The What Ifs
10/27/2017 9:48:00 AM, 172 views
Last weekend my daughter found a copy of Shel Silverstein’s book "A Light in the Attic" on the bookshelf in her brother’s room. In the book there is an inscription from her grandparents that simply says “I hope you enjoy reading these poems with you dad as much as I did when he was your age.”
Each night this week, Ella and I have read from the book for thirty minutes before she falls asleep. On Wednesday night we came across the poem "Whatif."
"Whatif" by Shel Silverstein
Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I'm dumb in school?
Whatif they've closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there's poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don't grow taller?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won't bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don't grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!
As Ella read this poem to me I couldn’t help but wonder “are the what ifs that children faced in 1980’s when the poem was written the same for students today?” I spent the majority of the night lying awake thinking about the difficult choices our students face in today’s connected and complicated world.
On Thursday I had the privilege of attending the Rome Floyd County Commission of Children and Youth’s annual Teen Maze with our ninth grade students. The Teen Maze is an educational program that helps students understand the choices they have in their lives and the possible positive and negative consequences for those choices. Our students spent the morning learning about the choices that they have when they get behind the wheel of a car, in their relationships with others, and with the substances they put into their bodies.
When we returned from the Teen Maze I re-read the "Whatif" poem and realized that while the world has changed in many ways since I was in high school twenty years ago the challenges facing young people remain the same. I am grateful that my children and our students attend a school that empowers students to act with integrity and is purposeful in its decision making curriculum that is presented in advisory, assembly and health classes. I am thankful that I work at a school that dedicates time and resources to ensure that our students have caring and compassionate teachers, counselors, advisors, coaches and dorm parents who are there to help our students navigate the What Ifs in their lives.