15 July 2011

Equal and Opposite

At church each week, we take communion.  We don't process up for it, though.  We have those little plastic cups.  Not grape juice, thankfully, but real, cheap, red wine is found in them.  The cups come down the aisle in a stainless steel round thing designed specifically for plastic, miniature, communion cups to be passed down church aisles.

Our children are encouraged to partake of the supper with us.

So, along comes the bread first.  And each child in our family takes a piece of bread.  [Our pastor always leaves one giant piece on the tray - the one that he broke in half in front of everyone and every week Eason eyes it with breadlust.  And every week Paul says, just watching his eyes, "nope - just grab a normal one, Eason."  And Eason obeys. Sometimes cheerfully.  Sometimes the epitome of bedgrudgingly.] 

Sometime over the last few months, Collins has become a regular church attender.  He (usually) actually makes it through the whole service.  You can imagine after a full one hour and ten minutes or so, when it gets to communion time, he's not at his most peaceful.  I mean, heavens, sometimes it hard for me to sit still that long.

So, anyway, along comes the bread.  Eason gets his normal-sized piece (much to his chagrin), I get mine, Ada gets hers, Collins his, and Paul his.  And then we wait.  This is painful waiting for Collins.  He is hungry, dern it.  He wants to eat the bread now.   Please.  But just like at any other feast, we wait until everyone else has their food to eat ours.  I keep whispering to him.  He keeps putting it closer to his mouth.  I feel sorry for him.  But I don't let him know that.  Sometimes he pitches a tiny fit about it, which requires discipline, which does take away, just a little, from the great Eucharistic moment.

And then finally, the deacons go back up to the front of the church, having distributed the 5 loaves among all of God's people, and Rev. Wedgeworth eats his bread, and Collins giggles with hungry giddiness as he eats his piece.

And we'd all breathe a sigh of relief, except...

Here comes the wine.  (Say that again, but this time, to the tune of Wagner's Bridal Chorus)

So, here comes the wine.  Not all fat and wide.  But all in these tiny cups and ready to spill.  All over the church outfits of all the children present.

Ada Brooks is pretty good about the wine.  Eason is pretty bad, and Collins is horrendous.

And as parents, mine and Paul's reaction is to jerk to stop it.  Collins is not being careful with his mini-wine-vessel, and one or both of us reaches out to stop him.

Paul grabs his hand or I grab the cup and attempt to rescue him from certain stains.

As soon as one of us grabs, guess what Collins does?  He jerks away.  Guess what this results in?  Oh?  Spillage?  The very thing we were trying to stop?  So frustrating.

Sunday before this past one, as Paul grabbed for grubby little Collins's wine-cup-holding hands, and Collins jerked, I had a vision.  Perhaps it was brought on by the excellent preaching of the Word.  Or perhaps it was that I was faint with my own lack of breakfast.  But, in my mind, I saw Collins as a teenager.  With Paul grabbing at the wine and Collins jerking back and spilling it everywhere.  Only now he was big and the cup much bigger and the spill much more consequential.

Why do we grab?  Why do they jerk back?  This grabbing at and jerking back pattern is evidenced all over our lives.  I snap for everyone to immediately get to cleaning, "This house is a wreck." and they, almost inevitably, jerk back - some with pouty lips, some with ignoring me and one, maybe, throwing himself down in grief.

We want our children to submit to authority.
Obey first.
Obey cheerfully.
Obey quickly. 

But everytime we grab - either literally or symbolically, they jerk back.

I think it's a simple 3rd law of (e)motion thing.
Let's all say it together, "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."  Good!  Newton and your high school physics teacher would be so proud.  

Equal and opposite.  We grab, they jerk back.  Wine spills everywhere.

So, our job is to teach them not to jerk back, right?  Yes.  Automatic rebellion is immature.
When an authority grabs, don't jerk back.

But...guess what....grabbing is rarely necessary

The best strategy we have to prevent wine spilling are
a) don't let them hold the cup
b) come along side their little hands with ours and gently steady them. 

They haven't done anything wrong by simply being children.  They aren't even being particularly careless with their little wine cups.  They're just kids, and kids, especially little ones, especially little male ones, need to be taught gentleness and carefulness.  My heavens - I still spill stuff all over me all the time.
When the kid is about to run out in the street, that's the time to grab at them.   But wine is not an emergency.  (Lack of wine might be...)

[Who saw the Gnome Mobile as a child?  Who remembers the scene of all the women gnomes trying to catch the one eligible bachelor gone?
The grab/jerk pattern reminds me of them trying to hold on to the slippery gnome and him just being shot far up into the air]

I have been struck by our need to be more discerning about what requires such an emphatic and quick and grabby reaction.  Paul and I are both grabbers by nature.  We've got to work on it.  When Collins grabs something off of the grocery shelf, my instinct is to jerk it out of his hand and put it back on the shelf, admonishing all the way.  But guess what that results in?  An equal and opposite reaction.  He pouts or fits or whines or, worst, goes for the item again. 
But what happens when I say, 'Collins, please put the marshmallows back on the shelf.  We remember now that we don't grab things off the grocery store shelf unless Mama asks us to?'  Almost always, unless we are seriously nap deprived, he does as told.
Ada Brooks comes out dressed to go somewhere in three different colors of pink.  My immediate reaction is to say "You cannot go anywhere in that."  But what works much better is to say, "hey- sweetheart - can I offer a suggestion?  I love pink - i love you in pink - but remember how we've been talking about clashing?"  She doesn't wish to look ridiculous (yet...), so if I approach it calmly, she almost always sees reason.

We want them to learn not to jerk back.  Yes.  To obey without asking questions.  First and quickly and thoroughly.  

But there will be a lot less wine spilled, I'm slowly learning, if we'll very intentionally be calm; if we'll bring our big hands to their little hands and teach them how to hold the cup, rather than forbidding them from doing it entirely or, worse, letting them and then jerking it away.

1 comment:

  1. This is exactly the post I needed to see right now in my struggles with two year old Hutch. Last night he was sobbing (and I don't use that term lightly) while saying, in between gulps of air, "Don't...tell...me...no,...Mommy!" I realized my delivery was at least partly to blame. Grab and jerk back. Seemingly all day, every day. Thanks for the reminder.