One thing I have tried to teach my boys is that their legacy should not be in the awards they receive but the love they have for others. I don't want either of them to become like so many in our culture who define themselves by three things that so many others guage success by:
1. What they do (career)
2. What they have
3. What others say about them
This is not in any way to say that I am not happy that their hard work has been noticed. As a parent, I am always glad to hear a teacher tell me good things about my sons or to praise their hard work and efforts. This is especially true for Cava. He spent the formative years of his life only hearing the negative said about it and eight years of that is tough to uproot. Yet I hope that his awards ceremony today helped to dislodge some of those cruel words spoken to him by his previous care givers and teachers back in Ukraine.
Cava received five awards today. They are more than pieces of paper for him. These are symbols of validation for all of his hard work and his desire to be better and to excel in school. Since I couldn't be there at his awards ceremony, fortunately my wife was, I asked him, "How did you feel whenever your principal called your name out?"
"Happy," he beamed.
"Why did that make you happy?"
"Because it meant they loved me and thought I was special," he replied.
And they do.
Cava's school has embraced and loved him in a way that has been overwhelming to us as a family. I know that having an awesome principal like Mrs. West has made a huge difference in helping Cava to heal and see himself as something other than "bad" or "trouble" as he was convinced for so long that he was. I have seen how she interacts with Cava and, even when he was in trouble, she showed him such compassion and love that it is causing a change in my son because he sees, outside of home, that he can be loved even when he has made a wrong choice or a bad decision. He is learning that he is more than his moments of lapses in behavior. Mrs. West is someone Cava trusts, which is huge for him, and someone he seeks out when he is struggling or feeling overwhelmed. And she is patient and kind to him when he does.
I cannot stress enough how much of a role Cava's teacher, Mrs. Tuttle, has played in his becoming an honor roll student all year long. We could not have asked for a better and more understanding teacher. She genuinely loves Cava. And he loves her more than she will ever know. There is a special place in his heart for her that will always be there. I know that when he's grown and he is asked what teacher had the biggest impact on his life, it will be Mrs. Tuttle. She approached Cava with understanding, love, and such generosity that, even when he didn't deserve it, she extended such grace that it has truly helped us teach him about forgiveness and thoughtfulness. We cannot thank her enough for helping Cava have the best year he has ever had in school.
The awards Cava got today are more than mere pieces of paper. Those awards are representations of all of the hard work that not only Cava, but his teacher, his principal, and, us, as his parents have labored over the course of this school year to achieve. It has been a partnership where all have been focused on the success of Cava: not only in terms of his scholastic development, but, more importantly, on who he is becoming and how he sees himself. They are helping us to transform not only the mind of Cava but his spirit and identity. He is starting to heal and this healing has been strengthened and deepened by how Mrs. West and Mrs. Tuttle have responded to and genuinely loved a child who had never experienced that in school prior to coming to theirs. He is not the same kid as the one who started there three years ago.
Our family thanks you both from the bottom of our hearts for all that you have given of yourselves, for the work you have put in daily, and going beyond your job descriptions to teach Cava lessons about love, acceptance, and who he is that will have an impact on all of his life.
We are so grateful to have you in the lives of our family.