I am confessing. I used the Darth Vader voice yesterday. You know THE Voice – deep, throaty, scary and loud! It kind of sounds like screaming, but instead of high pitched it rumbles and vibrates. It leaves a residue, both for the performer and the receiver. I was the performer and my throat still aches. My thirteen year old, Max, was the receiver and his heart may still ache.
Max was on thin ice this weekend at our home. With only two weeks of school left and the crazy preparation of Clayton’s high school graduation open house my schedule is full! Clayton is our middle child and very social – his guest list for graduation numbers in the small city range! And, I am glad. This is an amazing time of celebration and transition for him. Needless to say, every minute of my schedule for the next three weeks is accounted for. That was until, Friday after school.
Max hopped in my car with a funny look on his face. “What’s up buddy? How was your day?” I asked.
“Okay,” he responded. Then he gives me the sheepish side glance. “Did the school call you?”
“No.” I wait. Max reaches in his pocket and pulls out the yellow Discipline Report. As he is unfolding it I ask, “Did you get detention?”
Of course he did – that is what the yellow sheet means. We’ve signed or acknowledged over 40 of them this year. I am kind of hoping for lunch detention because that doesn’t effect my schedule. I then realize that after-school-detention would give me an extra hour to get things done before picking him up. Either way, it’s all good.
Yes! I realize that this form of reasoning is at least a little pathetic on my part.
“Lunch or after school? What happened?” I can’t ask what he did or he just clams up, but ‘what happened’ seems to charge neutral in his mind.
“I got in a fight.”
“Max!” Okay, I am going to admit that part of my response had to do with my own selfish ambitions. Fighting means OSS (out of school suspension). Of course, my parenting instincts also kicked in and wanted all the details. Which he freely gave.
Except for the name of who he got in a fight with. When he finally shared the boy’s name, my heart sank. They were friends. I knew the boy’s parents. I called my husband, Jeff. He was on his way home. Max would go over to their home and apologize. We would then determine consequences for his three days of out of school suspension.
It is usually pretty easy to figure out what Max has been doing and where he has been at our home and on our property. We live on a lake in Michigan and have 10 wooded acres. Max is an outdoorsy kid. I love that about him! He is also a slob. That’s not really a fair assessment. He does things in a neat manner and can be very organized. However, he rarely cleans anything up before his body and mind are on to the next thing. He isn’t sitting around being sloppy – he is more like a mini natural disaster occurring repeatedly in subsequent locations around our home and property. He will clean up and do a fair job of it, but he usually requires a reminder. Which gets me back to the Darth Vader voice.
Spring has sprung in Michigan. Kind of. Really, we’ve gone from winter to cold rain to 80 degrees, back to rain again. Did I mention rain? We haven’t had many warm and sunny days. When we get the combination of warm and sunny all activity in my home stops and we head outside!
This Spring our outside activity is joyful as always yet peppered with a deadline! We have entered the frenzy of activity for Clayton’s graduation open house. The funny thing is, Clayton already thinks we are weird for keeping our home and property in the best possible shape – picked up, cleaned, maintained, landscaped and decorated. Clayton feels like we might go a little overboard in the cleaning and maintaining department. I think he will be able to relate to us better when he owns his own home and has his own family…
I love gardening, landscaping, playing in the dirt! This is a season I look forward to all year! I feel so close to God when I am physically connected to creation. I hear the whispers, the song of hope, carried with each new leaf unfurling! I talk to God while I garden. I work out any issues or concerns I have while I am turning soil, pulling weeds or am up to my elbows in dirt. I feel the Creator with me. I pray. I give thanks. I worship. This is a spiritual act for me!
You can imagine my annoyance when I come across at least 30 drywall screws dumped in an area I am attempting to grow grass. Or the irritable twinge I have when I enter the garage for fertilizer and have to step over pieces of bike – dismantled, repainted, strewn about with tools, paint, my painter’s masking tape…Sigh. Our woods look like an apocalyptic survival forest with wood shanties and shelters built about every hundred trees (for air soft gun wars). My husband’s tools that we thought were lost are permanently rusted into the ground. So glad the leaves have come out and covered up most the wreckage and hidden the mess…I walk in the house for a drink. I remove dirt, dust and shoes in order to keep our home clean. Apparently no one else got that memo – the one about keeping the house clean.
Max has shoes inside and outside the door. His socks, a water bottle, a juice bottle and an empty bag of donuts are by the couch in the family room. The rest of his clothes from the day before are scattered like a breadcrumb trail leading to his room. His computer is in the living room. His fishing charter brochure is on the kitchen table, along with some drafting and drawing supplies and his detention slip and a job application. Another pair of socks is in the TV room along with a banana peel.
Max has been fishing. Since 7 am. You can smell him from about 10 feet away. We have been in different areas of the same universe for most of the day – until now. He is covered with fish guts and blood, smiling ear to ear, carrying cleaned fish wrapped in newspaper. He is on cloud nine and I am about to burst his bubble.
How can I be so spiritual one moment, so connected to God and immersed in His creation, and blow a gasket the next?
Now I am not saying that Max shouldn’t be held accountable and responsible for cleaning up after himself. Of course he should! What I am saying is that I could use an extra dose of self control, grace and mercy in parenting this child!
Max is also thirteen. Did I already mention that? Thirteen is my least favorite age of the teenage years. Max can argue with almost everything I say, especially if it is a direction. It depends on his mood…At thirteen he is wiser, smarter, stronger and taller than me. He really is taller. Okay, probably stronger too. When I began a discussion of some of the ‘things’ he needed to take care of he began to argue. The discussion (now I am using the term lightly) began to escalate. Before I realized what was happening Darth Vader had appeared and ordered Max to his room.
I headed back to the garden. Just that morning in church I had been reminded about forgiveness. I had been so relieved to search my heart and discover I wasn’t holding any grudges or hurts from others – I didn’t have anyone to forgive today. Then our pastor reminded us that some of us may need to forgive ourselves. Ouch. The place of personal hurt that can still come up and bite me, is my own short fall in parenting. I have apologized to my children for many things I have done and said. I have received forgiveness from them and from my heavenly Father. Jesus already paid for my transgressions. I have forgiven my self, sort of. I can still cry over times I totally missed it in the parenting department.
Little children (and big children) are our most precious gift. They, like us, really just want to be loved. And, if we had the time to celebrate them, and with them, and laugh, then the world would be a better place. People matter. Eye to eye time matters. Seriously, does it matter eternally if my home is clean? Is that business call so important? Or is it more important that I stopped what I was doing and entered into the life of a child or another human being?
When I went to revoke the Darth Vader verdict I walked into the kitchen to a scene covered in flour. Max had released himself from Darth Vader prison and was covered in flour. I am smiling at him (inside I am biting my tongue).
“I’m cooking you and dad dinner, mom! I have this great recipe for catfish,” said Max.
I look in the bowl, in the midst of the flour, and it looks like bread dough. “Wow, honey, that looks a little thick to dip fish in?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it under control. The recipe says it should be thick.” He turns back to stir his creation.
I keep the reminder that I am supposed to be eating gluten free and that I don’t like fish to myself, behind my smiling lips.
I go to the bathroom. There is flour in the bathroom. I decide to go back outside and just let Max cook. There is flour on the deck. There are fishing poles on the dock along with fish guts and blood. Jeff looks at me. I am sending him the silent message that he pray for me. No words are needed. I go back to my garden.
“Dinner is ready,” yells the young man-child standing outside our door.
The table is set with real (not paper) plates. The fish has been grilled and kept warm in the oven. A salad has been cut up and put in a festive ceramic bowl. Max doesn’t even like salad, but he knows I do. We sit down together. We give thanks. The fish is excellent. Max is a really good cook!
Max spent the day fishing, cleaning his catch and preparing it for dinner. He is the real deal – a man’s man in the making! A provider.
After dinner Max and I walked through the dinner clean up steps. Max did a great job. We picked up both inside and outside, the day’s remnants of Max.
In the morning we watched the devastation a tornado had on Joplin, Missouri. We were relieved Tanner was not harmed in the storm. He is our oldest son and lives close to Joplin. Max watched the scenes of mass devastation. He stood up and held out his hand to me, “Mom, let’s pray!”
I stood with Max as Jeff walked into the room. The three of us joined hands while Max prayed for God’s restoration and provision for Joplin, Missouri.
Beautiful, Barb! I’m so glad you wrote. What a beautiful gift from God you have….a beautiful gift for all of us! This is an an awesome example of how much God loves us and sees beyond our shortcomings and sees our heart. Max is so blessed to have a mother to has seen and understood and continues to see and understand his heart. You are an instrument in raising up a man of God…..someone very special who others might have only seen as a problem. You’re doing it…. You fight like a girl!!!!
Love you! Donna
Thanks for encouraging me to write! And YOU fight like a girl too! Love you too, Barb