Friday, September 23, 2011

83 Months

So Lucas has started the second grade, somehow making it through grade number one in one piece. I know it sounds strange to be presenting it in such a way but we had some difficulties last year that tested our patience and aspirations for our first child.

Lucas is the type of child who faces difficulties in such a way that he can manage them but really would rather not. If something is challenging he has a tendency to get frustrated and want to disappear but as long as he perseveres, then the outcome most likely comes out on the sunny side of average. Yet, if he has the opportunity to avoid the challenge and get away with it, then that will be his primary choice in most situations. He likes to feel comfortable, to enjoy himself and indulge in the activities in life that bring a smile on his face. I don't blame him because who doesn't want to have a life with those type of outcomes, but when it comes to building character and developing into a dynamic human being that has the ability to face anything that this life can throw our way, then we must challenge ourselves.

Lucas still doesn't quite understand that concept. So, last year, when he was under the tutelage of a demanding teacher along with high quality peers that elevated the learning environment, he had to face situations that were outside his comfort zone more often than he'd ever previously been accustomed. He reacted with bouts of morose behavior that we have yet to see from our little guy. It was awkward and frustrating and sad, not just for him but for Christina and me, as well.

One of the defense mechanisms that he's learned over the past few years is to shut down and not express himself fully when he's struggling. It's something that we've really had to face over the past year as he often would come home sullen and snappy without any explanation at all. I believe that this habit of quiet defiance quickly develops in the school yard, especially when one is surrounded by peers with strong personalities who have developed abnormal competitive genes during this young blossoming time. Last year, Lucas came face to face with one of these personalities and it grew into his first ugly school yard incident.

Even though Lucas can shut down, we've also been very adamant with him that he has the right to express his opinion on any subject with us and others. It's important for him to learn to communicate with anyone in life, even those who he finds difficult. So, even though Lucas can be quiet at times, when he's in the proper mood he really has no problem telling people exactly how he feels. It's one of the great quandaries of life. When do we stand up to remain true to our genuine expression that defines our unique individual humanity and how do we express it in such a way that our message has the ability to touch people in positive ways? That's the goal that we have for him and the first step is allowing him to truly express himself now with confidence, especially when he's at age where he doesn't have a massive understanding of the world. But it's a habit that will eventually grow into a powerful force if we nurture it in the right way.

Well, I guess he didn't have a problem expressing himself with this other child in his class and it simmered into something that we needed to bring to the attention of the authorities at his school, his teacher and principal. I didn't have an issue coming to the school with this because my first response when it comes to my children is that I'm going to protect them no matter what and Lucas's behavior was definitely something of concern. But when it came time for him to stand up and defend his side the story, his anger and confidence with the situation dwindled into meekness. I was disappointed because I was emotionally invested and I felt that Lucas has manipulated me a little bit, but then I realized that it was simply a really difficult challenge that he was dealing with and that he was on an even bigger emotional roller-coaster ride than me.

One of the great challenges any human must face is how they are honest with themselves regarding the way that they face the world. If we are not honest with ourselves then we will never be honest with others. This is a tremendous challenge that has come to define Lucas after almost seven years. Christina is extremely motivating with how she handles these dilemmas of integrity that rise up with our son. Her message is always about how you lose yourself when you are not honest. When you start lying during challenging situations so that you don't get punished or because you are trying to hide from some ominous outcome, then you begin to lose connection to yourself. You go down a path where you may discover one day in the future that you don't know who you are anymore. That place is hell and no one, no god put you there. You chose to go down that desperate road yourself.

This is a vital message for children to learn and I am so glad that I have a companion who is so tuned in to its awareness that she can communicate it so effectively. It's something that both of my children must understand if they want to get anywhere in life. It's something that I had extreme difficulty dealing with when I was a child and it affected me dramatically when I became an adult. It took many years for me to reach a place where I truly felt healthy again. This incident that came up with Lucas and that we all had to face really raised some new challenges for us but we really came through the dank tunnel to view things with a new light. Lucas seems to be smiling more and believing in himself more. He's told me quite often this first month how much he likes his new class and how happy he is with his school mates. Of course, part of the reason for all of that is because his new teacher is so "easy" and he's really glad that the troublesome child from last year is no longer in his class.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

43 Months (2)

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I'm forty-years-old and that I have a seven-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. But they're here and I'm still here and this little blog is still here, too. I look back on all of these entries that reflect my perspective on parenting and growing and learning about life and I'm stunned that this display has become so mature.

And despite all of my yearnings for empowerment and beauty and embracing the world around me with love, there are times I fall down into the nether-worlds of human behavior. I debase myself and the world around me with inferior lessons. We all do, at times, and our attempts to overcome this devilish nature that we have in ourselves is the ultimate struggle that we must face. It's been a long time since I completely lost myself to the foolish game of disrespectful behavior in order to escape the deep need for responsibility. Something I often did in my youth, instead of confronting the twisting feelings within me that I had such trouble understanding.

My current musing on these issues doesn't have anything to do with a confession that I'm about to make or revelatory pictures of stumbling blocks that I've recently had to overcome, but actually simply come down to this invisible barrier that I've recently crossed and which has occupied my mind of late. The dreaded forty-year-old line in the sand. Isn't this the time for a mid-life crisis? I say that with complete honesty but I'm not talking about the stereotypical mid-life crisis paths that we always see in our culture; divorce, sports car, cocaine, strip clubs and desperate rendezvous in the dark corners of our minds. I can't help but look at all of this from a different perspective.

The real reason I'm discovering this new attitude simply comes down to the fact that now that I'm actually forty-years-old, I feel responsible for the state of the world. I look around at everything that is going on around me and truly see this complex human interactive environment that we've created. I can do this simply because of human ingenuity, a truly amazing gift of our evolution, but when I really look at our society, I find that the picture that is currently being revealed isn't very beautiful at all. I'm not particularly proud of what we've built here in the 21st century. In fact, it really looks like the complete opposite of ingenuity, something truly ugly that tears down the monument of human endeavor. It's destructive in so many ways and terrifying to watch it unfold due to the causes of human behavior, due to causes I myself have made.

When you turn forty, you get to take responsibility for your life. I never realized that this was happening but suddenly I was very aware and tuned into the reality that my life was just as important as anyone else. My opinion and perspective on the world is just as important. This was always true, of course, but we are so often burdened by the false prophet of insecurity in this new modern culture that it is easy to lose faith in ourselves. Somehow, I suddenly don't worry about any of that now. Maybe it's because I don't have time to worry about that type of thing when I need to worry about providing for and teaching two little kids. So I've finally come to understand that that all of those messages of shame that we've received for so long are nothing but a distraction to pull us away from our true potential, a foolish symptom of a diseased society.

But that's why I think a mid-life crisis is in order. A new type of mid-life crisis. Something that I'm going to call a crisis vow. Because I believe that it is imperative that we as human beings shift our focus in life toward something meaningful. We are truly living in a time of crisis. There is great upheaval all around us, a tremendous conflict of disparity that is constantly on display. We cannot seem to escape the seething tremors of discord that envelope all of our human interaction and we are all looking for a new path out of the disastrous mess we've made of things. For me, it's a perfect time to reflect on my role as a human being in this life, right here and now. What can I do to make life enjoyable for myself and others?

So this is my crisis vow.

I vow to respond to the world around me in a way that provides value and I vow to confront the prejudices and negativity that seeks to hinder that value that I wish to create.

If each and every one of us base our lives on those two small determinations then we can change the course of tragedy that our society currently treads. If we begin with our hearts and follow with our minds then we have the ability to alter the destiny of humanity. We can change the way that we perceive value in this life. True value doesn't come from money or possessions but from the way we treat others. The only worth that we shall have once we are gone is what we have left behind, whether we are dead or have simply said goodbye. I can see this truth every day in the bright smiles upon my children's faces. How can we possibly say that we care about these precious beings when we continue to cut funding for education so that we can build more bombs? That is an example of the shameful way our society has turned away from humanity, something that I am finally coming to understand, now that I'm forty.

Yet, I know that we have so much to give, so much more that we can do for our society and for our children. I see it every day in so many ways. In the way a parent walks their child to school. In the care of preparing a hearty breakfast. In a hug, a touch, a smile. In the way that I feel so fortunate to have this life simply because others have made the effort to create this space that provides that fortune. We need to do that for our children. We need to do that so that the life of tomorrow is a place of happiness for all. That is the type of life that is worth creating. Not one that causes pain or destroys or preys on the weak. We've developed some bad habits that are causing us to further our own doom. We've allowed our devilish source to cause the destruction of the world, even if that only meant that we turned our heads when visions of atrocity came upon us. But no matter how blind we became, our hearts always understood the truth of such wicked games and once the heart knows, you can never find appreciation and gratitude within such ignorance.

I want to create an environment where we rediscover that sense of appreciation for our lives. That's why we are here, after all. So this is my mid-life crisis, a vow for discovery, a new perspective that shall enlighten tomorrow.

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