Sunday, July 26, 2015

How do You Like them Apples? Parenting in the Active Tense

Did Ruby really steal the apple she talks about at the start of The Beat on Ruby’s Street? It's a question I get asked--and I'm not always sure of the answer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how kids get in trouble; how they know and don’t know what they’re doing at the same time. When he was about seven, my son decided to set off the fire alarm in a building where he was attending a summer camp program. He said he just couldn’t stop himself from doing it because he wanted to know what would happen—even though he knew it was wrong.

His dad and I set up consequences: an apology to the camp counselors, no TV or computer, no swimming for three days. That was the last time he set off any fire alarms—but not the last time he got in trouble. Still, I count myself very, very, very lucky, because my son’s childhood journey, though it hit some snags, went pretty smoothly, overall.

Remembering my own days as a tween, I think about how much I wanted to test the waters and cringe. I was loud, boisterous, annoyed by authority and always ready to challenge it and seldom able to sit still. I talked a lot more than I listened and rarely trusted adults. Thinking back on it, I realize I was going through some hard times at home and couldn’t explain them to anyone.  And acting out was the best way (I thought) to deal with it.

But being that kid still didn’t give me insight as to how to deal with my own, because remembering what I was like was only half the story. Parenting is a much more active tense, as they say in show business; more show, less tell. 

What I found and am still finding, ultimately, is that actions speak louder than words and my son remembers much more of what I did than what I said. Now he’s older, my goals have changed as a parent, but I still hope he'll make the decisions I want to see him make—even though I know that may only happen sometimes. If it happens at all.

Like Ruby, there will always be some way he or any other kid makes a decision he'll regret or a mistake that can’t be undone. A friend once said, “you think you’ll stop worrying about your children when they’re older? Forget about it.”

I realize now she is right—and for my own sanity, it’s important to recognize that if my son remembers half of what I tried to teach him, that's a good thing. Because there comes a time for all parents when we have to let go. Of course, that's all too easy to say and not ever easy to do. 

But it's all you have sometimes. That and the knowledge that life has a way of getting us wherever we're meant to go.

Maybe that's more of a hope than knowledge.

I think Ruby may have wanted to steal the apple but thought better of it; or she may have just wanted to move it. Whether she did or not, she certainly got in trouble for it. Don’t we all have moments like that, one way or another? Isn’t that the reason why we read and write books?

To learn more about how actions speak louder than words (especially for parents), you might  take a look at these articles. While I'm no expert, they made sense to me:

Children’s Book Blog: My

Basket of Apples: Original Drawing by Jackson Muenster
Dark eyed girl photoRachel a. k.