Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Learning Lesson From A Little Boy

“This is not a joke!"

“Yes it is.”

“No, I’m not fooling around.”

“Why not?”

“Because this is serious.”

“No it’s not.”

The boy is four years old. Four and a half, as he’s quick to correct. Yet we still struggle mightily with how to discipline him. He literally thinks everything is a joke. And I am using the word literally as it is supposed to be used.

We aren’t rookie parents. He’s our fourth. Of course, we’re not the best at all aspects of parenting (ahem… bedtime). But we aren’t new to our struggles. Figuring out how to get him to take us seriously – to take anything seriously – is a great challenge.

“You lost dessert when you took your pants down at the table.”

I actually said that to him after dinner one day recently. In the middle of our meal, sometime after the prayer and before his sisters scattered to the wind, the boy mooned the table. As the girls all laughed, including his mother in a seriously-suppressed sort of way, I told him that it wasn’t funny to moon the table.

“Then why is everybody laughing?”

A fair question. One I didn’t have an immediate answer to. But it got me thinking, again, about the great trouble we face with him. How do we get this little guy to realize that life isn’t all one big joke?  And just as importantly, why exactly do I have to teach him that?

Our boy turns five this summer, something he’s been looking forward to since he turned four. He’s a great kid, he tells you he loves you, says thank you and sorry at appropriate times, and offers hugs without request. He’s smart, calling out the answers to his older sister’s math problems as she tries to figure them on paper. He’s fast, too. Super fast, as he likes to say. (He’s actually normal speed, but thinks he’s like a rocket; don’t tell him otherwise).

But when it comes to discipline, he’s kind of like Peter Pan probably was at four. He just doesn’t get it. When I go to put him in timeout, it invariably becomes a game of chase, with him laughing and squealing and letting out a guttural  “AHHHHHH” like PeeWee Herman being chased by a friendly bear.

This all matters because in a few short months this boy of ours will go to kindergarten. Full day no less.

It’s time for him to grow up.  Yet … I don’t want him to.

It makes me wonder where all the time has gone. And why the heck it’s gone so fast. And how it all seems like such a blur. I remember the first time we put a kid on the bus to go to Kindergarten. My wife bawled. I didn’t. I stood stoically and watched. Then I went to work. When the next two got on that bus when it was their turn, my wife cried again. I didn’t.

When he gets on the bus, I think am going to. I know it. Not because he’s the baby, or the boy (I don’t think like that), but because he’s the last.

For the past 12 year we’ve had little ones who needed us each day, to take care of and feed and clothe and wipe. For a good part of that, we’ve worked, sending them to the sitter, or to pre-school, or to some camp for half a day.

Always we hoped that we’d get to the point where one of us could stay home and just be the parent. It never happened.  And soon, they won’t need us to. As my wife muttered after she filled out the kindergarten paperwork for the boy, it’s gone.

People told us to cherish it, like we tell other parents to. But did we? Did we? Heck, I can barely remember all of it.

I know there’s a lot more parenting left to do, and a lot more time with our little people before they go off to college. But if it’s anything like the last 12 years, it’s going to fly by and become a blur.

And that’s why it’s so hard to teach this boy that his antics aren’t funny. Because they are. And I want them always to be.


Carter said...

Well, bad news (and good news): This won't end any time soon. Our 6-year-old (he's 7 in June) is exactly like this. Life is a game, and I'm good with that. (OK, our boys is not exactly like this. He hasn't mooned the table yet. But I'm sure it's coming. And when it does, I'll laugh like a crazy person.)

Anonymous said...

I've heard it said that some of the characteristics that drive parents crazy are the very personality traits that you want to see in your kids as they get older.

We were always terrified of sending our kids to school, they always seemed like such little hellions. We were constantly waiting for a call from the school telling us that one of our kids flooded the classroom because they wanted the class hamster to go sailing in the paper boat they'd made! Luckily that never happened.
We'd attend parent teacher conferences with dread, and always had to ask the teacher if they were really talking about our kids. They always got glowing reports from their teachers. Our kids were funny, but respectful, active, but attentive.
I also have four kids, I haven't accomplished much in my life, or been terribly successful, but I look at my kids and figure I've made a solid contribution to the world. I have no doubt that they're all going to have an positive impact on the world around them!

Cort Ruddy said...

As life ticks on, I agree that our greatest accomplishments -- regardless of all other things we can measure -- are the people we bring into this world. Thanks for reading.

Jack said...

My almost 15 year old mooned the table recently, but it was partly my fault. He went walking by and I tried to grab him and his pants slid partway down.

So you could have been like me, trying to explain it is not funny to moon the table while apologizing for pulling his pants.

Larry said...

He sounds like a handful - and alot of fun. Enjoy him when he's not driving you batty.
PS I havent seen you over at my blog for a while. If you get a chance, stop by.

Cort Ruddy said...

Thanks for reading, guys. Been kind of a digital hermit in recent months. Working to get out again.