(I wrote this a few years back. Parenting the right way isn’t always easy but it’s always right.)
I reminded him.
And I reminded him.
“Joshua,…when would be a good time today for you to do your homework?”
His chocolate eyes slowly peered over the very top of his GameBoy. Then quickly returned. Those same beautiful eyes had spent much of Easter weekend in bliss filled rapture as they figured how to capture Pikachu on the new Pokemon game that the giant bunny had left behind.
“What?…” he mumbled back between screens.
“I said, when will you be doing your homework?”
“Okay, is that a question?”, I replied
“Huh?…oh,..is what a question?”
“Are you asking me if you can do your homework after supper?” I smirked.
He smirked back. “N0-wuh. I will do my homework after supper.” Still smirking, he returned to Pikachu.
I peered into the fridge taking inventory for supper, which was fast approaching. That’s how supper always approaches. I poured already ‘trimmed and ready to eat’ organic baby spinach into a cold stainless steel salad bowl and felt a ripple inside. Ripples, I have realized, are very informative. They point things out to me that I may miss (read: ignore) otherwise. This particular ripple needed to get assertive. I was preferring ambivalence.
Ripples have been such a blessing to me. I know we all have them. Some may call them ‘whispers’, others may use ‘inner voice’..I appreciate them all. My favorite so far has to be from Neil Donald Walsch’s ‘Conversation with God’. God says, “Within every one of us there is a voice that speaks the truth.” Brilliant.
My truth came as I nibbled spinach and shredded carrots. “Do not remind him again.” There it was.
I nibbled some more. “Do not remind him again.”
And …so I didn’t. We had a lovely supper. He had a warm bath. We read another 3 chapters of ‘Captain Underpants’ and giggled under the covers. I turned out the light and I buried my lips into his soft, fluffy cheek and told him how much I loved him. Bedtime with a 7 year old is serene.
At 8:05 a.m. the next morning he came flying down the stairs leaving a disheveled mat in his dust. His pants still weren’t done up and a sock hadn’t made it on his left foot yet. He was obviously interrupted by a disturbing thought.
“Yes, sweet pea?” I said expectantly.
“I FORGOT TO DO MY HOMEWORK!”
Calmly I countered, “Did you?”
“YEAH! SO, I GOTTA DO IT RIGHT NOW!!!!”
“No can do, honey. We leave in 3 minutes. Please get your boots on.”
His face was pained and panicked. I could see his urgency and every ounce of me wanted to fix it. I wanted to help him scramble at the last-minute all in an attempt to help him avoid disappointing ‘Madame’. A fate of the worst kind in his eyes. I took a step towards him and …
“Do not remind him again.”
There it was again. Damn ripples. I wanted to shout over it but truth cannot be ignored.
I buckled him into his booster seat.
Each morning as we drive to school together I delight in nonchalantly shifting the rear view mirror ever so slightly so I have the ability to watch his little face as I drive. I savour those last few moments before we go our separate ways for the day. We enjoy this time. Sometimes we sing to the radio. Sometimes we discuss what he has picked out to show the class for Quoi de Neuf (Show&Tell). Some mornings we sit in silence as I peer at him. This morning I could do none of these. In fact, my Driver’s Ed. instructor would be pleased to know I kept the mirror tightly fixed on the world behind me. Anything other than that made me squirm uncontrollably in my seat. I knew what kind of day my son was about to have. I knew he would be devastated when Madame scolded for not having all of his work done. I knew he would be nauseous as he waited for me to read the note that she sent home out of concern for him as this would be the first time he did not have his homework completed. I knew all of this.
Learning accountability and personal responsibility is the most daunting of tasks. It is also accompanied by the most memorable lessons. As adults we all remember them. In fact we are still periodically presented with the choice of participating in them or not. Daily. Weekly. I see people struggle with these lessons every day. Myself included. My work has allowed me to witness the freedom gained through this understanding.
I read a quote once, “When we blame others, we give up the power to change.” I want nothing more for my son than for him to know his own power. I want him to glimpse the immense glory that exists for him. That glory is created for him, by him. My love for him moves me to facilitate that as needed. On this day it was needed. That didn’t make it any easier. We love our children and with the best of intentions we try to make the ride a smooth one. But, what is the message behind those acts of love? “Dear child, you are not capable. You require me to do that which you can and need to do for yourself.” Even to a 7 year old, the message is received.
We are not serving our children well by delivering handouts. At any age. I know. I see the damage done everyday by well-meaning parents. I work in the helping profession where I counsel and educate adults struggling to exist in a world that expects, no – demands personal responsibility. To them, it is a brand new concept. They point fingers everywhere except back at themselves. They have given up their power to change. It breaks my heart. I want my son to prove his own worth to himself. By going to school without his homework done and accepting the consequences that are a direct result of his own behaviour, I pray he makes the priceless connection.
I picked him up after school that day. He was quiet. On our way home from school the car is usually filled with talking and laughing. Not today. There was silence.
“How was your day, buddy?” I asked, breaking the silence
After a long pause, he replied in a little voice, “Good…I guess.” We remained silent for the rest of the drive home.
Once home I read the note from the teacher and I smiled. It was exactly what I hoped for. She had indeed taken him aside. As I read her description of their conversation I could feel two huge brown eyes locked on my face. I looked up and smiled, “How about you tell me about your day?”
And so he did. He cried. So did I.
I couldn’t help myself. Pride will do that.
Ripples will do that too.