Lancer Letter – A Simpler Gift

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

Author’s Note: For the next three weeks, I will be rerunning a three part series which I wrote for the holiday season in 2011. I call it the “Simple Gift series” and I hope you agree it is worth printing again.

Note: This week, we continue with part 2 of the “Simple Gifts” series written in 2011.

A Simpler Gift.

Many families enjoy various Christmas traditions. One for my family centered on the lupini bean. Each year at Christmas as a special treat, my mother would come home with a jar of lupini beans. She considered them a delicacy.

lupini-beans-WEB If you’re not familiar with lupinis, they have the shape of a lima bean. They are kept in a jar with a brine solution. You have to learn to break the skin with your teeth and pop the bean into your mouth. Other than the taste of salt, they do not have a distinct flavor. Like many legumes, lupinis are high in protein offering 36 grams of protein in a 100 gram serving.

My mother grew up in a large family with seven children. They were a poor family and could never afford the abundance we experience today. Their treat at Christmas was to purchase dry lupini beans and soak them in brine solution for the weeks leading up to Christmas. Anticipation would build each week as Christmas day grew near when the beans would be available to eat.

By today’s standards, lupini beans do not make for an exciting Christmas. In the economy of my mother’s family, they were a treat. I think it was partially because of my mom’s background the she was able to give me an important gift throughout my life. I call it “the gift of NO.”

I’m glad my parents didn’t give me everything I asked for. I was like any child, wanting every toy I saw on television and requesting whatever caught my eye at Woolworths. My mother was firm in limiting what I could have. Of course, it didn’t make me happy then, but now I can see how “the gift of NO” gave me a discipline in life that is critical to success.

While it is natural for parents to want to give their children everything they can, in so doing, they also give them a handicap. Overindulged children become lazy, undisciplined adults. The practice of denial when we are young, leads to the ability to practice self-denial when we are older. I define discipline as “doing the thing we don’t want to do when we don’t want to do it.” When I ask disciplined students why they’ve developed this trait, they always point toward their parents.

In addition to the development of self-discipline, the gift of NO helps us learn to deal with disappointment and denial. I’ve noticed some parents try to shield and protect their children from disappointment and rejection. I’ve seen it many times. A student does not make a team or a recognition, and rather than help the child deal with it, the parents try to get the school to change the situation. This is a travesty for the child. Doing so delays the inevitable and will mean that when a student first experiences rejection later in life, mom and dad may not be there to coach them through it. Coaching a child through disappointment is an important function that a parent performs so that a child develops good coping skills that will be needed throughout life.

Dealing with adults who weren’t told “no” as children is a challenge. I seem to come across more and more as the years go on. I’ve always found it interesting when parents disagree with a policy or decision made by the district and their charge is “GM is supposed to be a great district, yet you are making this poor decision.” The failure to have enough “gift of NO” in their life blinds them to the fact that the decision of the district may be another reason we are a great district, even though it doesn’t match what they want!

So here we are in the season of overindulgence and I’m preaching discipline and self-denial. If you are a parent who cannot afford to buy your children everything they want this Christmas, take heart! You are giving them a greater gift than material things can provide. If you tend to overindulge your children, I’m giving you good reason to rethink what you’re doing. And, if you’re like most parents, you appreciate the reinforcement of knowing that even though saying NO sometimes doesn’t feel good, it may very well be the right thing to do.

Eat a lupini. Celebrate the season!

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion.

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