[Quiet Thoughts] of Good Work

Photo: The Brothers Ursine decided to take it upon themselves to decorate the play fort. They found their chalk in the barn and decided to go crazy. We haven’t gotten rain in forever, so I was worried the chalk would just stay there forever. But the remnants of Tropical Storm Nate are going to end up heading this way next week, so it will all wash away. I let them have their fun. Then, of course, they got filthy from head to toe in the dusty dirt! Lordy…


Ok, before I get started in earnest with my Quiet Thoughts, I have to share this pretty classic moment:

The boys have been singing the same 4 lines from the opening number of Beauty and the Beast this week after seeing some high schoolers perform it at the school assembly. It’s fine, but it also drives me crazy because it’s not the whole song, just a few lines, over and over and over again. We’ve been doing some crafting together here at the dining room table, and I decided to break out my computer to start this blog post and also to play the whole song for the boys. They listened merrily and crafted, singing along to what they remembered. They thanked me when it was over and I said, in classic Mom fashion, “but that’s not even the good song from that soundtrack! These are the good songs!”

I put on Be Our Guest and they stared at me blankly. When I decided to skip ahead to the iconic Beauty and the Beast, my favorite, they both looked at each other, picked up their newly crafted creations, made an excuse about something and exited to the playroom. The transition from “we’re all happy here at the table together” to “Mom is freaking nuts, this music is awful, let’s get out of here” was about 3 minutes.

Like a true-blue sitcom, I sat here and finished my song as if I didn’t care. Then looked around, sad to have ruined the moment.

Classic, no?

Earlier today was another pretty poignant, less funny moment with the boys, each of us at our seats here at the table. They were eating breakfast and I needed to write a check to the school for Major to participate in today’s class visit from the aquarium. (That’s right: the aquarium brought tanks and sea creatures to my son’s classroom today. The suburbs are wild, ya’ll). I sat at the table to write it out so as to assure I’d get the stupid check for $7.50 into Major’s  backpack. The boys watched me curiously while they munched on their cereal. Then Major said the following with a laugh: “Wow! We must have a lot of money, right?”

And I said, “Nope! We really don’t!” 

I had spoken a truth, but I had done it carelessly. Both boys looked shocked and dismayed. I realized that my attempt to dissuade them from thinking we were made of money actually shook their feeling of security.

“What I mean to say is, we don’t have a lot of money. But we are very lucky. We have more than many, and we have less than others. We have enough to provide you everything you need and even many of the things you want, and that’s a really amazing blessing for the both of you.”

Their anxiety eased, which is good.

“You need to understand that you don’t live like other boys do. There are many little boys here and in other places who don’t always get what they need, let alone what they want.”

It’s a speech that I’ve given before that hasn’t landed. They haven’t really been old enough to understand. Perhaps it’s school, or maybe it’s the age, but the boys are noticing more about who we are, what we look like, who we hang out with… they seem to be satisfied with the life they live, which is very good indeed. I just don’t want that satisfaction to turn into a smugness.

“That’s why we think a lot about serving other people and making sure we do our part to share when we have more than we need, and to help others who need extra support. You see me do a lot of that. One day, you’ll need to be leaders and serve your community, too. Boy Scouts is helping you get ready for that. But you don’t need to worry about everything today. Today, you just need to learn and grow. Okay?”

Minor seemed relieved. Major, however, really took in the words. Classic first-born behavior, I guess. I talk to him a lot about being a good example and a role model and a leader. Duty is something he seems to know already. That… might not be awesome. I might be pushing that too hard for his age. He really did seem to take the words seriously.

Am I really worried that my two boys are going to end up being self-absorbed jerks? No. Not really. But still, I know that I have to be the teacher and that the lesson is ongoing. Two little boys are going to school and learning a lot of lessons, both social and academic. I’m reminded that the lessons taught here at home matter now more than ever, and they don’t stop just because the boys are out of the house all day. What childhood is going to be about for them soon is the constant weighing of the lessons I teach them against the lessons they learn from the world, often pitting them against each other as the world gets a little bigger and presents them with more questions and challenges. An expanding world means more people and more possibilities. This home and my lessons must be the cornerstone; large, unmistakable, a model and marker for which other stones may then be laid.

And that is where my Quiet Thoughts are today. Parenting isn’t easy. There were multiple points this week when I thought I had done it poorly. I’m also reminded that this life isn’t terribly easy, either. There are costs to every decision, opportunities lost and seized, moments of doubt often outnumbering the moments of triumph. What I’m grateful for, as my family marks the first year since Grandy’s passing, is the strong foundation of sometimes hard-learned lessons. Home training matters. The lessons, the battles, the sharp words, the stinging tears, the painful moments big and small… the curriculum taught at home by the people in my life are still the lessons that matter most to me. For better and for worse. There are things that I wish I could shake, but then again, there are things that I do that no one else does (and therefore give me an edge when it matters). And most importantly, I live a life I’m proud of, because I know I’m honoring where I came from, even while living hundreds of miles away from home.

If I can wake up in the morning when my boys are grown up and away from me knowing that that they are doing the same, I will have done my job well. I hope I will remember that it was good, worthy work… exhausting, emotionally draining, and difficult… but good work.

It is a New England Friday that doesn’t know what it wants. The sky started out sunny and blue, but quickly took on what I call the November Gray, which is most noticeable because it is the perfect backdrop to the changing leaves. Fleeting showers of non-committal rain marked the afternoon and teased the plants. There was a coolness to the air and even a slight breeze, but there is a stickiness to the air, too. A prelude of the humidity that is coming this weekend and over a good chunk of next week. They are talking about 86 and humid on Sunday! No thank you! I hope that we get a significant stretch of crisp, pleasant autumn and we don’t skip over it and get straight to snow. That would suck.

My Dear Reader, I have wishes for you this Friday, the night of the famous Harvest Moon (I do so love the moon, as you well know). I wish you the last good bites of the summer crop: the corn, the tomatoes, the delicate greens. It’s time to let the other stuff shine, but this weekend, let us thank the summer tastes one last time. I wish you time out in the still-warm sun, but perhaps in tall grasses or in a corn maze. Laugh and play in the waning green, relishing the bursts of color. I wish you time with a friend to be silly, and a good meal shared between you, but I wish the stories and the laughter to be what stays in your mind and warms your soul. I wish you words that matter: in a book, in an article, a spoken-word poem or a gifted speaker. Let the power of thought and the brilliantly delivered word be a part of your life this weekend, and let it inspire you to do something amazing. I wish you a whispered confession, a story that makes you smile, and the uttering of the words you really should hear more regularly: you are loved. What you do matters. When you speak, people listen. When you lead, people follow. Use your power in service, invite people to share the way and the path with you. Be a light in the darkness, Dear  Reader. Make a difference this weekend.

It’s a long weekend, and I need it to write this outline that I have to get to my sister if we want to keep our project on track. So I am going to take Monday off. I’ll see you Wednesday.

So until Wednesday, laugh, sing, dance, enjoy a plate of curry, blow someone a kiss, reach out, speak up and take care.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Trish says:

    I like the idea of honoring those we love who have shaped us, by trying to live those values.

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