Thursday, December 01, 2005

Training up a child

This entry might be nothing more than a recounting of what happened last night; maybe I'll find some spiritual point in it! But I'm just so grateful that I have to share.

Some of you may have noticed that *occasionally* I have a *few* issues with my son. I adore him, and I'm convinced there's an excellent man in there developing, but his temporary externals have been known to drive me to distraction.

So lately we've embarked on something I've been calling "character building boot camp." The basic rules are these: for the duration (a preset time determined by the extent of his prior infractions) he is no longer to think about what he likes or what he wants, but he is to consider everything from the point of view of whether it's right or wrong, or whether it's making someone else happy. Including his teachers, me, his sister, etc. And there is no fun allowed unless I’m in the room.

He needs to pay off his "happiness debt," meaning the happiness he grabbed for himself over the past months at the expense of others or for short-term gratification. Part of the deal as well is that he's only to read things approved by me, rather than trash that teaches him nothing, and we only watch pre-selected TV shows and movies together.

Sound tough? It is! I'm having to be very very strict about it. I wondered at first if I would cause any emotional damage by this, but I figured he'd had 14 years of me adoring him, he could stand a couple weeks of me being intensely on point. And, in just the few weeks he's been in boot camp, the results have already exceeded my wildest expectations.

Almost immediately, he began to experience the satisfaction that comes from doing things for other people. Around Day Two, I asked him what he was learning. And he said, "It's actually nice doing things for you and making you happy. When you smile and say thank you, it makes me feel good." Whoa!!! Amazing!

One of the books I made him read was Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. A few days later, he came home from school saying how he'd applied the ideas from that book to help two of his friends who are dating to communicate better. Later that evening, they called him on a three-way conference call to get more advice. He then took the book to school to instruct them further. He was exceptionally proud about being able to help them. And then he asked, "Could I make money at this?" So he's still my kid. :)

But the pièce de résistance was last night. I was having—dun, dun duuuuun—computer problems. Anyone who knows me knows there are a few things that freak me out: getting lost while I'm driving in a strange city, spilled apple juice, messed up computers.

Okay so I'm on the phone with customer support for four hours. The first two I was semi-okay, but then I started getting tired. When I finally hung up after doing lord knows what to my computer, still with no solution, I discovered I couldn't open any of my documents. None of them. So I flipped out.

And my boy stayed with me! He saw I was upset, and came right over. Rubbed my neck a little, hugged me, knelt next to my computer chair as I tried a bunch of different things, just showed concern and support through the whole thing. And I have to admit it—this was no longer just an exercise. He really was helping me by being there.

I finally got another person on the phone, and this person quickly found a solution to the document problem. But then, right as things were getting fixed, my son tipped a glass of apple juice all over. All over me, all over the desk, all over the rug, all over my computer chair.

And again, anyone who has known me for a long time has seen my reaction to spilled apple juice. It's not usually pretty. For some reason having to clean up sticky smelly sugary apple juice embodies for me all the hardship of being a mother, all the extraordinary things we have to do just to keep everyone safe and clean. Having someone spill it right in front of me usually evokes intense feelings of being unappreciated. Go figure.

But not last night. I absolutely took it in stride. I was feeling so filled up by the love he'd been expressing that it didn't even occur to me in any way shape or form to be upset about the juice. This alone was a minor miracle in an evening of miracles.

We cleaned things up, and then he went to his room to read before going to sleep. I came in just to be with him for a bit more, saying I could get a book too so we could just be together. And he marked his page, put down his book, and asked if I wanted to talk some more! This was going above and beyond, I have to say. So I talked some more, then went off to my room again.

Anyway. A very long story this morning. I just wanted to record it, to share it with you, and to get your thoughts. How people feel about each other can't just be in their minds; it has to show up in the externals as well. And then love just resonates.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

A mother is the strongest educator, either for or against crime. Her thoughts form the embryo of another mortal mind, and unconsciously mould it, either after a model odious to herself or through divine influence, "according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount." Hence the importance of Christian Science, from which we learn of the one Mind and of the availability of good as the remedy for every woe.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 12/22/2005 10:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. You can buy disposable cups with lids for all of your apple juice lids.

2. For $1 a day, a company remotely monitors my computer and fixes everything before it becomes a problem. You could probably find one in your area.

3. You are a great mom. Thanks for this example.

4. I wonder what he ewould say about YOUR happiness debt. Could be interesting.


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