20 January 2014

grit and bear it

i could see him. traipsing through the yard. with a ladder. i would be remiss if i didn't mention how i muttered, "o, good lord" under my breath or maybe it was rather audible as the sound prompted the Mister to ask, "what is it?" i nodded out the window to a group of boys who were gathering around a tree. i couldn't make out what was going on but from the looks of it the crepe myrtle was about to be scaled by the likes of two of wild ass monkey's finest: the 7 year old and the 10 year old. the 12 year old stood beside the ladder to steady the harrowing climb and to serve as wing man with an extra long pole in his hand. and then i spotted it. in the tippiest top of the tree was the 10 year old's latest procured aerobie that he just last night had spent his 10$ on at the adventure store aka REI.

now stop. in this story, i could have 1) ran out to stop him from making what was a risky climb which could result in a fall that could potentially mean a broken something or 2) i could watch (and maybe pray) to see how he worked out this scenario. want to guess which one i did?

i feel with my entire being that allowing children to risk and struggle is profoundly good (and ridiculously hard) and completely necessary. it produces grit. and grit chisels character. the lines run deep. the end result is stunning. but not without consequences. however, the consequences of not standing back and letting children risk, fall, fail are much more damaging than a trip to the e.r. and much more insidious. i would rather a bone need mending than to see one of my sons being crippled with fear-fear of failure, fear of intimacy, fear of success-you name it. better to have stitches than to have gaping holes of character flaws that result in too much navel gazing, hand wringing, waffling and what ifs. the purpose of parenting is to prepare our children for this wild world not to enable them from engaging it. 

the 12 year old lifted the pole he had fashioned with his brothers. pvc pipes taped together, 3 in total that they estimated would just reach that taunting orange circle. i stood at the sink. the Mister stood in the driveway and watched as three of our boys worked together like a team of mules in synch. i held my breath as the 10 year old climbed higher and higher. and just like that with the help of his brothers and a jury rigged pole, he knocked his hard earned toy free from the snares of the branches. the Mister looked up at the kitchen window to see if i had seen. i had. and i ran outside to holler, "way to go!" and just like that they resumed their game until it was time to assemble the trampoline.

this lesson is one that i must practice daily like when the 14 year old came home from school at 4:00 and wished to walk back to school to watch a basketball game that lasted until 9 at night-by himself. or when the 7 and 10 year old joined their 12 and 14 year old friends for a bike ride to the nearby ice cream parlor. or standing by when the 12 year old has to decide to stand for truth and goodness when he could easily be bitter or dishonest. even recalling these recent events makes my mama's heart wince. it's so hard, but then i see the consequences. 

the 14 year old enjoyed his night out alone with his friends. the 7 year old and 10 year old are maturing and learning to handle themselves in ways that i could only hope. and the 12 year old. o, that boy. he grows more tender and loving towards me as he grows more rugged and courageous towards life. 

i do not have this mothering thing figured out. i never will. just when we get in a new groove, life steps in and reminds me that i am working with organic beings who are constantly changing. and so must i. 


post script: a few hours after the boy rescued his toy from the tree's taunting branches, it landed in an even higher branch far, far out of the reach of ladder or climber made by the bravest. so like the movies, feats must be rated. parental discretion is advised. 

1 comment:

Deborah Barnett said...

“Don’t climb on that, don’t break anything, don’t be so aggressive, don’t be so noisy, don’t be so messy, don’t make such crazy risks. But God’s design–which he placed in boys as the picture of himself–is a resounding yes. Be fierce, be wild, be passionate.”
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart