Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Haircuts and Enchiladas and Other Dilemmas

Well, I thought his hair looked great. And not just because I'm his mom, but because he's got this brilliant face with clear green eyes. And while those eyes are adorable peeking out from beneath a long wave of bangs, this short cut makes his features even brighter. Even his dimpled smile seems wider. So while I'm a fan of the longer, shaggy haircuts so many boys are sporting these days, Bran's short cut is a fun change.
Evidently not all his friends felt the same way.
He knew it was coming, knew they'd make fun. Knew before Corbin even set down the shears that he might be in for some uncomfortable ribbing the next day.
So we talked about it, talked through possible reactions and responses from these boys that one day act like his friends and then ridicule him the next... then we prayed for both Branson and for the boys.
I really thought it might go ok. Sorta.
So I dropped by school right at lunchtime - just in the neighborhood, right? (Nevermind that I'm always in the neighborhood... our school is three blocks from our home.) I caught Bran's class just as they were heading downstairs for lunch. His teacher spotted me and sifted through the line of third graders, making her way to me. She then put her arm around Bran and looked down at him, while he studied the hallway floor tiles.
"Want to tell your mom about today?"
"Sure, I'll tell her at lunch."
I searched both their faces, trying to determine whether Branson was the root of trouble or the victim of trouble.
His teacher then assured Branson that she and I were on the same page, that we would both encourage him to not take things too personally.
"If I listened to what every person called me in Jefferson, Texas, I'd be a heap on the floor."
She then mentioned that while it does hurt to be made fun of, we can not only ask for God's help, but also pray for the people who hurt us.
I know, she's fantastic.
So anyway, there you go. I expected catty friendships with elementary girls, but didn't see it coming with boys. Ugh. And I wish I could say it was just today and just this haircut, but it's presented a roller coaster pattern with our school experience in general. There are a lot of great boys and families at our school, and Branson has some good friends that go so far as to stick up for him and verbally defend him. I'm not naive enough to think my son has responded perfectly in all this, but I really don't believe he's instigating things. And he desires the constant friendship of some of these friends.

So the extra-crazy part of the story is that just this morning Basden & I dealt with something similar. I packed last night's very yummy enchiladas in a thermos for her lunch. After the 5th time she told me that the little boy (!!) who sits next to her at school would make fun of her, I'd had it. Again, this wasn't a one-time thing, but a pattern. So what did I do? I told her teachers. I took her to school, pulled her Pre-K teacher aside, and explained that not only does Basden not want to be ridiculed anymore, but I want to be able to send her whatever I want to for lunch. Especially when it's things she loves! So we'll see how that goes over.
This parenting thing sure is consuming.
If it's not Branson and his self-confidence and all the life lessons he's learning about friendships, then I'm concerned for sweet Basden serving as the bunt of this little boy's mean jokes and ribbing, and that's only two of the four! I won't get in to Hudson and Esther at this point, but my concerns and prayers for them are just as specific and consuming.
The crazy thing, as you and I already know, is that they are far less affected that their mommy, and they take everything much more lightly than I do.
Lord, I've got to give this to you - my simple little mind and bursting emotions can't handle the "mama hen" reactions.
As my mom used to pray about us, "They were yours before they were mine, and they'll be yours after they're mine..."
Protect my little ones, Father. I trust you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

In a Pit with Lion on a Snowy Day

Have you read this?
If so, would love to hear your thoughts.
Of all the books I read in '08, this stands out most.
Don't know if it's the absolute best literature I read, but I'm putting it down as most memorable. And most invigorating.
I really, really like Mark Batterson's writing and viewpoint. I think he's interesting and insightful and courageous and just plain smart.
So if you - or anyone you know - need a jump start to get out there and JUST DO IT, this book's for you.
Batterson has a new book out as well, Wild Goose Chase. My favorite thing about that book is that it's dedicated to Dick Foth. If you were at Mt. Hermon in 2007, you'd appreciate Batterson all the more for hanging onto such a fantastic mentor and friend.
Ok, enjoy - and hang in there with chasing that lion!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Happy 9th Birthday, Bran

“Mama, I know this is a hard Christmas for you since Tricia died.”
Jamie cleared her throat and agreed with Branson that yes, it had been a difficult Christmas.
“But Mama, we know she’s in Heaven with Jesus.”
As tears formed in Jamie’s eyes, Bran again reassured her, “Mama, it’s ok to cry.”
We’d arrived earlier that evening in Eagle Nest, looking forward to about ten days with Mama and Papa for Christmas. We hadn’t talked with Branson about Tricia in months, probably since her death last June. But the kids had watched Jamie fly to and from Dallas several times last spring, spending precious last moments with her best friend. Our kids figured out pretty quickly how dear this friend was to their mama, watched as she grieved with Tricia and her husband and her children as Lou Gherig’s ebbed away at her life.
So months and months later, in a quiet and tranquil moment, Branson made it a point to express his sympathy to Mama. Somewhere in that little eight-year-old compassionate brain, he tucked away Mama’s sadness and grief and tried to encourage her at Christmastime. Somehow he knew instinctively that this would be a hard year for her, missing her best friend.
This is the up side of Bran’s mature personality. I’m learning that there are a lot of upsides. He’s always come across as more mature than his years, and for this Mommy, it’s not always been easy. Since he could talk, Branson has been interested in adult conversations. He relates to adults as well as children, sometimes better. He is intrigued by adult themes in music and movies, and by age four wanted to know the difference between PG and PG-13 and R, and why in the world would someone make a movie with an R rating??! As a six-year-old, he peppered me with questions about Toby Mac’s song, “Gone.” We talked through the lyrics for about half an hour, and he remained curious about the world of divorce and hurt and why sometimes grown-ups can’t make their marriages work.

Halfway through the school year, Branson’s first grade teacher asked us to please encourage him to refrain from telling all his classmates that Santa wasn’t real. She also told us that she had to be careful throwing other teachers knowing glances, because what most students never caught, Branson invariably noticed and understood. His second grade teacher repeated those themes, sometimes surprised by his interest in more mature matters.
By the middle of second grade, he’d learned every word in the book, wanting to know what each meant, and again, intrigued why anyone would use words like that. While he didn’t want to actually use the words, they aroused his curiosity. On our drives home from school last year, I braced myself for yet another question-riddled conversation about “inappropriate words” and phrases, and at one point I told Corbin, “If Bran asks me one more question about another curse word, I will absolutely fall out of the car. Not because he knows another word or phrase, but out of sheer exhaustion.”
Branson’s drawn to older kids, boys and girls, and although he relates to kids his age, he is naturally drawn to the more mature ones. I can’t put a number on how many times I’ve put my hands on his shoulders, looked deep into his eyes, and pleaded, “Bran, be eight. Just be eight.”
Corbin and I endured quite a learning curve the past couple of years with this little guy. Wanting to give him room to be “Branson” and be himself, and spread his wings. But also wanting to reign in his influences and exposures, knowing that he picks up on every word, every nuance, every song lyric and dramatic scene on television. I decided months ago that if the Lord created Bran to be “old” for his age, more “grown-up” than I preferred, that I would embrace it. In a sense, I grieved his maturity. I felt like in some ways we were all cheated of his boy-hood, cheated of those precious, innocent young years that boys simply play outside and climb trees and throw rocks and dig tunnels.
So months ago I told the Lord - and Corbin - that I would embrace this child and his grown-up-ness, even though it’s not what I wanted. And while I couldn’t stuff him down vertically by putting bricks on his head or stunting his physical and emotional growth, I could enclose his boundaries a little tighter and embrace him and pull him in close. So I’m accepting his height (almost as tall as me!) and his knowing smiles and his ability to pick up on absolutely every adult-ish word or conversation or scene in his surroundings, but I’m not leaving his exposures and influences to the wind. If he’s going to grow tall, he’s going to grow in purity.
We just celebrated Bran’s ninth birthday. This blond-headed, dimple-smiling boy effortlessly drenches us with joy. He will always greet you when he walks in a room, always. So relational it’s crazy. Takes his responsibility as a third-grade kinderpal seriously, "mentoring" his assigned kindergarten boy. Prays sincerely and often for our adopted Compassion boy in India. Asks a hundred questions a day to anyone who will answer - “What’s your favorite book? What’s your favorite movie? What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? When did you feel the most sad in your whole life? What was your favorite year in high school?” Yes, these questions and more... without fail one of these obscure questions arises every night after we tuck him in...
It doesn’t take long in this journey of parenthood to realize that we learn as much or more from our children than they learn from us. So far, that’s the theme of Branson’s childhood and my education into the world of parenting. I’m a different person because of this little guy. I’ve been knocked off my feet, faced stinging regret for my actions (yelling, losing my temper, etc), and basically been deeply humbled. As the oldest, with all these kiddos falling in behind him, we’ve held him to high expectations. And as I’ve never parented a nine-year-old before, I fail often and hard with him. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten down on my knees, put his face in my hands, looked into his eyes and told him I’m sorry, asking his forgiveness. And that precious boy continues to forgive me, continues to talk with and open up to me, and continues to tell me he loves me - every time he or I leave the house.
Some specific attributes come to mind when I think about Branson - clean and pure. We’ve given him Christmas ornaments the past couple of years to represent that - clear, glass bulbs that shimmer and reflect light. I pray that he lives his life with a clear conscience, that he draws near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having been cleansed of all guilt. In Christ, he is already “clean,” and we desire for him to live in that. Corbin and I pray for his confidence, that it will be unfailing and strong and unwavering because of its foundation.
I tell Branson every day that I’m proud to be his mommy, that I’m thankful God made me his mommy. Every day. He’s the only one in the world like him. And it’s worth repeating - I’m a different - and better - person because of him.
Happy birthday, sweet boy.