kick now and then.  But my Dad persevered because Doug needed to know that although no-one could see it, it was in his blood to be a star.

The legacy of that star survived my Dad.  In an essay written by Doug, then a Senior at Bethany College, upon his Grandfather’s death my son would write how the act of drawing that star on his foot day after day, year after year,  had a long-term impact on his life.

“The most special thing the man ever did was my secret,”  Doug wrote.  “He was determined to make me feel special and he did.”

Three years later upon Doug’s graduation from law school, I gave my son a watch.  It had a star roughly etched on the back.  I wanted him to forever have a star on his hand.

 As I have watched two children and six grandchildren each find their own special niche in life, I more than ever recognize the power of a star.   Call it what you will and express it how you must,  but know that the infusion of self-esteem is the most valuable inheritance your children will ever receive.