Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Break Revelation

It is humbling to be a parent. 

Generally speaking, everyone in our family gets along well-enough most of the time, that there is no real reason to take a hard look at the family dynamic.  Until we were halfway between Natural Bridge Caverns and Enchanted Rock. 

Something was plaguing my middle son.  I don't know if his black cloud was brought on by the flu he had at the beginning of the week or what.  All I know is that whatever it was, was very ill-timed. 

The day before, we spent the morning walking through the first real cave my boys have been in, and it was magnificent besides.  We spent the afternoon playing in the spring water at a New Braunfels park, had a great dinner, and spent the night at a hotel, which was a major highlight in its own right.  The negativity ebbed and flowed from my middle son, and was checked by us at its peaks.

The negativity started ramping up again the following morning, and came to a head in route to Enchanted Rock, (where after we camped last Spring Break, vowed to spend every Spring Break thereafter).  He was talking about what a boring life he had and I'm pretty sure there was something about wishing he lived with a different family.

My husband pulled the car over and they had a conversation which didn't require any words.  We decided that if he wasn't able to pull his bad attitude out of the gutter between where we were and where we were going, he could stay in the car with me, and the rest of the family would spend the day hiking as planned.  His choice. 

He got it turned around.  But, just as he did, my oldest took cover under that same black cloud.  I would have loved to have seen (and squished) that little black crab, hiding in that black cloud, jumping from one to the other.  Damn thing.  On our ascent of Enchanted Rock (the same rock they climbed and conquered and have been talking about for a year), my oldest decided we were his enemies, and he wasn't going to climb all the way up because his legs were too tired.  Oh, boy. 

I'm thinking, "This is fun!  Now, I'm pretty sure I have some of the most spoiled kids in this park, which makes me one of the worst parents in this park, etc..."

We finished climbing, and once we got to the top, all was well.  It ended up being a great day and the black crab must have hopped families.  Interestingly, I saw a father gripping his son by his arm on top of that same rock, giving him the "attitude" talk.  I'm just saying... 

But, I was not unscathed.  On the way home, all the kiddos were sacked out from a full day of climbing and sun.  I asked my husband, "Do I need to be doing something differently?"  If my kids can be so ungrateful and negative in such great moments, I feel like I must be doing something wrong.  He said something like "Kids only have kid's perspectives.  They can't really appreciate anything because they've never known anything else."  They have everything they need and a lot of what they want.  Don't get me wrong.  Our kids only get gifts for Christmas and birthdays.  Otherwise, they buy what they want with their own money, saved from special occasions or earned from chores.   But, they are "spoiled" because of the lack of balance in their life.

Basically, they have more than they need coming in (free time, attention, pleasures, stuff), and less of what we need going out (gratitude, respect, work, positive attitude).  So, I changed our current protocol to produce different and satisfactory results - Decrease what is coming in, and increase what is going out. 

Feeling very pleased with this assessment, I sat down and made a list of daily jobs for each boy, in conjunction with a handy "three-strikes-and-you're-out" check mark system for all the behaviors and attitudes we don't want to see.  I covered it with the boys over dinner and relished briefly in the feeling of regaining a sense of balance, control, and peace.  But, then I realized... I've done all this before.  There is nothing new here.  Just a re-commitment to doing what I've already committed to do - Raise children who Love.  Appreciate.  Respect.  Serve.   

It is humbling to be a parent.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the beauty of Your Creation and time to enjoy it.  Thank you for Spring Break as a time to recover from the flu and see something new.  Thank you for the humility demanded in parenthood.  Thank you for new inspirations and moments of clarity.  Please grant us wisdom, as we raise our children in this wealthy country, where we want for nothing.  Lord, help me to be the mother you intended me to be, before you granted me the gift of motherhood.  Help me to talk less and act more. Thank you for the gift of a partner in the difficult journey of raising children.  Please sustain those who have to do it on their own.  Thank you for so many chances to get it right and help us extend Your Mercy to those who live under our own roof.  Please bless our children with hearts like Yours.  Help them to be meek and humble of heart, so that they may enjoy Your Presence for eternity.  Amen. 

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