Eric was not a "natural" student. All through grammar school and high school he fought for his grades. He spent hours studying, doing homework, and working on projects and papers. I remember him getting an A on a summer reading project, and Eric telling me that the teacher said "that was much more than I was looking for!"
I have been trying to instill that work ethic in all of our children. I have never been concerned with A's or B's, or winning or losing, but rather the effort that goes into it. The philosophy was simple, Do Your Best. Don't quit. It doesn't matter if it's school, work, sports, whatever the task at hand is. Just do your best. We don't expect you to be perfect, but aim for perfection. If you miss, you're still in a good spot. If you fail, well, if you gave it all you had it's hard for us to complain.
Watching Eric grow has been a privilege. I've seen him work to frustration on things. I had to tell him to be flexible on the Don't Quit part. Sometimes you just have to walk away. But before you walk away, did you do your best? If so, OK, if not, try again. When we hike, especially when he was younger I always left the decision to continue up to him. He doesn't stop. He may sit down at every opportunity, but he doesn't' quit. He has learned about weather and trail conditions and will turn around if there are doubts, but he is motivated to reach summits.
In high school Eric was a member of the National Honor Society. We never expected that, but we should have known better. He worked very hard to gain entry, and he worked even harder to stay in. During his junior year we began to discuss colleges. Eric was interested in going away to school and he mentioned St. Michael's College in Vermont, and he received a scholarship offer from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. Before we could schedule visits, Tracie had the first of her heart problems. During the rest of his junior year and into his senior year I encouraged Eric to look at schools and schedule visits. The more that Tracie went to the hospital, the less he spoke about going away for college. I told him it was OK for him to be selfish about this, he would be working toward his future and he should be focused on that. Without any remorse or looking back, he told me that he thought that with mom being sick, it was best for him to stay home so he could help. My heart broke, but I knew I couldn't change his mind. Much like my father's son, my son has a stubborn streak in him.
Eric enrolled at Bunker Hill Community College and did very well. A scheduling mix-up left him one class short of graduating in two years. His fifth semester at Bunker Hill ended in the fall of 2013, and instead of transferring to a four year school immediately, he took the spring semester off to work and bank some money. We looked at some state colleges and I thought he was a lock for Bridgewater State. How wrong I was. After visiting Salem State, he was all in. He loved the campus, and he loved the idea of being able to explore Salem and the surrounding towns. That he did, usually wandering off on his own little adventures. I called about once a week. I didn't want to hover, I wanted him to grow, and I wanted him to enjoy life away from home.
Eric excelled at Salem. His grades were great, and he made the Dean's List last fall. During his time at Salem he really grew into himself. I watched "the boy" become a man. A fine man at that. So, today he reached his goal, he graduated. I look back at what the kid endured and I wish I could have made it easier for him. If you ask Eric, he says, it wasn't that bad, we go through it.
Way to go kid, way to go!