Four teenage boys ride in the back of a sport utility vehicle talking about video games, bragging about sports and laughing about bodily functions that really can't be detailed in this family newspaper.
That was the scene when my friend and I embarked on a road trip with our sons last week. Rooting the idea in the age-old tradition of male bonding, we leave the wives and daughters at home and set a course for some locale in the distance.
This time, we drove to Charlotte. But it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. Or as Miley Cyrus fans would say, it's not about reaching the top of the mountain, it's about the climb.
One of the boys actually chimed in with that correction, but to protect the innocent, I won't reveal which one channels Hannah Montana.
Anyway, through all the laughter my friend and I tried to plant some pearls of wisdom as we approach the beginning of a new school year. Hopefully, every parent will find some use in the advice we offered.
Stand up for the bullied.Recent headlines put this topic at the top of the list. Naturally, we don't expect you to accept the attacks of a bully, but more importantly, we want you to defend those who draw taunts, teasing and worse. It's not snitching, it's doing the right thing.
We can talk about the need for added supervision from teachers and administrators, but self-policing is equally important, and you can set the tone at your school.
Don't blame the teacher. This topic made us want to form a support group: Hi, my name is Steve and every time I get a low grade, it's the teacher's fault. Hi Steve.
There seems to be no shortage of excuses crafted by students. They blame boring lesson plans, perceived biases, and it's even worse when parents join in with complaints.
I'm the son of teachers and my friend is a teacher, so here's our assessment: That's garbage.
Teachers are not out to get you. Trust me, they're striving to help kids learn because it's not like their teeming salary is keeping them in the classroom. You need to strive to get a top grade regardless of whether you think the class is fun. It's school, not a video game.
In life, you're not going to like every boss so learn to deal with it, now.
Get your parents engaged. Look, conference night notices should not be thrown out or buried in the bowels of your backpack. You should encourage your parents to converse with your teachers. I promise, we won't conspire to ruin your life — but we might shelve that Xbox if you're not giving your all.
On the other hand, if parents get a chance to show that they care, the teacher is going to have more respect for you. If a teacher has 150 students, more than 10 parents should show up for conference night.
Get more involved. Extracurricular activities make up a big part of the high school experience, and you don't have to wait until you're a senior to step up. Find a club that piques your curiosity, and make some new friends.
Or better yet, start your own club — not just because you need volunteer service hours, but because it'll help you learn about yourself and that you actually can make a difference.
Save the drama for the school stage. I know we occasionally tease about dating, but there's no need to seek a serious relationship. You've got the rest of your life to discover love has as many lows as it has highs. Focus on your future. Treat girls like you would treat your sister or your mom, and don't get twisted up in heartache.
Have fun. If you make good decisions, stay out of trouble and do your best in class, these can be some of your best years. As the bumper sticker says: Enjoy Life, This Is Not A Rehearsal.
That's all I'm saying.