Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Can I play with Not A Toy?

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

"But rules cannot substitute for character." — Alan Greenspan, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board (b. 1926)

I left the world of elementary schools last week, with their Halloween parades, green day-yellow-day, blue-day, RED rules, birthday treats and holiday sing-a-longs. I matured and had to navigate strange new lands called middle school for the twins and high school for Wild Child. Somehow all summer I looked forward to it, but I couldn’t really picture what it meant until the open house.

The MS technology teacher had the best reality check, “Last time they were in school in June, they were getting walked to the bathroom and told when to go. Now we unleash them on an 8 day rotating schedule that has 8 new time periods every day. They need a chart to know what day it is and where they should be, but somehow they memorized this and found their way around the maze of 1500 students. And to top that off, we let them loose with electronic drills and saws. Welcome to middle school.”

I loved and feared it at the same time. Will they be okay? What will all these strange children teach them? Will they be okay? Will they have their first boyfriend or girlfriend soon? Will they make new friends? With any luck, the friends they make there will be with them the rest of their lives, if not actually in their lives, in their hearts. The painful lessons they start to learn now are theirs to learn. It’s hard for me to see that and understand, but I know I must. I know I need to also make sure I am being a good person, a role model, someone for them to look up to. Am I kind? Am I helpful, considerate, understanding, patient and loving? How are my bad tempers impacting them? How about my good days, what am I showing them now?

When the twins were little, their big brother went off to the scary land of pre-school. For Thanksgiving, they made these cool headdresses like the Indians wore. I remember the beautiful red feathers all over. No other colors, just red. The twins were one year olds and really wanted that headdress. They kept picking it up and running with it when they found it. No amount of “No” would do it.

"I SAID NO!!!" This really meant nothing to a one year old, whose first words were, "Can I play with Not a Toy??" They just weren’t listening to the rule. They wanted to do their own thing at age one.

Finally, I just hid the hat so they couldn’t get into it. Problem solved, I removed the item.
The next day little muffin boy seemed out of sorts. He kinda made faces and didn’t eat a lot. No fever, I thought he was cutting some teeth, until I opened his diaper. Inside was a mountain of poop, with a single red feather sitting clean as could be. He obviously had eaten the feather. Nice.

No matter what they do, kids will still decide what to put inside themselves and what not to. Most of their lives, you work to teach them love and kindness, and hope it is what they store inside. You can make the rules all you want, but it’s the character that you can’t legislate. When they get to be adults, you hope it’s the goodness that’s guiding them. Sometimes your old fashioned ways have to be pushed aside, and you wonder if what you taught them will be enough.

Last Christmas, the video game system “WII” was all the rage. Its sales started out slow, with systems being abundant, but they quickly became the hottest toy of the season. Of course they sold out everywhere. A friend’s son had bought himself one with the money he earned at his high school job at a restaurant. A woman he worked with there wanted the system for her young children but could not find it anywhere. The son went home, boxed up his system, and sold it to his co-worker to give to her children.

And my friend has the best present a Dad could have, a good child with love and compassion in his heart, who put his own needs aside for someone else’s happiness. Make all the rules you want, but it’s the character that comes out when you are not there, not the rules.

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