It was the last week before Winter Break. I had gifts to wrap, baking to finish, teacher goodies to package, neighbor bags to stuff, Christmas cards to finish, and a few last minute gifts I was tracking through UPS with a fervent prayer that they’d arrive in time for family gatherings. I already had two mornings committed to volunteering in Bear’s class and a third day blocked for (silent groan) cafeteria duty so the teachers could enjoy their holiday luncheon.
It’s fair to say I was pretty much freaking out about the time crunch.
So I was torn when T-man said he wanted me to come to his DARE graduation that Monday morning. I mean, he actually wanted me to be with him for a school event, so YAY. But I was already at the school three other days that week so the other part of me was all omg, really?! It has to be THIS Monday?
For those of you unfamiliar with the DARE program, it’s basically this generation’s Nancy Reagan. Only instead of having the first lady on television declaring “Just Say No!” they send police officers into the school to spend ten weeks with the fifth grade students in Drug Abuse Resistance Education. The program covers not only drugs and alcohol but also bullying and decision making strategies.
DARE has been a roaring success for T-man if this fall is any indication…hell, he might be in college before he even considers trying smoking or a beer. Okay, maybe not college, but let’s just say this semester he’s been incredibly interested in our alcohol consumption and is a one-man tobacco crusader when it comes to spotting people on the street.
So it’s not that I don’t believe in the DARE program; it’s just that I was so freaking stressed about getting everything done that I wasn’t 100% psyched to sit through a “yay, you completed the program!” ceremony.
I’ve never been so happy to be so very wrong.
Did the kids march into the room wearing snazzy new DARE t-shirts? Sure. Did they line up on risers for the ceremony? Yep. And eventually they were called forward one by one to shake their DARE officer’s hand and receive their graduation certificate. All standard stuff.
But their guest speaker was just…wow. The gentleman (we’ll call him Mr. Smith) used to be our county’s district attorney, and thirty seconds into his talk I realized how grateful I was that I came. Something amazing was happening.
He took the mike from the DARE officer’s hand, stepped up to the kids, threw his head back and sang out, “Baaaaa-by!” Their heads snapped to and they sat up straighter, probably wondering what the hell was going on. He turned to smile at the parents and then turned back to the kids: “Baaaaaaaa-by!!”
It was awesome.
He told the parents to watch and then asked the kids who sings that song; a bunch called out Chris Brown. Then he asked do they know what comes next…“Baby, is you drunk, is you had enough? Are you here lookin’ for love?” By this point a bunch of the kids are jamming out in their seats, and he just looked at the parents like “Are you SEEING this?”
[Wondering about the lyrics? Go ahead and check these out. I’ll wait.]
Mr. Smith asked the kids what people act like when they’re drunk and then called on T-man. (No, this is not blogging creative license…he ACTUALLY called on T-man to describe “drunk” and all I could think was tequila shooters and mom-of-the-year and oh lord oh lord oh lord, WHAT is that kid going to say?) T-man’s answer? “Crazy.”
Mr. Smith: Crazy. That’s right. And should you be lovin’ anybody when you’re acting crazy?!
Mr. Smith’s lessons were pretty eye-opening.
** When asked if it was Rihanna’s fault that she got beat up about 90% of those kids (including mine) raised their hands. I think I audibly gasped at that one before I could cover my mouth.
Mr. Smith spoke plainly, explaining that it was not Rihanna’s fault that Chris Brown laid his hands on her. He told the girls that every single one of them was a queen and he didn’t care what they did to make somebody mad – a boy never has the right to put his hands on them. He then told the boys it was their responsibility to treat the girls like queens, just like it was up to Chris Brown to accept responsibility for what he’d done.
** When asked how many of them had their own cell phones about 60% raised their hands (as my kid shot me The Look). My mouth dropped open at this point.
Mr. Smith turned his back on the kids, pulled out his phone, waved it in the air and said, “PARENTS. PA-RENTS! Think about that. And while you’re at it, you need to start thinking about this (waved phone around again) as a com-pu-ter. These kids can do anything on their phones. You think they don’t know? They know. And they know how to hide it, too. (Turned back to the kids.) Don’t pretend you don’t. Puh-lease.”
** Mr. Smith asked the kids what sexting was, and some brave soul volunteered “sending bad pictures on your phone.” After talking about the many ways taking OR sending pictures was a bad idea, Mr. Smith asked the kids how many of them had ever sent, received, or knew someone who had gotten one of these “bad pictures.” More than half of them raised their hands. Including my kid. (May I point out again that these are FIFTH GRADERS? I can’t even.)
Mr. Smith tried his best to reach the parents in that room. He talked about internet access, and passwords, and restrictions, and secret apps that look like one thing but actually hide all the other things kids don’t want their parents to see. He did everything but beg us to WAKE UP and UNDERSTAND the technology we were handing our 10- and 11-year-old kids.
If you’d told me I’d walk out of a DARE graduation singing its praises I’d have called you crazy, but that thing was awesome. Mr. Smith reached those kids on a level that was inspiring. With any luck, he’ll be at Bear’s graduation next year.