Mini-Him is a year away from the all important 13. His rebellious streak has tagged along since his infancy, when putting him in diapers was next to impossible. Now, asking him to do anything is next to impossible. Infact, asking him not to argue does not seem to merit even a cursory acknowledgement. How can one argue endlessly, getting lost in verbal mazes, and trapping oneself in one's own arguments? So much so, that I feel compelled to rescue him from the clutches of yet another illogical bit of self-defense. He just has to say something to everything. And that is increasing my grey hair population.
Despite all of this, sweetness and caring remain his underlying qualities...even if they show less and less through the frown on his suddenly angular face.
I've been trying to explain/direct/order/suggest/non-verbally indicate the important things that he needs to attend to daily. This summer break marks his first foray into the kitchen for reasons other than placing a food request, slamming a plate in the sink, or helping himself to an overdose of chile-limon Lays, one of the only two junk food items we allow him.
So we started out making very simple pasta. We had store bought sauce too...didn't want to scare off a possible chef with chopping and simmering. We thought to go the Sandra Lee way and keep it semi home-made. Which suits Mini-Him just fine. He was adorably unsure near the stove. We started with the basics. Learning how to turn on/off the knobs, with a hundred safety instructions. How to boil water...more safety...how to put everything he needs where it is reachable...and all those super organized actions that I cannot claim myself.
It went well and he did well...he learned how to salt foods, how much is "just right" for seasoning, how to use an oven mitt etc. Every so often he had to be warned not to fling his long arms about trying emphasize his point too close to the pasta pot. And to cut back on the drama. The pasta was eminently edible.
Once done, he just left to eat it by the comp, reading comic books. The dishes and splattered backsplash beckoned.
It was infuriating and I had to work at calming myself down...because he is only 12. And this was his first time. And he is much better than I was at that age. I knew enough to pop bread into a toaster.
I've been on his case ever since. Because I think we've been remiss. We've never told him the consequences of "just leaving" things as they are. We threw in some more bits of preaching for good measure. The poor kid is well and truly saturated with advice. He won't look me in the eye and stated that a nutella sandwich is all he wants for dinner.
Still...those preachy nuggets were important.
Don't leave a mess for some else to clean up. If you don't want to waste your time with it, then make sure whoever is cleaning up your mess is either well compensated, or in total agreement with how important your time is over theirs...maybe you have an exam...or maybe you're late for an appointment. You're handing over your job...basically.
Drama has a time and place. Not everyone has the bandwidth or kitchen space for verbal and physical drama. Hand flinging/wringing with spot jumping and expressions that take away from the moment are to be held back; maybe brought forward when your favorite team is doing badly.
Look people in the eye, wait for a satisfactory end to a conversation before going back to your
You hate being dismissed before you've said your piece right? It is true of everyone! It is easier to figure out if someone is ready to end the conversation if you're watching their face. Easy to tell what a person is if you look them in the eye. And it will be infinitely easier for people to reach out and trust you if you can look at them and meet their eye! If you're in a hurry, say so. Most of the time the video clip you're raring to get back to can wait!
Staying organized saves time in the long run. I'd get a stylish shoe thrown effectively at my head if the ladies from college who are my dear friends read this one. But I've discovered through messes and repeated explanations/exclamations and my own frustration, that NOTHING beats organization. No sense in promoting anything else, and disguising inefficiency as organized chaos. It does allow for more gracious living. And Mini-Him being my child, is learning this the hard way.
Listening is everything. Folks say a lot. And it behooves us to listen. For their sake, and our own. Nothing is accomplished if everyone is talking all the time. And if everyone is arguing all the time.
A No is a No. Where did we go wrong with this one? Why is NO infused with shades of gray? How can stop mean go a little further? And how did "put that down now" become "5 minutes more? for the next half an hour??"
Greet visitors, neighbors and others who acknowledge you with more than a cursory nod before rushing off into video game heaven. We're trying to rigidly enforce this one. By "rigidly enforcing", I mean that we are applying consequences and taking the sacred hours of video-gaming. Yes. No boorish behavior is allowed. People are to be treated with respect. Your moods, excitement and everything are important, but the moment you are required to interact with another creature, your attention is to be all "there." He is required to spend thirty minutes in the company of visitors, ask polite questions, listen patiently, and then ask to be allowed to go. At which point we let him go. If he has done his job. Also, he HAS to watch his mouth! How controversial can a 12 year old get?!
There have been a couple more since I started writing this two days ago. And I'm afraid he will zone us out. I think he is zoning us out. But it hit me that he probably will stay another 5-6 years at home before heading to college. We all (Mini-Him too) don't have as much time as we thought we did. We've said everything over and over for ages. But we're getting to a point when he can't be just anyway. He would have to accept the preachy nuggets. The hypocrisy needs to be ignored! Yes I was messy! And no...he cannot be. So there. Who said I was fair?!
I hope for Mini-Him to be a gracious, put together member of society. Someone who can listen and yet, stand up for what he believes in. Someone who can make it no matter what is thrown at him, and someone who can plan a course toward living his ambitions, what ever they morph into, from the current graphic artist/physicist and comic strip writer combo.
I'm tired just thinking about it. I need my ginger tea.
*Image 1 credit - "Chaos Order Post-it Papers Show Disorganized or Ordered" by Stuart Miles through www.freedigitalphotos.net
**Image 2 credit - "Herbal Tea On White Background" by phasinphoto through www.freedigitalphotos.net