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Grit and Red Licorice

Written By: Mary Ann Mulvehill
Grit has become a recent buzzword to describe the perseverance and determination that we as parents strive to build into our kids. Parenting is hard! Building character into your child, while they are surrounded by a world that says easier is better and teaches them they are “owed” an easy life is tough. One of my biggest struggles as a parent is instilling the same character lessons that my parents taught me without living in the same circumstances. I grew up on a farm in Alabama. While it wasn’t a working farm, it provided us with food for our family and taught my siblings and me a strong work ethic. How do you translate getting up before school to carry 50-pound bags of feed to hungry animals, break the ice in water buckets, and haul hay bales to raising a kid in the city? 

One of the greatest character lessons I learned came from a bright idea I had at age 14. I decided I was going to show a steer in the local FFA/4-H competition. I had no idea what I was in for. There are two categories when showing a steer: showmanship, which would judge how I handled the calf, and weight gain. I would have to walk this animal around a ring, get him to stand perfectly while being judged and make him look as good and as large as possible. I ended up with a 350 pound red Angus calf that I dubbed Red Licorice. Red as I called him proceeded to make my life miserable. We found out later than he came from a long line of headbutters. As I worked with him every day, I would end up bruised all over from him butting me repeatedly. I remember throwing myself over my bed and just crying while my mom walked down the hallway and told me not to give up! By the time we got to that spring show, Red walked docilely on a leash and was the most laid back 1,000-pound steer you have ever seen. Red and I ended up with 2nd place in both categories, missing the weight gain by a 10th of a point and getting showmanship points docked because he laid down in the ring! I found out later that a friend had switched calves the week before without any problems, while I had put hours in every day for months to get to this point. While the first lesson I learned was that I was never doing that again (ever!), I did walk away from the experience knowing that I could push through anything. I had learned determination; I had learned how to have grit.

While doing our best to raise our boys to be followers of Christ who exemplify His character, we have made some conscious choices. One is that they will not be handed everything. With rewards come responsibility, maturity, and hard work that we believe will stir them to manhood. We also look for activities that are going to grow their character. Our boys, like most kids, excel in very different areas; the things that come easy for one do not come easy for the other. Our oldest began playing football a few years ago and has to truly work at becoming a better player. This year he was old enough to play for Calvary, and I was excited that he chose to play for one more year. I knew that the camaraderie of his friends and the excitement of playing for his school would be something he would enjoy. I was even more excited about the discipline he would learn and what it would do for his character. Practicing five days a week and keeping up with homework hasn’t been a walk in the park, especially when he is in pain every day due to tendon problems. But to my surprise, with the exception of a few Monday practices, he has not complained. I have watched him learn responsibility and determination in a way that I couldn’t teach him. He recently told me that he wanted to play again next year because it was the right amount of hard work and that he needs it. I am so proud of him! Which brings me to the choice that we have made to surround our boys with people who invest in their character. I have the privilege of being on staff at Calvary and knowing the quality of the leader that we have in Coach Lee and the coaches that he has chosen to work with him. I have watched with a grateful heart as my child has learned to take correction and grow from it. I have listened as Cameron tells me about the lessons that they talk about as a team and what he needs to change in his life. Watching my child mature this fall has truly been a blessing. I quickly snapped a picture of Cameron and Coach Mock at a recent game because it embodied the relationships that I am so grateful for. Thank you, Calvary family for being part of our sons’ lives and for helping fill the gap in their character growth that I thought we had. Thank you for helping us teach them grit.

Calvary Day School

Calvary Day School offers a Christ-centered educational experience for grades Pre-K – 12 through the development of the total student- spiritually, academically, socially, and physically. We provide the best, most affordable private education in Savannah, Georgia.