I’m rereading a book I read ages ago called Telling Secrets, and now I might be on a little Frederick Buechner kick. On hold at the library, waiting for me to pick them up, are Buechner’s The Sacred Journey and an unrelated book by Tim Madigan called I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers. TJ and I recently watched the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and already I want to watch it again so I can copy down some of Mr. Rogers’ quotes.
Even as I write and think about how to nurture my children, how to put into practice things I learned from The Connected Child and from the Mr. Rogers movie, life keeps happening and I keep succeeding and failing. I realize how quickly I can set the tone in our home simply by the tone of my voice. I realize what happens when I bend down to eye level with Sailor and talk to her calmly instead of barking out commands. She feels heard and I can see it in her face and in her actions that follow.
I also realize what happens when I am blind to my kids’ hearts and my line of vision narrows to the point where nothing matters but order and “right now” and the clothes folded and put away and the books moved off the table where we eat and the bits of scrap paper picked up from under the homeschool table where somebody was cutting and taping while I made dinner. I have been quicker to notice lately when I forget to be who I am, this mom God is trying to recover.
With the start of school, it has been evident already that Cash needs help developing grit. His teacher at school has given me great feedback from the first week, but at home, he struggles to dig deep and do the work he needs to do. It’s not only with his school work, but also with chores like filling up the Berkey when it’s his turn, brushing and flossing his teeth, taking a shower, helping with the chickens, and collecting the trash. Sometimes Cash surprises me and cheerfully does the things he needs to do, but it’s just as often that he struggles to maintain composure when he’s asked to do something he thinks is hard. I’m talking tears over teeth brushing.
Now twice in the last week, Cash has made a comment along the lines of, I just don’t like when somebody tells me to do something. It made me happy that he could find words to name what’s in his mind and heart, even if it means I may have a Rebel son (from Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework) on my hands. Gretchen wrote that the rebel is the person who says, “You can’t make me and I can’t make me either.” Cash isn’t belligerent or disrespectful, but appears to be weighed down under a feeling of inadequacy or incompetence or both. He believes things are hard and that he can’t do them or won't succeed at them, and then he doesn’t want to try.
I’m what Gretchen calls an Upholder, one who lives by the mantra “Discipline is my freedom.” I have wanted Cash to dig deep inside himself to “just do the thing,” whether Latin vocabulary cards or the laundry. I am internally motivated and have assumed that what works for me would work for him. But I’m thankful to be realizing, and accepting, that Cash isn’t like me and it’s okay. TJ is an Obliger (“You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me”) who isn't like me, either, but he’s the best thing that ever happened to me, so I’m pretty sure Cash is going to grow up to be just fine.
It feels exciting as we move into our school year ahead that I get to work at figuring out who Cash is so I can motivate him in ways that he can receive, as well as help him grow in character and grit according to his nature. Reading Grit these past few weeks was a timely move for me, and I’m thankful for the book’s message. I heard the same thing in Grit that I heard in The Connected Child prior to that. Grit talked about being both demanding and supportive in that we challenge our kids appropriately while also being there to help them and encourage them when they have setbacks. The Connected Child talked about “nurturing” paired with “structure,” and “connecting” paired with “correcting.” I am starting to get it, I think.
I am living this and writing about it at the same time. I’m still making mistakes, but I’m seeing them sooner. And I’m having some little victories, moments of connection and warmth with my children that I’m proud of. I’m growing in grit myself.
I’m still an Upholder, still organized and orderly, still a list maker and completer, still efficient to the nth degree. But if I get still, I remember the truer things: that relationships take time, that I am called to carefully tend to my children, that the small things are full of the big things, that I’m a lover of words and waterskiing, a fan of Frederick Buechner, a fan of Annie above all. She wrote in Bird by Bird that “you own what happens to you.” So I’m taking her word for it, collecting the things that have happened and will happen, patiently sitting with these stories that are my life, finding words to tell my own secrets, and hoping in the meantime to discover the secret of Cash.