For the most part, since Peter learned to type, life has been incredibly exciting. It has been an astonishing wonder to appreciate the beauty and depth of an inner person whom you have only seen from the outside before. It’s like discovering a geode- plain rock on the outside, beautiful, colorful crystal on the inside.
However, sometimes I still pull my hair out. For example, this is what the outside of this geode looked like yesterday when we went up to Mountain High to ski for the day.
Very patient at first doing long controlled curves and detailed work on learning the footwork on how to advance from wedge kristies to parallel skiing, but suddenly tired of it and took off down the hill at a million miles per hour, straight down the hill. No curves at all. First time, I took it in good humor, telling him, “Guess you deserved some fun after all that hard work. But … (explanation about safety, etc.).” But by the third time, I was done for, a panicked maniac screaming, “Left! Turn left!” as my crazy teen shot down the mountain, leaving me far behind in the dust. Then there was that tactic of claiming needing a bathroom break, although we had just had one, involving taking all the skis off, trudging to the bathroom in heavy boots, etc. only to find one did not really need to go. Then there was the real bathroom break in which a certain person undressed completely waist down, finished first, and took the initiative to find mom and rattle the door of her stall to get her help getting re-dressed, all in the ladies’ room. At the end of our last run, as I was kneeling in the snow, getting the skis trussed up in a carrier, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Peter was excited to have taken his ski boots off and was preparing to jump up and down on the icy ground in his socks. At least I learned he knows how to get all those complicated ski boot buckles and velcro undone, all by himself.
In other words, emerging self generated ideas and the initiative to put them into action (Greenspan Functional Emotional Development Level 4) looks a lot like incredibly irritating impulsivity, especially in a late bloomer who’s more capable of greater and bigger ideas and actions. I was so frustrated, I came home exhausted and discouraged, thinking what is the point of my kid having wonderful thoughts when his actions are still those of a 2 year old? When I got home, I put down my heavy armful of ski equipment, and fell on my knees. And the Lord convicted me of my narrow vision.
I should be celebrating, same as I would if a toddler was showing those milestones of initiative. But just like we tear our hair out sometimes with our “willful” toddlers, I can expect this phase to be hard work too. It’s not willful, it’s hopefully not permanent impulsivity. Like dealing with toddlers, it will take patient hard work to teach. Peter needs to learn and master the all important “Stop! Think! then Act” sequence. So we need to practice the talk/think through’s (see Noel Janis-Norton’s work at http://www.calmerparenting.com), teach thinking and planning ahead, all the steps involved in a project, and finishing what we begin. Creating and reinforcing those inhibitory and executive function frontal lobe connections and memory associations that make drawing from past experience and looking to the future more automatic.
I got off my knees and went to look for Peter, only to find a big pile of clothes where he had taken the initiative to get out of his ski clothes himself, and dump out a drawer of pants looking for something more comfortable to wear. I automatically refolded the clothes and put them neatly in the drawer, then thought about it. I went back, took the clothes back out, and went to get Peter to work through the cleaning up process, step by step, together.
Here’s our conversation that followed later that evening:
(I’m in upper case, Peter’s typing in lower case.)
SO HOW WAS YOUR DAY?
I had a nice ride. i mean skiing. i love skiing.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART?
when in the ski lift you feel like you go home.
DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE THE SAME HAPPY FEELING AS IF YOU WERE GOING HOME?
no i mean going to herrven. heaven.
WOW, THAT’S POETIC.
WHEN WE STARTED YOU WERE DOING WEDGE KRISTIES, MEANING YOUR SKIS WERE IN PARALLEL WHEN TRAVERSING THE HILL, BUT WENT INTO WEDGE WHEN TURNING.
yes, its hard to not go into wedge.
IS IT AUTOMATIC?
I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND. I ALSO HAVE THE HABIT OF GOING INTO WEDGE WHEN MY SKIS POINT DOWNHILL BECAUSE I CAN FEEL MYSELF GOING FASTER. IS THAT HOW YOU FEEL?
yes i want to control my speed.
EXACTLY HOW I FEEL. DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO INSTEAD OF WEDGE TO CONTROL YOUR SPEED?
i should rotary then edge then go bend my knees.
PETER, YOU REALLY GOT IT. THAT IS EXACTLY CORRECT. YOU BEND YOUR KNEES AS YOU EDGE INTO THE MOUNTAIN, MEANING PUT YOUR WEIGHT ON THE UPHILL EDGES.
yes but i forget.
ME TOO. WE JUST NEED TO PRACTICE MORE, OK?
I CAN’T SEE MYSELF SKIING OF COURSE. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW I LOOK WHEN I SKI.
you sKi good.
THANKS, PETER. AM I STILL WEDGING WHEN BEGINNING A TURN?
lt look kind of nice.
THANKS, DEAR, THAT’S VERY ENCOURAGING.
HEY PETER, I WANT TO ASK HOW YOU FELT ABOUT MY TEACHING TODAY.
you are boopylopoping.
WHAT? DID YOU FEEL LIKE I WAS BULLYING YOU, LIKE BEING TOO DEMANDING? OR DID YOU LIKE BEING CHALLENGED TO CORRECT YOUR WEDGE HABIT?
Both kind of.
I DO THINK I GET OVERLY EXCITED. I’M SORRY.
it’s ok, i know you know i can do it more corre ctly.
THAT IS TRUE. I AM VERY IMPRESSED WITH YOUR ABILITY TO LEARN. SKIING IS HARD, YET YOU ARE REALLY GETTING IT.
i like to learn
YES, I KNOW. YOU’RE A GREAT LEARNER.
And, I should add, a great teacher. Peter’s comment, “it’s ok, i know you know i can do it more corre ctly,” exemplifies looking at something from the other person’s perspective, seeing the positive, and thereby understanding and forgiving. Exactly the opposite of what I had done with the same experience. You can learn a lot from the inside of a geode.