As parents we inevitably teach our children lessons. Some come through mistakes from our past, funny stories we tell our kids about a big lie we told, or the time we didn’t listen to our parent’s advice and the embarrassing and catastrophic lesson that inevitably followed. We teach lessons through natural consequences, and we teach lessons when we choose to pick out things going on in our world and talk them through it. We teach them lessons everyday, little and big, about our faith, our morality, our ethics, our world.
But inevitably there are lessons that must be learned the “hard way”.
Apparently at my house, we’re working on those a lot lately.
We have had a couple of on-going “lessons” happening at Purvis Point.
This is my first time as a parent allowing one of my children to make decisions that I don’t agree with- (I realize that when he was three and pooped on the picnic grass at the zoo in front of hundreds of strangers who were joyously eating their lunches, I didn’t “allow” that either. But I mean purposeful, long term decisions- not momentary behavioral choices.) We are letting him begin to carry the burden of his choices.
A few days ago I asked the boys to put the laundry away, and they began to complain and say things about how difficult and unfair their lives were. I sat them both right down on top of the folded laundry and we had a “talk” . (“Talk” does not refer to a discussion, a “talk” is when I talk at them, and then they go and do what I told them to do. I realize this isn’t the ideal model- but I need some grace here, remember, it’s been rough.) I said something like:
“It is not my job to raise boys. It is my job to raise men. I realize that you are boys today. But sooner than any of us can blink, you will be men. And I do not want you to be men who quit when things get hard. I do not want you to be men who act like boys, or men who run away when the going gets tough. I do not want you to be men who blame others, or expect things to be easy. I want you to be men who aren’t afraid of doing the hard things in life. Because often times the right thing, is the hard thing. I want you to be men who care about others and notice others, before you take notice of your own comfort level. I want you to be men who are proud of yourselves, who take pride in how you treat others. I want you to be men who lay down at night and know that you did your best that day, for yourself and for those around you. And so now you will get up and joyously put your laundry away that I will never again fold for you.” (It went on, but I am summarizing here for your comfort, and my dignity.)
Looking back, I realize that I was really taking a lot of liberty with connecting whining about laundry to dead beat dads and grown up man-chidlren. BUT this talk actually really stuck with them. (I know! I can’t believe it either.) I think this stuck with them because they didn’t realize that they’d be men one day. I’m pretty sure that thought had never occurred to them.
Fast forward a few days, last night after Tre complained, and cried, and feigned multiple injuries, and “lost” equipment, and everything else he’s been doing to get out of football practice, AGAIN. I reminded him that this was a decision he made, fully knowing what it entailed, and that he had to fulfill his commitment, well. He geared up, brushed off his “injuries” and jogged out to the field. (Reminding me on several occasions that he already decided to not play next year.)
After practice as I sat in the mud room with him, helping him pry his sweaty gear of his gangly body. He looked into my eyes and said, “I always feel so good after football. You are right. The hard thing is usually the right thing, and it feels good to do the right thing, even when it’s hard.”
And I wanted to just stop the world, right then.
You see, this football thing has been really hard for me this year. Apparently at his age, things start to get, whats the word? Oh right, COMPETITIVE. And it goes from cute fun to… lets just say not so cute, and not so fun. And it has been
really really really really really hard for me. It’s been super duper hard for me. This has been hard for me. My mommy heart is breaking daily and I am feeling like I want to scoop him up and run away to where the world will never find him and I can keep him, and things, just stay innocent and fun like they have been up unto this point.
This choice that we’re letting him feel is hard for me, not because of the time commitment (we have football SIX days a week), not because of the financial commitment, or the immense amount of additional laundry and weeks without us all sitting down for dinner together. This has been hard for me because I have spent the last TEN years (I am counting in-utero here too!) protecting my son. I have spent ten years making sure nothing hurts him, I have spent ten years keeping him safe emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I have spent ten years “helping him” make decisions so that he didn’t feel consequences. I have spent ten years making sure he had everything he needed to be successful.
And as I stood by the dryer telling him I was raising him to be a man, I was lecturing myself, not him. I was telling myself it was time to let him begin to feel pain and consequences, burden of choice, it was time for him to begin to understand the weight of commitment and the burden of choice. It was time for me to begin to allow him to make choices that would negatively affect him and others, little ones, but ones he can carry.
And I am learning that he is capable. He is strong, and brave, and his foundation will hold. But I want him to feel the weight of commitment with a 12 week football season. Long before he feels the weight of commitment of for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and in health…
Growing up is hard work. But growing people up is hard too. Watching my little boy make bad choices and watching him make the right choice, even when it’s hard- this is big girl stuff! My heart is aching and growing and aching and growing right along with his.