Thursday, July 19, 2007

Parenting In Absolutes

I before E, except after C...

It was a momentous day I realized my son could read, made even more amazing by the fact that I, without a teaching certificate or even a college degree, taught him. We started out simple, learning the letters by sight. Then we moved on to letter sounds, which became more complicated by the fact that some letters make more than one sound. And then we learned when paired together or put with certain letters in a particular word, those same letters make yet another sound. But then again, they could make a totally different sound for no good reason, defying all rules of phonics.

"But, Mom, why is the "i" in "kind" long when there's no "e" at the end?" And what about the word "wind"? You have to read the sentence and ascertain its context before you can know which way to pronounce it. Very tricky, indeed. Many words are not pronounced at all the way they are spelled phonetically and one has to learn them by sight and just know what the word is simply by the way it looks because...well, just because.

Where are the absolutes?

Sunday morning I had everyone ready for church, all set to leave right on time, without being rushed or panicked or snapping off their adorable little heads in the process. If any of you have tried to do this without the aid of a spouse (mine works all day on Sundays) you understand the miracle involved here. Brother has gone on out to the car and the girls and I are closing the front door behind us. Brother comes back up to me, breathless. "Mom, Tommy has lost his dog and he needs me to help him find it!"

"You can't now. We have to go to church." As soon as the words leave my mouth, something sounds a little off, but I'm concentrating on getting Baby down the front steps without dropping my armful of stuff.

"But, Mom, he's really worried and he needs someone to help him!"

"He's got sisters and a mom and dad. They can help him. Let's go." It just doesn't sound right. Am I telling him he can't help out a friend in need?

Brother is sounding desperate. "But they won't help him!"

I look up to find him walking off down the street, looking back at me to see if I'm going to stop him. He disobeyed me. He defied me. What am I going to do about it?

I'm going to let him follow his heart, that's what. Though there is a voice of reason telling me the most important thing for him to do is obey me at all costs, I can't bring myself to play the heavy when my boy willingly, even passionately, answers a call for help.

So often I look for the absolutes. Absolutes are easy. Do this and it will produce this result. But parenting isn't like that. No matter how many books are written, no matter how many doctors and talk show hosts give us the answers, there is no one right way.

How scary is that?

I get the girls in the car and drive down the road to pick up Brother. He sees me, comes over and opens the door. "You find the dog?" I ask.
"Naw," he answers, getting in. He turns to wave goodbye to Tommy, who is standing by the road, looking as though he's lost his best friend. Suddenly we see a shaggy black and white mutt come running out from behind the house, apparently lost in her own front yard. Tommy is reinflated and Brother closes the car door, smiling at the happy reunion.

"You know," I say, as we drive away. "I'm really proud of you for being so compassionate toward your friend. That was a nice thing you did."

"Yeah," he says. "Are we gonna be late?"


The answers to life's questions aren't written on the wall. So many times I don't know how to teach my children the important things. I'm perpetually terrified.

But this I know.

Love God. Love others.



Midlife Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

aaah, the ongoing balance in parenting of deciding whether to use your head or your heart this time...eeny meeny miny mo.
Too bad it's a different answer everytime huh? I say the heart is usually the right one, eh? That is why you are supermom!

Heather said...

Absolutely indeed. It's so tough to make the right split second decisions all the time. You are indeed the SuperMom. I love that he was so willing to help his friend, that speaks more of your mothering than his defiance :)

Kelli said...

Sometimes we need to back off to do the right thing.
It's nice that they remind us of that.

All the time.

Grafted Branch @ Restoring the Years said...

I am so relieved when I read someone else willing to admit that it's not all so easily written in black and white. Not on this side of Heaven, at least.

Wise words, indeed.