Friday, March 20, 2015

teaching responsibility and other lessons

My oldest is a dreamer.
He is distracted.
Loses things.
Creative and cannot be bothered to clean up.

By this point, either you are nodding your head in agreement, or shaking it in frustration. I used to think that this is a reflection of my lack of organization, or poor parenting skills. When he was in kindergarden, I was told how he was the only kid whose lunchbox was not in his cubby, and neither was his backpack. His jacket was on the floor instead of being hung up.

I thought that by homeschooling him I will be able to fix this character flaw. I will be on top of him, I will make him clean up, he will suffer the consequences, and we will get this straightened out. That was good five years ago. The rest of the kids are pretty good about putting their things away, and being responsible, but this child is still stubbornly refusing to be molded into an obedient citizen of our household.

The boys take taekwondo, which comes with a pristine white uniform. Before they received their uniforms, they were given a speech on its proper treatment. It is their responsibility, and they are supposed to keep track of it and keep it clean. The boys are also teaching a taekwondo class at our homeschool coop. For the class, they change into their uniforms, and then change back into regular clothes. 8 yo packs his up in a plastic bag. Now imagine what a child-who-cannot-be-bothered does with his... I'm lucky if he rolls it up and tucks it under his arm as he rushes out.

This Wednesday, I had a particularly hard time getting kids out the door. When I got to the van and had to negotiate with the three older kids how sticks/magic wands are not allowed inside, while simultaneously attempting to buckle up 2 yo, I noticed 10 yo's uniform by his feet, with his muddy shoes planted right on top. I pointed this out, more like yelled at him yet again.

When we got to the park, and the boys saw their friends, all bets were off. They did change into their uniforms to teach the class, and then changed back afterwards. 8 yo was very upset about what was going on during class (kids not listening, his brother not sticking to the script that they wrote beforehand, being stuck trying to teach younger kids while the older one showed off his forms to the older ones), yet he changed, placed his uniform into a plastic bag, and asked me to unlock the van to put it inside. 10 yo dropped his on the ground, and went into the woods with his friends. I did not pick it up for him.

When it was time for me to leave the park, I told both boys that all their possessions are their responsibility. They both nodded distractedly, and ran off with their friends.

As I drove home, I was pretty sure that 10 yo just abandoned his uniform and his belt in the park. He did not realize that it was missing till 7:30 that night. Then he wanted to drive back to the park to go looking for it, RIGHT NOW! I said that I have a class to go to (I really did), and that I do not have time to go looking for something that he did not bother to take care of. My husband started getting worried, too: 10 yo was supposed to get tested the following day, and how is he going to test without a uniform? I said that it should concern him more than it concerns us. 10 yo said that if he has no uniform, he does not want to test. I asked him what his plan is from now on: what is he going to do next time he's in class? He started ranting about taekwondo. I said that he can buy himself a new uniform with his allowance money. He said that he just spent it all on Pokemon cards. I asked about his savings, and he said that he had none. I suggested calling the dojang, explaining the situation to his master, and finding out whether he can still test tomorrow.

Then I left for my class.

When I got back, my husband said that 10 yo did call, and was told that he can get a new uniform before the test. They worked it out that my husband will lend him money, and then he will have it withheld from his allowance until the value is paid off.

The next day, I took 10 yo early enough for his testing to get fitted for his uniform. He went into the office, definitely subdued and nervous. Then he came out, beaming: "The Master gave me a new uniform! And he said it is a present! I don't have to pay for it!"

You are one lucky ducky. Just when I thought you will be taught a lesson about responsibility and consequences, you get handed an article as a present. On top of this, even though he lost his belt, and now had a white belt on, he was lined up in his proper placement, instead of in the back, with the white belts. I was starting to wonder whether this unexpected excessive kindness  is undermining the lesson to be learned.

He tested well, and he answered quite a few questions thrown at him. He even got congratulated on his great knowledge. As we were driving back, and I could not hold back and remarked how he lucked out on his free uniform, he said: "Mom, I davened to Hashem, and he answered me. I paid special attention to Shema Koleinu, and Hashem sent me a great day, with a good resolution. Come to think of it, any time that I ask Hashem for special things in Shema Koleinu, he helps me. When I just rush through and don't ask, nothing happens. How does it work?" I said that preparing mentally before davening, and thinking which the good things to request helps one outline the steps necessary to achieve the desirable goals. Of course, one must still ask Hashem for assistance, so that everything goes according to the plan.

10 yo learned a lesson from his taekwondo experience. It might not have been a lesson that I had in mind (and I'm not holding my breath that his distracted ways will change so quickly), but he drew his own conclusions. I also wonder how many lessons I remember due to the kindness of someone who should have been strict with me, instead of having an exact punishment meted out.

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