I would never want to stand before the Judge and plead guilty to the charge of hindering my children’s righteous use of agency, of squelching their freedom and desire to do good and so I “encourage” the children in my life by saying things like: “Don’t just do what’s required! Go the extra mile! Butter the edges!”
When the kids were little they seemed to have a lot of enthusiasm for doing just that. As they grew older the response to my “suggestion” to “Do a little more!” to “Raise it up a notch!” was not always well received. I have direct experience with the grunts, groans, moans, and non-translatable mutters, spoken under teenage breath. I’m the mother of five human beings who’ve traveled through the second decade phase (10-20 year-olds) where grunts, groans, moans and mutters were the weapons of intimidation.
So what happens between ages four and fourteen? Where does all that enthusiasm go?
Well, a lot of things happen and I’m not going to take responsibility for all of them, but as I pondered this phenomenon one day I was reminded of the following experience and was taught a principle that helped me take some inventory and make some changes.
One night as I as hurrying to get away for my weekly Friday night retreat with my husband, my nine-year-old Jenny walked through the kitchen. I quickly asked her if she would butter the toast. She agreed and I left to dress for my date. Now that’s ALL I really wanted her to do. I had things planned to the minute, and if she would just follow this simple instruction I could have things “my way.” Dinner would be over; everyone bathed and in pj’s, beds turned down, and every light in the house turned out except for the one over the TV. I was not messing around! (Can you tell why I attend meetings for those struggling with compulsive behavior)
Well, I walked back through the kitchen and Jenny had not only buttered the toast, she’d made MENUES for each child! The scrambled eggs had been moved from the stove and dished into a large SERVING BOWL. She was about to make JUICE and was asking if she could make PUDDING!!!
“Jenny, put the juice away and NO pudding! I don’t have time!”
“I don’t have time?” What did you really mean when I said that, Nannette? You meant, “Jenny, don’t do anything MORE than I asked you to do. I don’t trust you to be responsible and I don’t have time to be responsible for you. DON’T go the extra mile. Don’t use your agency for good unless you clear it with me.”
Because of their lack of skill and our lack of patience our younger children’s “extra-miler” exuberance often ends in messes large and small, discouragement for the child and frustration for us parents. However we may be wise to endure these moments of inconvenience rather that kick ourselves later, when they have developed the skills but lost the desire. I have come to realize that as my children and grandchildren creatively express their sincere love of life by going the extra mile, I would be well advised not to continually act the part of the “road block.”
By Nannette W.
Posted Thursday, September 18, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Nannette W. All right reserved.
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