Pick You Battles



Hank: (walking in the house from school, coat and backpack still on) Oh my gawd, mom, you will never believe what happened at school today.

Me: Spill.

Hank: So I was in the library and this 6th grader who had missed school was in there to take an exam and he cheated on the whole time! Like through the whole test!

Me: Cheated how?

Hank: I saw him. He was googling the answers.

Me: Huh.

Hank: Normally there is always someone with you when you take a test, but for some reason, I don’t know why he was given the test and left alone so he just used his phone. I mean, I told the librarian, but she said his teacher knew what was going on and not to worry about it, but my friends and I were, like, so upset because that wasn’t right. He should have studied.

Me: Agreed, but Hank, you don’t know the situation. You informed someone of your concerns and that is all you can do.

Hank: I was thinking of speaking to someone else tomorrow. I mean, it isn’t right!

Me: Was the boy physical harming himself or others?

Hank: No.

Me: Was he destroying property?

Hank: No.

Me: Was he creating an unsafe or disruptive environment?

Hank: No.

Me: Was he intentionally spreading a highly contagious communicable disease that could decimate the population?

Hank: Mom!

Me: Hank, you did your policing; you informed an adult and that is all you should do. I know you are a rule follower, but not everyone is like you. In life you will meet people who haven’t earned their place in the world and that isn’t fair, but trust me, that boy will suffer later if he doesn’t know the information on that exam. His laziness will cost him in the future, so there is no need to be a vigilante.

Hank: I just think it is unfair.

Me: Life isn’t fair.

Hank: But (pause)…

Me: Is that boy your friend?

Hank: No, he’s a sixth grader.

Me: All the more reason to not take this further. It isn’t your business, you informed an adult of what you saw and now his cheating is between him and his teacher.

Hank: (frustrated sigh) But why didn’t he just study?

Me: What if he did, but in being left alone he was far too tempted by his access to the internet to prove he knew the material?

Hank: I would never do that. I would never cheat.

Me: And I respect your decision, but no one is asking you to police your school and prosecute wrongdoing. Are you Batman?

Hank: Mom, no.

Me: You did the right thing speaking with the librarian, but you also need to trust the adult you informed to handle the situation further. Only in cases of marginalization, neglect, abuse, violence, impending doom and or natural disaster do you push forward.

Hank: But it’s wrong.

Me: I agree.


Me: Okay, I will tell you a story. A couple of years ago I had to get a blood draw and that blood draw had to be sent to Porto for analysis. It was arranged that I would just pop into the pathology lab at the hospital at the earliest appointment possible and dash in, have my blood drawn and dash out. It was all arranged. So I show up and I am the first one in line, but I didn’t have the same paperwork as the other people waiting in line so they assumed I was cheating and jumping in front of them, but I wasn’t Portugal people with certain illness, diseases and ages get to the front of the line.

Hank: Like babies.

Me: Exactly, but I didn’t look like I fit the criteria to jump the queue so a group of people, men and women, started demanding they see my appointment card and when the techs and I explained the situation and that I had priority because of my RA/AS they didn’t accept our answer and got rowdy and loud and accused me of cheating, saying I was lying and was probably a doctor’s daughter and being given special treatment.

Hank: That is so rude.

Me: Exactly! Then someone went and got a security guard and he got involved and questioned the techs and I again why I was jumping to the front of the line.

Hank: But you weren’t jumping.

Me: Yes, but the people assembled weren’t listening and decided to police the situation to get justice for being the second, third, fourth and fifth people in line instead of simply being one spot higher up the chain. It got so bad that the men that had their blood draws just after mine even walked behind me and insulted my limp and accused me of faking it for sympathy literally all the way home. They followed me to the door of our building loudly heckling me and accusing me of being a liar.

Hank: I think I remember this. You were so upset.

Me: I was and here’s the thing: I wasn’t upset when they raised their concerns in line, but I was mortified when they took their policing of me to the security guard and then to the streets. Even if I was cheating, which I wasn’t, was it all necessary? They had made their poor opinion of me and the situation known, they spoke with staff from the hospital and then with security, but in the end took it too far.

Hank: YES!

Me: Do you understand what I mean now about being a vigilante? There are a precious few moments in life when it is necessary to interfere, but there are far more small moments where it isn’t and your interference will be more harm than good.

Hank: Okay. I understand what you mean now. I don’t have to like the cheating, but I did what I could and I don’t want to take it too far.

Me: Exactly. Pick your battles, Hank.

Hank: I should save my battles for when I am needed.

Me: (nodding)

Hank: Okay, I understand now, thanks mom.

Me: Thank you.


The True Value of a Gift

conversations with hank


Hank: (coming to the dinner table with a new-to-him camera around his neck)

Pai: Filho (son), I love your enthusiasm, but you are absolutely not allowed to eat dinner with your camera around your neck.

Hank: Oh, I won’t! I’m still shook. I seriously can’t believe this day was real. Did you know, mom?

Me: I had no idea. I knew Alice was stopping by because she had brought me a few things from The States, but the camera was an amazing surprise.

Pai: You will have to fill me in, because I was not in the room and then I had to leave for a meeting.

Hank: I was walking around with Manny (Alice’s one year old toddler) in the hallway and I came back in the living room and mom was already crying.

Me: I cannot help it! My happiness is tied to my tear ducts.

Pai: We know; it’s genetic.

Me: When Hank and Manny left the room Alice digs into her bag and says, “Oh yah, I wanted to ask you if it was fine before I offered, but I got a new camer and I wanted to give this one to Hank if it’s okay,” and she pulls out…

Hank: THIS! (holding up the camera still around his neck)

Me: And I just bumble and nod and obviously start crying and then…

Hank: I walk in the room and Alice says some very nice things about the photos I take and hands me the camera and asks if I want it and I just, I don’t even remember what I said…

Me: Besides, “thank you.”

Hank: I mean, of course I said thank you a lot, but I was just shook, completely shook. I still am.

Pai: Instead of being shook be honored that someone believes in supporting your talent and interests.

Me: What a special day.

Hank: I will never forget this day! It’s like when the woman from Crayola

Me: (beaming) Julie.

Hank: Yes, It’s like when Julie sent our Robin’s Egg Blue crayons and then all those other art supplies. I feel like that day. I feel special.

Pai: It is the same gesture.

Me: When you give someone the tools to further pursue a passion it is a gift for both people, the giver and the receiver.

Hank: I mean this camera, I looked up what it cost, new and used…

Me: OP-BAH-BAP-BAP BAP-Bup! (shaking my head no)

Pai: Don’t do that, Hank. The value of a gift is not in its intrinsic value, what it costs or is worth, but in the reward of what you can do with that gift or how it makes you feel. Alice invested in you and proved she believes in you. She gave you a tool to help you take your interest in photography forward. Now it is up to you to use that tool.

Hank: Mom already downloaded the users manual and I am researching getting a camera case and I am going to spend my whole school holiday taking pictures.

Pai: Smart.

Me: Her gift will only be honored if you use it and every picture you take and share with her she will be a tiny bit apart of that. That is how you can give back.

Pai: That and writing an American thank you note and offering to babysit when you’re thirteen.

Hank: OH, she and Filipe can count on that and farm chores if they need! They will have to teach me how to do the farm chores and I will do my best to ignore spiders, but, I mean, I would have done all of those things anyway.

Me: We know.

Pai: I think she knows that, too. Now take that camera off your neck so we can eat. Amália Sofia?

Molly: Sim, pai (yes, dad)?

Me: Dinner.

Molly: I coming. (walking over to the table and struggling to climbing into an standard dining chair because she refuses to use a “baby chair” anymore, once settled placing an arm on her brother’s shoulder) How your day, mano (brother)?

Hank: Mana (sister), I had the best day!

Molly: Me, too! (wrapping her arms around his neck)

Hank: Awe, I love you, mana (sister).

Molly: I love you too, mano (brother).

Me: (instantly sobbing)

Pai: Round two!

Hank: Oh, mom!

Me: I can’t help it! It is genetic! My happiness is tied to my tear ducts!

Molly: (to Hank) She happy? She happy, mano (brother)? Happy crying?

Hank: Yes, mana (sister). Don’t worry.

Me: (face in my napkin, just a weepy mess of awesome, grateful love)



It ain't a bad view.

It ain’t a bad view.


Hank: (walking past my office, eyes glued to his phone, pauses in the doorway) Mom?

Me: (sitting on the guest bed with no phone, no computer and no book, eyes fixed on the window) Hum?

Hank: Are you okay?

Me: Yup.

Hank: Do you need anything?

Me: Nope.

Hank: Are you sad.

Me: Not at all.

Hank: Are you just sitting there and staring out the window?

Me: No.



Hank: It looks like you’re just staring out the window.

Me: Does it?

Hank: Yes.

Me: Oh.

Hank: Mom?

Me: Hum?

Hank: What are you doing?

Me: I’m using my imagination.

Hank: Oh, okay…


Hank: Cool, bye mom.

Me: Bye Hank.