Lesson Learned

Kindergarten

The one thing that annoys me about our elementary school is that you don’t find out who your new teacher is until Meet the Teacher day less than a week before school actually starts. Parents and kiddos wait patiently (or not) outside locked doors and when the doors finally open, there is a mad rush to find out if you got the teacher you wanted. Staff members wait at each door with a list and one by one they find your name and let you know who your new teacher is. It’s very poor planning and really stressful for people like me who like to know what to expect for as long as possible to prepare for a new phase of life.

 

This year, the boys and I got to get in the school early to see a bus safety presentation with a bunch of other new kindergarteners. We walked through the school looking for any signs in the hallway with Isaac’s or Asher’s name outside any teacher’s door, but the teachers were obviously not yet prepared by the time we got to the school. So we headed on to the cafeteria where we met some familiar faces. Many of Isaac’s friends have little siblings Asher’s age so we already knew some of the incoming kindergarteners and their siblings that were attending this meeting.

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The kids were introduced to a remote controlled bus who taught them all about bus safety and then they were invited to take a ride on a real bus around the neighborhood. Isaac’s friends were getting in line to ride the bus, and since I knew there would be plenty of seats, I told Isaac to go ahead and ride along.

When the kids got back, the kindergarteners were invited to eat a cookie and have some juice at a few tables set up around the room. The teachers told us the cookies were only for the new kindergarteners but there was more than enough for all the siblings in the room. Isaac waited patiently, and then watched as all of his older friends grabbed a cookie and sat next to their younger siblings. He asked me if he could have a cookie and I told him it was fine with me if a teacher would allow him. So Isaac asked the assistant principal standing nearby if he could also have a cookie and juice. She looked and him and shook her head and told him it was only for kindergarteners.

Isaac politely came back to me and waited awkwardly as every child in the room finished their cookies and wiped their crumby faces. Fifteen or more cookies remained untouched in the middle of the tables and I watched with growing anger as the teachers ignored my polite boy and talked amongst themselves.

I think Isaac and I both were waiting for a staff member to see that there were more than enough cookies for him to have one, but no one noticed. I watched as some of Isaac’s old classmates took a second cookie and tried to contain myself.

Isaac never asked again and honestly didn’t seem overly bothered that he was the only child excluded from the party. We were eventually dismissed to find our classrooms and meet our new teachers.

I walked out of that cafeteria knowing in the back of my mind that this was the first of many rejections my son may receive in his life. It’s a silly example, who cares about a cookie?  But the lesson I was reminded of here is that the good guys don’t always win. In real life, you don’t always get what you want by doing the right thing.

We met our new teachers and they seemed nice enough. But on our way out the door as we passed the cafeteria and tables of lonely, delicious cookies one last time I really had to fight the urge to tell my boy to just take what he wanted. He deserved a cookie and I guarantee that the others were just going to be thrown away within the next hour.

 

Isaac, I am so sorry to tell you that if you continue down the path of politeness; if you continue to do the right thing, you will often stand alone in a room full of people. You may again, be left out of the fun. Selfish people usually end up getting what they want. Someday, you’re going to like a girl and I hate to tell you, but most girls like the bad guys. You will find rejection, humiliation, and defeat throughout your life.

I am also sad to say that this is what I want for you. It breaks my heart that what I’ve told you is the truth, but I want you to always do the right thing. I don’t want you to be selfish.  I don’t want you to do what it takes to get what you want.  I want you always to be known as a GOOD man. I want you to be polite and to make wise decisions and to follow the path that Jesus laid out for us. I don’t want you to get walked all over.  I do want you to stand up and be strong.  And though you may not get what you want, God promises to give you what you need. Though you may miss out on some fun, there can be joy in every circumstance. Though you may not get every girl, you will find a girl who wants you for who you are and she will be worth far more than rubies.

 

SupermanGod, you never guarantee happiness for those you love, but I do pray for happiness for my boys. You never promised riches and wealth, but I do pray blessings on my boys and I pray good things for them.   But more than popularity, I pray for good quality friends. More than happiness, I pray that they can find joy in good times and in bad. More than earthly treasures, I pray that my boys leave a lasting impression on everyone they meet. Though they may stand alone (and I pray they have the strength to stand alone) I pray that everyone else in the room sees the height of their character. May they be strong and wise, and polite and caring.  God, you never promised protection from rejection or humiliation, but you do promise comfort when they come. “In this world you will have troubles…” My joy comes from knowing that this world is just a blip in the vast eternity of life. My joy comes from knowing that this world is backwards from how you’ve created your followers to behave. May we have the wisdom to follow in your son’s footsteps whatever trials we may face. And please give us all the strength to relinquish the cookies and do the right thing.

 

The Truth.

                                                          Ugh.  

I hate being imperfect.  I don’t think most people would think me a perfectionist.  I don’t really fit into that box.  But maybe I’m a lazy perfectionist, if that exists.  My imperfection drives me crazy… but I guess not crazy enough to improve too much upon. 

                                                       I repeat… Ugh.

Last night, I was tired and hot and just plain worn out.  It was past bedtime and Isaac was looking for any excuse not to get ready for bed, as usual.  I told the boys to get their jammies on and brush their teeth while I was finishing the dishes.  Isaac came into the kitchen sniffing and obviously wanting my attention.  I chose to ignore him because I don’t want to encourage that kind of behavior.  I’d rather, he verbally ask for help than wait for me to acknowledge his sadness. But as time ticked away and he still wasnt getting ready for bed, I decided to ask him what was wrong.

“My fingernail bent back,” he said.  I told him I’m sorry, I know that hurts, but to man up and get ready for bed and I went back to doing the dishes.

The truth is: I’m really a very heartless person.  I don’t know why people think mercy is one of my top spiritual gifts.

That’s when Isaac started crying.  Tears were falling down his face and it occurred to me that sometimes all a kid needs is a kiss from his momma.  So I stopped what I was doing and hugged him and told him again that I was sorry he hurt his finger.  I asked him how it happened and we came to the conclusion that it was really just a hangnail.  I told him that I know how much those hurt but there’s not a whole lot we can do about it.  I tried to cut it off, but it was too close to the skin so I found a General Grevious band aid, gently put it on and lovingly told him I was sorry but to get ready for bed.

I went down to finish the dishes and kept sending up reminders to “do a great job on your teeth.”  Asher replied that they were already finished so I told them to get in bed and I’d be up in a second.

I finished the dishes and put everything away and went upstairs about 15 minutes later.  When I came upstairs, Isaac was sitting on the floor playing with his legos and Asher had just made a mad dash for the nearest bed.

I was angry.  I completely lashed out at both boys, but Isaac got the brunt of it.  He immediately started blaming Asher and when we moved past that point, started complaining that his band aid was falling off and he wanted another one.

I told him again to man up and get in bed and if the first band aid didn’t last, a second one wouldn’t either.  I kissed them both and tucked them in and angrily prayed for the boys to go to sleep quickly and to learn to obey.  Do you think that kind of prayer works?

I went downstairs to watch my show, but the computer hadn’t recorded it.  So I’ll have to wait another 30 days before they post it online.  That was upsetting as well.  But then Isaac came down stairs again asking for another band aid.  I was so angry.  I grabbed another band aid and put it on and it immediately wouldn’t stick to his thumb and I told him to just go to bed.  “I LOVE YOU!” I yelled.  “BUT I’M ANGRY.  GO TO BED!  I LOVE YOU, BUT GO TO BED!” I yelled.

Isaac’s and my personalities completely clash.  I do not know how to parent him.  We’re still having the same old battles over who is stronger willed.  I still feel like I have to show him that he can’t out stubborn me.  Randall, lovingly reminds me to choose my battles and not to discipline his personality, but the behavior.  But I honestly don’t understand his personality.  He is weird and overly energetic and 7 and I don’t even remember being 7 and my mom tells me I was never as energetic as him.  And his behavior is blatantly defying his mother, the authority figure.  And you can’t succeed in life, without acknowledging and respecting other authority.  Right??

  No seriously, can someone please just tell me how to parent my children?

Anyway.  I eventually cooled down, and regretted every action that had taken place.  I wanted to make things right before I went to bed.  I went to his bed, and he was sleeping deeply.  I whispered, “I love you.  I’m sorry,” in his ear. He stirred, but was not conscious.  I repeated myself and hugged him and carressed his sweet face.  I didn’t feel forgiven and went to bed sad.

I woke up first thing in the morning and curled up next to him in bed.  I told him I was sorry I was so angry last night.  I asked for his forgiveness and in typical Isaac fashion, his energy got the best of him and he jerked his head back and conked me in the forehead.  I pushed his head out of the way and tried really hard to keep my same “begging for forgiveness” tone.  “Do you forgive me?” I asked.  “No,” he said.  I asked why not and he told me it was because I flicked his head.  I explained that he had just given me a bruise on my forehead and I was pushing (with a flat hand) his head away from my face so he wouldn’t do it again.  He said, “Ok.  I forgive you,” and we went on with our day.

 

Seven year old boys with too much energy that don’t seem to like you at all are hard to love sometimes.  And that’s the truth.

 

It is by God’s grace that I have this beautiful son.  It is by God’s grace for me, that I know how to love this boy.  He is very sweet and very smart and I love his creativity and when he allows me to touch him, I hold him tight and cherish those moments. And when he refuses to let me touch him, I don’t mind too terribly much, because I sneak into his room every night and squeeze him tight and whisper my love into his ear, praying, at least in his sleep, that he knows he is loved by me.


Here’s my conclusion on how to parent two boys: First and foremost, pray a lot.  Pray for patience, pray for forgiveness, pray for health, and pray that you all will make it through the day.  Pray for him, that he will grow and learn and understand your love for him.  Pray for you, that you will make wise decisions and teach him how to be a godly man, and my most common prayer: that I won’t screw them up.                    

              Though I’m sure it’s too late for that…

Secondly, be honest.  Tell him you screwed up and you’re sorry.  Ask for forgiveness as often as you need to.

Thirdly, tell him you love him.  You know it’s true, but sometimes you need to say it out loud to remind yourself.  And if you’re having a hard time remembering that you love him, he’ll definitely need to know that it’s still true. Say it often.  But mean it when you say it… or say it until you mean it.  Just make sure he hears it in all situations. 


The truth is, we are all imperfect.  There is no perfect parent.  And even one that knows exactly how to handle their kids, gets frustrated and screws up every once in a while.  And there is no such thing as “Perfectly Imperfect.”  What does that even mean?!  

 


Isaac I love you when you pummel me with darts.  I love you when we’re at each others throats.  I love you when you listen to the same annoying song over and over and over again.  I love you when you’re awake and when you’re asleep.  I love you because you are sweet and smart and so creative and fun, but you don’t have to be any of those things.  You don’t have to earn my love.  I love you because you are you and you are my son.  There is nothing you can do that will ever stop me from loving you.  And that’s the truth.

 

The Most Beautiful Sound

When I was in labor with Asher, I got an epidural and expected things to move smoothly and painlessly from there, just like it did with Isaac.  Unfortunately, it slowed the whole birthing process down, so they let the pain meds wear off.  I think Isaac was born with Coldplay in the background so the first thing he heard was Chris Martin singing and piano keys playing.  The first thing Asher heard when he was born was probably one loud yell from his mommy…

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When Isaac was placed on my chest, he immediately started peeing in my face. The first thing I said when he was born was something along the lines of: “A little help here?!”  When Asher was placed on my chest, he let out a faint yet beautiful cry.  I remember my first words when he was born: “That’s the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.”

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I loved my babies with an unconditional love from the moment I first saw their faces. From the moment I first heard their cries, there was not a sweeter sound on this planet.

Then they started telling me they loved me.  Asher would tell me he had a secret and then whisper in my ear, “I love you.”  He still does that often to me.  It’s my favorite secret.  Is there a better sound than hearing those three words?  Don’t get used to hearing those words.  Don’t shrug them off.  When someone tells you they love you, pay attention.  It is a beautiful moment… every time.

This Christmas season has been filled with music.  Asher’s teacher gave him the Michael Bublé Christmas CD and we’ve been listening to it and singing along for weeks now.  Asher sang Silent Night in his preschool performance and played the hand bells to We Wish You a Merry Christmas excellently. Isaac had a performance at school the week before Christmas.  He was proud of himself and I was so proud of him!

One of my favorite moments this Christmas season was taking Isaac caroling with me.  He video taped my 10th grade small group as we sang to a group of retired folks.  He got bored pretty quickly and wanted to go home.  But on the ride there, Isaac and I practiced our Christmas carols.  I gave him a song sheet that he can now read and we sang together songs that have been sung for a hundred years.

Asher has been singing Christmas carols around the house too.  He sings Gloria in Excelsis Deo beautifully and it often merges with Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Follow.”  I think all of the Glooo o o o o os turn into the “oh”s of Tomlin’s song in his head. Whenever the house gets quiet and no one is paying attention, Asher’s been singing Silent Night to the dog.  I’ve caught him on multiple occasions when he didn’t think I was listening.  When he noticed that I was listening, he got louder.

Isaac got to sit in church with us on Christmas Eve and standing next to him, hearing him sing in his distinct small voice (the only time he has ever had a small voice) just melted my heart.  I struggled not to drop everything and pick my big 6 1/2 year old boy up and hold him tight the whole service.

As time goes by and boys grow and favorites change, I think this favorite may stick for a while:

Hearing my boys sing praises to their God.  It’s not perfect, some of the words and notes are wrong, but the heart of it makes it the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.