WEDNESDAY, JULY 11, 2012
Ten Things Jason Taught Me On My Summer Vacation
Promised to share some of the thoughts I had on the road with Jason for 2 1/2 weeks up and down California and Oregon. Trust me–they ranged over the full spectrum of my life and teaching, and I suspect that that trip will form a line of demarcation in my life.
1) Let your children teach you. They are only children once, but they have a clarity about their emotions that adults obscure. Spending days cooped up in a car or a hotel room with my son, I was sensitive to his every mood and need. But one thing I really picked up on was the fact that he feels first and thinks second. He has an emotion, and then tries to find the logic to justify it. For instance: he feels like having an ice cream. Pure emotional response to a sweet urge.
He asks, and I say “no.” Immediately , he begins to ask “why.” And every reason I come up with, he either ignores or tries to use to leverage me into saying yes. “But you said I should eat more protein!”
“Well, popsicles have milk in them, and milk has protein…” or: “It’s hot and you said I should stay cool…” or: “You said I should drink a lot of water, and popsicles are made of water…” or: “I just want to see if they have any new flavors. You said I should try new things…”
Oh, it was a monkey circus in that car. I loved it. But I asked myself: how far do we really come from this stage?
Do we really advance beyond it at all?
How often are arguments between adults based on emotion, but cloaked in logic?
Political discussions, and discussions of religion seem especially vulnerable to this. Logic on the outside, pure emotion at the core. Understand what the emotion is, and address it directly, and the rest of the argument will often quiet or dissolve, even if the arguer doesn’t know why its happened.
How did this work? “Dad, I want a popsicle.” “And I want you to do your math flash cards. Tell you what: do twenty of them, and you can have a popsicle.” “Aw, Dad! Why do I have to wait?” “That’s the offer. It’s okay with me if you don’t have the popsicle. But you’re doing the flash cards regardless. Your choice.” “Twenty cards is too many!” “Twenty One.” “Twenty One! How about twenty?” “Twenty two.”
Ah. And now we’re having a totally different discussion. Did you catch the shift? What he REALLY wanted to know was what he had to do to get a popsicle. Once the conditions were basically established, we could argue and enjoy ourselves.
But at the core of that, was the question “am I safe? Do you hear me? Are you engaged with me in the process of helping me grow up? Do you care how I feel?”
THOSE fears run deep. Popsicles are a momentary symptom, a way of testing whether he has power, whether I care, in other words… will he survive long enough to be big and strong enough to care for himself.
The answer: yep. You’re gonna survive. And you’re gonna be huge, and dangerous, and sweet, and smart.
But meanwhile, kid, forty-two divided by seven equals what..?