Thursday, August 22, 2013

Failure in Teaching Peace

I admit that I'm tired. Being the social director is exhausting. Did you ever watch 'Love Boat?' In college, my roommate and I used to watch it while we got ready to go out for the night. It was a stupid show, but that didn't matter. Love always prevailed and that seemed like a good enough message for going out on a Saturday night.

If you watched the show, do you recall the cruise director in the show, Julie McCoy? That's what I thought. She was not memorable. She came and went during every episode , seldom doing more than chatting, never slowing down, never having a real part in the play. Notice on the web page link that it says that 'this character biography is empty.' Yeah, you got it. It's a metaphor for my role this summer - social director, biography empty.

Nick is at that age for which friends are the be-all and end-all of his day. We might have taken him to Hawaii, but when people ask about his summer, he talks about his friends.

That is, in fact, as it should be.


Nick doesn't like calling, texting, emailing, or otherwise planning outings with his friends. Is that one of the differences between a boy and a girl, the phone? Or is it just a variation between children?

So, I am left either demanding that Nick make a phone call for a planned event or making the call myself. Nick procrastinates and his summer plans were punctuated with days for which he wanted to do something specific with someone specific yet he'd failed to notify them of this fact.

It was feast or famine. Some mornings, my heart broke for him as we discovered that this friend or that one had already made other plans and he was stuck at home with me yet again. 'Well, duh,' I wanted to say, but didn't. If a kid waits until 11:37 am to make a call, people are likely to have made plans for the day. But I didn't say as much. And I let him sit in it for a bit when it did happen, yet, we usually came up with someone who hadn't planned anything either. Sometimes we had to run through a few names first. Heartbreaking somehow, though I'm convinced that Nick has plenty of good friends.

Then, frequently, he'd have more offers to hang out than he could keep up with. It's not like he sat around all summer, wilting in the heat. He was busy, often too busy.

I need to get better at letting go. If he's at home and he's alone, it isn't the end of the world unless he stays plugged into the television for too long. I find that my sense of self recovers when I get a chance to be alone, especially when the television is off. I'm convinced that the television interferes with that quiet sense of rejuvenation a person gets on a day spent alone. Oh, a little television isn't bad, but it generally isn't good company. So, I need to work to let Nick make his own plans, to let him procrastinate that call and feel the effects, to tell him to turn off the television so his mind can chill.

With a trip every few weeks this summer, I never did get that time to chill.

Do you remember running through the sprinkler?

Lying in the grass on a hot day either looking at the clouds or at clover?

Did you climb high into a tree and sit there looking down on the world?

Did you dig a pit, a tiger trap, maybe and stare at an unearthed worm, wriggling in the unfamiliar air?

Did you examine bugs and birds and moles?

That's what this summer has been missing. We didn't even spend much time at the lake, just hanging out and swimming all day. Yet, it wasn't my job to decide the what of the day, just to help with the personnel involved.

Oh, some days I sat on my back deck and looked up into the trees, but usually, when I did that, Nick was glued to the television, fighting back when I told him to turn it off, never coming out to daydream the way I did.

Oh, there is pushing back from a boy who is almost thirteen. I gave up trying to get him to read a book. We fought over the stupid television, over simple chores, over cleaning up one's own messes. He did not achieve that lovely stretch of time that happens when you have your feet in the kiddie pool and your head in the clouds. He seemed to like it that way.

I, on the other hand, did not. I look forward to not having to rush, to settling in for a long and winding walk, to looking at an empty morning with a list of what to do, need-to's and want-to's in my own time. I look forward to reading a whole book, to watching a whole movie, to losing myself in cleaning my kitchen while an audio book drones on. I look forward to silence.

For Nick, I would have wish more silence this summer, for more time to contemplate the details of a blade of grass or to float in the water in an inner tube, watching the sun reflect into his eyes, for time to pick blueberries while listening to other people chatter on in the distance.

How do you teach peace?

It isn't easy, is it?

Thank you for listening, jb

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