Monday, January 11, 2010

Better metaphors

I introduced a new concept to the kids called "follow through," where you complete a task by cleaning it up and putting it all away before moving on to the next thing. Not new at all, just one in a long series of (yawn) explanations about why it is important to keep things in their place. How if you don't, you won't be able to find it when you need it, yadda, yadda, yadda. I really can't totally blame them for being handicapped in this regard because (1) they are kids (2) both of their parents are deficient in this ability as well and (3) it's really boring. Hence, yet another approach where if they ask me, "Mom, can I...?" instead of saying, "First clean up blank and blank and blank," I can just say, "After you follow through." Hoping they'll see the connection between a task and its completion and how that will directly benefit them in the end. Hoping.

Imagine my delight when Rees chimed in with, "It's like nun-chucks!" Nun-chucks? The weapon that is like sticks on a chain? Rees has learned how to use these at Kung Fu and got a pair for his birthday. "Yeah," he says, "With nun-chucks, if you don't follow through, they'll come back and whack you!"

Exactly! So now when they can't find their backpack in the morning, maybe they'll see how the lack of follow through has come back to whack them. Maybe... But this idea of future whack avoidance is working for me! (Also helpful to me right now is the idea of "ship shape," where it's of dire importance to keep things in order and ready to go in preparation for the next crisis. Pause and take the time to neatly coil your rope, or it won't be ready when you need it! And my mom just posted about "stepping stones of calm" and order in her day as a reason to keep things in their place. Another good image to keep me focused on "follow through.")

Then there was the dire outing we took to hike in a canyon last summer. It was over an hour drive out to the plains and Kadin had brought a friend. None of the kids wanted to go, much less go for a car ride, and kept asking when we'd get there. To make matters worse, Kadin's friend, a very sweet kid who has the unfortunate habit of always positioning himself as the victim, sort of assumed that Rees, the big brother, would be "against" him and Kadin, so kept saying things in a defensive, provocative way. Much of it was unintentional, just an assumption, but it really worked to make itself true. Lo and behold, Rees got upset and the 8-year-old friend kept saying unknowingly unhelpful things like, "Rees is upset, aren't you Rees? I think Rees is upset.” I felt scars forming on my psyche and asked myself repeatedly (and silently) was it worth it? Why even attempt such outings? What was the point of leaving the house? How do people do it?

Needless to say, we were all ready to bolt from the car at the earliest opportunity. Didn't even choose a trailhead, just stopped at the first available parking area. Rees was in a real funk by this point and determined to bring everyone down with him. Every step was torture it seemed, kids provoking and protesting. Greg and I kept waiting for things to turn around. They had to, right?

After about a half-mile of unrelenting freak-out, despite lizards and boulders and ruins, Greg finally announced that it was a failed trip. I agreed. But, I always have to see what is around the next bend. It looked like we were finally approaching the creek, so I suggested we get to the creek then head back and cut our losses.

Out of desperation, and relieved the trip would end soon, I took an unofficial trail down to the creek. And it turned out to be a beautiful sandy creek with large, inviting boulders strewn throughout. Perfect beaches, perfect perches, warm air, cool, clear water. Heaven to anyone who cared to open their eyes and look. There was still a lot of tears and anger, but I didn't see how it could last through all the enticing beauty surrounding us.

Slowly, with people not yet ready to leave, the mood began to change. Shoes came off, wading began, a pool of frogs was found...things were miraculously looking up. And way in the distance downstream, we could see the dot of our red car at the trailhead. It was decided that we'd wade back to the car instead of take the dusty trail.

So the expedition through the boulders and reeds began. At places the stream was wide and shallow, with boulders and open vistas. Then it would narrow into an ominous, swift, deep, shrub-choked section where we could barely see and had to duck under sticks and branches in the encroaching vegetation. Footing was difficult as the current was swift and the water deep. But we quickly figured out that each deep, narrow bit was always followed by another gentle, shallow bit. The kids, scouting ahead, would reassure us that when it looked dark and dim and dire, another bright spot was right around the corner.

Success! Their favorite part of the weekend!


Dais said...

Love the "whack" concept! It's like "what goes around comes around" with a kid twist! It make me think of learning to speak in another language. Just because someone speaks the same language you do does not mean they understand you or vice versa. Cool. A good reminder!

Your adventure sounds challenging and ultimately rewarding! All's well that ends well?

cda said...

Love this story--and so glad to see you are writing again, Jennifer!

cda said...

(Don't know why I wrote Jennifer as I never call you that and have even gone from Jen to Jenny....)

Just had to "follow through" and explain that bit of oddness.