I was put on this planet to raise four boys well.
That is my primary mission, at this time.
And that is partly the cause of my unhappiness. Because I don’t like the responsibility of raising four boys well in the face of all this distraction.
I have become tired of asking them nicely to do the right thing. Pick up your own socks, go for the walk. Do the homework before the Minecraft (or the Subnautica, or the Universim).
Yet the things that I refuse to let go of are the things they begin to do automatically now.
It takes years for it to sink in.
My eldest kid for example, who’s now 15. I think I had to tell him to use “please” and “thank you” one thousand times before he really got it. One thousand times! Yet now, at the table, he says, out of habit, “may I please be excused to get the peanut butter.” (He’s a peanut butter fanatic.)
My second kid, who’s now 13. He goes for walks two or three times a day sometimes. We live in the countryside and he likes to walk in nature, so he can think out his “stories.” That’s probably because as with the others, I’ve walked in nature nearly each day with them when they were little, and now that they are older I still say “everyday a walk, even if it’s not with me.” (Sometimes they prefer to walk alone. Suits me fine. I’m a bit the same sometimes.)
I’ve asked him to write down his stories (maybe so he’ll be less alone), but he’s not into it yet. Doesn’t mean I stop saying it.
My third kid makes his bed each morning like he’s in the peace corps or something. Every day, the others’ beds look like sad, bedraggled nests begging for nagging. But Y’s bed is neat as a firmly stretched sheet. I used to nag about the three unmade beds but now I try to only notice the neat one, quite loudly. I don’t make comparisons. I only loudly say, WOW. Look at that beautifully made bed. That is the bed of a self-disciplined kid.
Okay I don’t actually say that last sentence. It just occurred to me now that I am writing. That’s the other thing I hope my kids will do — write each day. Just for themselves at first. Writing helps clarify thoughts.
My youngest kid surprised me the other day.
He woke up early one morning as he sometimes does, and was watching me type. Later he said, I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to write a book. “Oh wow,” I said, a little jealous. “That’s a great idea.” “Do you have book I can write in?” he asked. “Do I ever,” I said. I opened a file cabinet drawer marked “office supplies.” It was hard to open it since it’s overstuffed with too many things. Office supplies are getting more out of hand in this house than they’re getting used.
Anyway, in that drawer are also a bunch of unused, beautiful journal books. Some were given to me, some I bought when they went on sale. I looked through all these unused journals and I found one that seemed perfect: quite small, spiral bound, lined pages, with a nice hard cover front and back, quite plain. This would be easy to write in.
I gave it to my youngest boy, who is seven years old. “Look, I found the perfect thing. I hope you like it.” “I do!” He said gladly. And he began to write. “If you can write one page every day, your book will be done in a couple of months,” I said. “Wow, that’s a really long time,” he said. (I thought that was interesting. It hadn’t sounded like much time, to me.) “Just write a page every day.” “I will!”
He has written three pages now. We’ll see how it goes. He asked me to check his spelling and I refused. This coming from a freakish grammar nut. (Spelling we can work on during homework time.) “Write the book first, check the spelling later.”
My old diaries were never filled from front to back. Maybe it’s because I was too worried about spelling.
I worry a lot. I worry that my kids will get hurt. I worry that they might hurt someone else. I worry and worry and worry and honestly I try to keep them as safe as I can from the world, and the world from them. But a life where we don’t celebrate just the pure joy of living is not a real life at all.
All I can do is the best I can.
And same with them. I can only expect them to do their best. To hell with the rest.
You know what? I only have to change my wording. My primary mission is to love four boys well.
If they can learn to receive unconditional love, then they can learn to give it. Perhaps that is the most important thing.
p.s. If you like music and words check out Sam’s blog:
Thank you for reading. ❤︎