The metal shavings and scraps sit in the recycling bin. Individually, they are light and insignificant but, together they are heavy. Some are curly, others are straight, some smooth; others edgy but each scrap adds up to create the multi-colored mass that is quite substantial. With a little welding and artistic flair this mess can be beautiful; valuable.
And so it goes with parenting kids. The dog, loyally, stands nearby as the sparks fly in all directions; the metal-to-metal abrasiveness putting the canine on edge. You never know if one of those sparks is going to land on flesh. The hubs wields the tool to shape and form the hard steel into something useful and as we watch, I gaze at my younger sons standing nearby. I imagine my protective head gear and the tools I shall wield to shape them. When sitting in my parent conference with my son’s teacher we talked about the helicopter blades and how often parents deploy them. Sharp tongues, high expectations, threats and rewards are all ways we try to make our children perform. The cost? A child’s self-confidence.
In adolesence, the doors begin to close; body language conveying to “leave me be.” The eldest now closes his door, the click of the lock registering in my brain. Earbuds and headsets remain on their ears as they maneuver in a world, unbeknownst to me. During my parent conference for my middle son I had leaned back in my chair, intently listening to the two teachers as they relayed their impressions of this boy. We made quick work with the academics, instead, allocating our short time on the working minds of adolescents, their experiences and thoughts on parenting them. Yes, academics are important. But what I garnered from my parent conference was what would really matter in the end. Depth of character.
It took me a while to process what was being said, programmed to hear the push on academics. Our curriculum has changed and with it, come the growing pains. The students fall back on the familiar, missing the details of the new instructions and losing points and grades on little things. But these missed details add up and, if not caught and guided, the main point gets lost. It is the little details that build the foundation for understanding the bigger picture. And so this concept must be learned and taught. I, the parent, am to oversee this.
But how far? I asked. Aren’t you asking me to deploy the helicopter blades?
The teachers looked at one another; the conflicting emotions flitting across their faces. All of my sons are capable of keeping track of their assignments, to organize their work. It is my job to make sure they are consistent. What tools do I use to invoke consistency? To make the child speak up? To be kind?
And so, back and forth, the teachers and I volleyed on how, exactly, to relay these things. Do I take away privileges? Do I inflate the ego, saying I know you’ve got this, now DO it. Do I just go ahead and deploy my helicopter blades to DO these things for my child?
I sat at my desk, this morning, and listened to father and son discussing the manufacturing of a custom part. Parenting doesn’t end when the kid turns eighteen and I smirked as the father guided the son on measurements and parameters; the weight of the steel. This father creates art from metal scraps or anything he decides to set his hands to work on. Though he claims he is retired he appears, most days, at work to teach the skills of his craft. I could hear his frustration at his son’s obstinance; his logical reasoning that it CAN work. His own experience in metallurgy and manufacturing says it cannot be done, that he was pushing the envelope.
The father stopped debating and stared long and hard at the son. I could see him weigh in his mind if he was going to argue this point or show him what he meant. Would he use his words, his hands with years of experience and skill to prove his point? The room was quiet as the son waited.
It was then that I realized to take a breath. The father thought it through and decided that, Yes, let’s try it. I’ll let you figure this out and I’ll be around to guide you. If it works, great, if not, you’ll know for next time.
And poof! There it was. The light bulb turned on. The teachers were trying to relay the same message but couldn’t vocalize it where I could comprehend. The tool I must always wield in my parenting belt is the one my father-in-law used with the hubs. Let my sons try and if they fail; be there to guide them. I don’t have to deploy the blades. I will have to watch my tongue. I have to let them attempt to own their words, occupy their space and walk their own paths; no matter what age. The younger son will need a little more shadowing than the older boys but, at least, they know they have a shadow. It’s the little details, the scraps and shavings, that shape us into who we are; giving us substance, beauty and value.
And so I say this to my boys, my tool I have chosen to wield. “I’ve got your back. Now go out there and be consistent, every day. Speak your own words; don’t let someone speak them for you. And try really hard to be kind and do the right thing.” XOXO~ Mom