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It was Wednesday of the first week of school. At pickup, Ryan opened the door of our Honda Minivan and looked at me with big eyes and a wide smile.
“How was your day?” I asked sensing some good news.
“Mom, guess what?” Ryan clicked his seatbelt and sat up straight.
“On Friday the teacher is going to announce who is V.I.P. and I’m gonna get it.” Ryan squealed.
“Wow, okay. What is V.I.P.?”
“It’s when you get to sit in the V.I.P. chair the whole week and you get to do all your worksheets in pen, and you get to use all of the teacher’s supplies … and you know what else?”
He barely let me finish the sentence. “She gives you notebooks you can draw on if you finish your work early.” His enthusiasm was adorable.
“That’s awesome, buddy! And how do you know you’re the one getting V.I.P.?”
“Because she gives it to the kid who behaves the best. And mom, I’m the best behaved kid in the class.”
Ryan was so confident that I believed him. He couldn’t wait to get to school the next day and the next.
On Friday I waited for him in the pick-up line, excited to see that elated smile. But Ryan kept his head down as he sat in his seat, clicked his seatbelt, and crossed his arms.
“Ryry what happened?”
“Jake Diaz is the V.I.P., mom.”
My son was heartbroken. I leaned over to grab his hand. “It’s okay, buddy, you’ll have another chance to get V.I.P. This is only the first week of school.”
“But I behaved so good, mom; I did my best. I just knew I was going to get it, and I didn’t.”
I sat with my six-year-old and explained that sometimes you can work really hard at something and not be rewarded for it. You can do your best, and still lose. But it is in those difficult moments that you have the opportunity to show your real character.
Are you the kind of person who lets a failure keep you down, or the kind of person who keeps working toward your goal? Are you the team player who can celebrate someone else’s win, or will your ego make you resentful and bitter? Will you accept responsibility and find ways to win next time, or will you behave like a victim?
After some tears and hugs, we agreed that Ryan would work really hard to get V.I.P the following week, while still being happy for Jake.
The next Friday I waited anxiously for Ryan to come out of the school. As soon as I saw his half-smile, I knew he had not been chosen as V.I.P.
Before I even had the chance to ask, he blurted out, “They gave the V.I.P. to Samantha. The teacher decided to do one week boy, one week girl.”
That evening at dinner, we shared our highs and lows of the day as we always do. Ryan’s low: “Walking into class, seeing the VIP chair, and knowing I could not sit on it.”
“Daddy, may I be excused from dinner.” our middle son, Justin, asked.
Orlando resisted. “Justin, this is our family time together. Why do you want to be excused?”
“Please daddy, please. I need to be excused for a good reason but I can’t say what it is.”
Orlando allowed it.
A few minutes later, Justin shouted from his room. “Can you guys come here, please? Can you come … now?”
We headed toward Justin’s room. He’d grabbed Ryan’s old Elmo chair, draped a blanket over it, and decorated it with a white piece of paper that read “V.I.P. Chair.”
As Ryan walked in Justin stood by the elmo chair and said, “Ryry you don’t have to be V.I.P. at school. You’re V.I.P in our house.” Ryan ran to his brother and hugged him, crying.
“Why are you crying?” Justin asked.
“Because that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me, Justy. I have the best family in the world.”
My six-year-old learned a second valuable lesson: Sometimes what matters most is the support system you have around you. Knowing your people have your back, and that they will love you even when you’re down is incredibly powerful.
Our little Ryan did not lose hope. The following week V.I.P. was to be given to a boy, and Ryan was determined to be that boy. Every day he’d come home and let me know he had great conduct and that his teacher was so happy with him. Because I’d have to travel on the next Friday, Ryan asked me to call him as soon as school let out so he could let me know that he’d been chosen as V.I.P.
At 3:05 p.m. I rang. “Tell me Ryry? Did you get it?”
Another boy had been chosen once again—a boy who was new to the school and who had become one of Ryan’s closest friends. “Oh buddy, I’m sorry to hear that, but this is Chris’ first year; he may have needed to be V.I.P. even more than you did.”
“I know, mom. I said congratulations like a hundred times.”
“Good for you, buddy. You feeling ok?”
“Yeah I’m fine.”
“Good. Keep your head up and keep working toward your goal. You’ll be V.I.P. soon enough, and when you do, you’re going to enjoy it even more because you’ll have worked so hard to get it.”
“Okay, mom.” he replied softly.
On Tuesday of the fourth week of school, I noticed Ryan crying at bedtime. I lay next to him and asked him what was wrong.
“Every day I walk into the classroom and I see the V.I.P. chair, and I see myself sitting on it. Mom, I see someone else’s body and it’s like I see a cut out of my face on their body. I belong on that chair. I know I do. And I can’t get V.I.P. this week because it’s a girl’s turn!” he sobbed.
“Ryry, sometimes it takes us longer than we expect to get what we want. We don’t always get what we think we deserve. That’s life, buddy, but this is an opportunity to show you’re not a quitter.”
“But what is the point of behaving good if a girl is going to get V.I.P. anyway?”
“Ryan are you supposed to behave in class only to get V.I.P. or because it’s the right thing to do?”
He sniffled. “Because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Okay, let me ask you another question. Let’s say you get chosen as V.I.P. The privileges of being V.I.P only last for one week, right?”
“Well, does that mean that once that week is over, you plan to behave bad the rest of the year?”
“No.” He looked insulted.
“Then it doesn’t matter if it’s a girl’s turn this week. You’re supposed to behave because it’s the right thing to do, not because you want to be V.I.P. In life you must do what’s right because it’s right, not because you’re expecting to be rewarded for it. Sometimes you can do what’s right and never be rewarded for it. And even when that’s the case, I promise you, it will always be worth it.”
In a much calmer state, my son looked me in the eyes and said, “I guess you’re right mom.”
That Friday Ryan was picked up at school by grandma. When I arrived at the house, he was waiting for me with a folded piece of paper in his hand. It had a heart drawn on it and read: “For Mom.”
Ryan loves to draw me notes so this wasn’t out of the ordinary, but when I opened the paper, I couldn’t believe my eyes. In blue crayon, the note read Ryan is the V.I.P.
I started jumping up and down and cheering for him. He screeched and laughed in excitement. It was unexpected.
“Ryan, how did this happen? Wasn’t this week’s VIP supposed to be a girl?”
“Mom, I raised my hand in class today and when the teacher came to my desk, I asked her: ‘Does VIP have to go to a girl, or can it go to the child who behaved the best?’ The teacher said, ‘It should go to the child who behaves the best.’ And then at P.E. she said, ‘Ryan is the V.I.P. this week.’”
It was then that my son taught me a life lesson: Sometimes you have to ask for what you want; you have to speak up for yourself. He didn’t think he had a chance to get V.I.P., but Ryan asked the question that made his teacher think about her choice and re-evaluate her decision. He grabbed what he wanted because he knew he deserved it.
Ryan spent the next week sitting in his V.I.P. chair and enjoying that which he’d longed for since the first week of school. Every night at dinner as we announced our highs and lows, Ryan would share every detail of how great it was to be V.I.P.
This brings me to the last life lesson we all learned from this experience: Enjoy the win! Revel in the reward. We will always have ups and downs, wins and losses. Celebrate your successes when you have them and enjoy them.
Ryan was only V.I.P for one week, but his determination, character, and resilience will make him V.I.P for a lifetime.
Sometimes you don’t win even when you worked hard. Keep your head up and be a team player. Your time will come.
Surround yourself with people who will always have your back and push you to keep going when you’re feeling down.
Do what’s right because it’s right, not because of the reward. There won’t always be a reward.
Ask for what you want. Speak up. Don’t just sit and wait; go out and grab it!
Celebrate your success.
Apply these principles in your life, and you will always be a V.I.P. (A very important person)