It has taken me years to discover this simple truth.
I must shape and guide my children; molding their sphere of influence.
But I still have a hard time figuring out how. My shelves are lined with parenting how-to books; ranging from What to Expect When You’re Expecting,to The Seven Stages of Motherhood and my current read, Have a New Teenager by Friday. My husband enjoys taunting me. Thousands of dollars and books later, I should’ve have mastered this by now.
A person can be book smart. I love books and consider myself an avid reader. My idea of the perfect date, with the hubs, is sitting in a book store amongst books. We considered gifts to bring to his friend, that he has known since elementary school; expecting his second son. And so I dragged the hubs out of the house and into our local outdoor mall. My non-shopper hubs reluctantly acquiesced and I had to rein in his shopping choices. Iced coffee in-hand, I was in bliss, as we walked the aisles of our local bookstore.
On our mandatory shopping date we talked of lists. To-do lists. Bucket lists. In college the hubs and I dreaded approaching the posted grade lists, based on a curve, outside of our professor’s office door. They were sorted by social security number. They determined the likelihood of success in our chosen walks of life. These lists can make or break a person.
Lists compare and contrast and sort. It is human nature to do these things; to create a system, a baseline, to compare where one stands amidst the whole. Rankings. In the military, my hubs was all too familiar with this concept. And now, it begins for our son; the lists. He will soon become a number, ranked and processed and sorted amongst his peers. These things determine his future and his career path.
But they don’t have to.
Book knowledge does not equate with success. When my mother was cautiously diagnosed with Alzheimers; all my book knowledge went out-the-window (literally). I frequently received phone calls from law enforcement that my mother had escaped from her assisted living facility by scaling the windows. At the time my job description was to train medical and law enforcement professionals to handle these exact situations. My coveted internship, the years of undergrad and post-grad school, titles, degrees and rankings…the lists. They meant nothing.
Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls. It is only through living life that we truly discover our grit and who we are. It cannot be learned from a book.
I watch my son work on a science project with ping pong balls and a mouse trap; experimenting. The tween and teen years is all about experimentation. Testing boundaries. I use my powers of observation and quietly glean information from body language. It is not what my boys say that is important. It is what they do not share that is most revealing. And so I look within their sphere of influence to discover how to shape, guide and mold them.
To the hubs’ chagrin, our house was full of seven boys. He was commandeered to get pizza and I tried not to let the chaos affect me when the sofa cushions became shelters and Nerf darts spiraled by. I sought cover upstairs in my bedroom as shrieks bounced from my walls.
My in-laws were aghast when they came to pick-up their beloved dog that we dog-sat. I patiently explained that I agreed to have the kids in my home; to see who they were. I had expected the four tweens to play video games but the XBOX was left untouched. Instead, they joined the youngest son with his playdate; shooting Nerf guns and playing hide-and-seek. The teen taught the younger boys strategy; to beat the older ones while he texted his friends of his activities.
It is through play that I can discern who these kids are; not lists, nor grade point averages. I quietly sat like a fly-on-the-wall, to hear their conversations and interactions with one another. I chose to intervene, only, when inappropriate content was discussed.
We had forgotten the looming list the eldest was waiting for; the result of his trumpet audition. Amidst a room of parents picking up children and sofa cushions; the son quietly shared the results. Results I did not hear. I left the room of parents and stood quietly beside his computer; scanning the posted list. I quietly hugged this son as he continued to text.
He knows I will love him, whether he succeeds or fails, and he quietly told me this as my eyes misted over. It is this sphere that I must continue to cultivate and grow. One abundant with love.