Fence Posts

You know the words that just came out of my mouth?

“Please don’t poke yourself in the eye with that stick.”

I never thought I’d be the mom off of tv sitcoms, but there you have it – my son is outside, playing a bizarre game that involves two sticks, a concrete block, and a lot of exertion and force.

Thus, I told him to wear eye protection and not to whack the bark of the tree, sent up a prayer that he’ll survive another day, and walked away.

I’ve learned with this one, walking away is a necessity or my type-A personality will do a full-body roll tremor on a regular basis.

After all, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, right?

This kid, our number four, resets the standards of insanity in our household regularly. From birth he’s been a reckless adventure. I’m the youngest child in my family generation and I grew up with only an older sister – so my experience with boys is rather limited.

We had three girls and I was in my comfort zone… well as much of a comfort zone as there can be in childrearing!

But then… the boy came along.

I’m still perplexed to know if he’s just his own creature or if this is to blame on his boy-ness, but I can tell you one of these kids is not like the other ones!

This tempest of a kid will turn 7 in a few weeks.

I’d estimate he’s a solid two years behind where any of his sisters were academically at the same age.

He’s a wiz when it comes to reading numbers but claims he doesn’t know a single letter of the alphabet.

Both of his grandmas have tried to bribe him into completing traditional school work. One even used Butterfinger candy bars.

He told me he didn’t feel like it. The books are untouched.

I caught him reading a sign the other day but when I got super excited about it and complimented him, he was offended and told me I was wrong because he can’t read.

He has an impressive vocabulary, but he has an equally impressive temper that robs him of all his words when he’s riled up.

I despair.

Do I worry about him? Oh. Yes. Absolutely. One Hundred Percent.

He’s so unlike our girls that I can’t even comprehend how to approach his little brain some days.

But here’s the thing.

I could spend all of my time worrying about the ways that he’s “behind” and trying to get him caught up. We could spend all summer with 100 Easy Lessons and I could force him to sit still and focus, and both of us would come out of the sessions exhausted and useless for the rest of the day.

Or… I could NOT. Just choose to step away and let him whack sticks and concrete blocks for awhile.

See, I’m learning it’s not wise to try to set fence posts into frozen ground.

Setting posts is hard work. You have to dig into the soil for a pretty good depth in order to set a post that won’t wiggle or fall down in a high wind (or when a certain rascally little boy decides to climb the fence).

While it’s possible to set a fence in the wintertime when the ground is frozen… it’s possible to struggle and curse and strain to get the fence hole deep enough to be stable for the post when the ground is frozen… it’s MUCH more practical and enjoyable to set the fence post when the soil is ready!

What is POSSIBLE is not always what is PRACTICAL.

If we wait, patiently, for just the right time, a time when the soil is flexible and ready, we can set a fence post in only a few minutes!

Do you see where I’m going here?

In my opinion, trying to force developmental or academic progress is a losing battle. Even if you WIN a battle, you often lose the war because of what it takes out of you in the fight.

Nature being nature, we don’t get to accurately predict or boss the frozen ground into a thaw. Or our stubborn kid into reading. Or our spouses into agreement.

It’s a Divine Mystery.

So, why not embrace the mystery and discover the joy held within the phrase, “In the fullness of time”?

I’m waiting for spring with this one. I need some softer ground before I break my back against it.

Does this mean I sit back and do nothing to educate this kid? Absolutely not! We fill our household with audiobooks, we engage our children in conversations about what they’re noticing, we work together on projects that have both tangible and intangible results.

In the face of this kid’s lack of interest in reading, I’ll sit down and read a book in front of him, not as a guilty pleasure, but as a role modeling for something that is enjoyable and fun. I tell him about the adventures I can take with my mind!

Eventually, he’ll come around.

I’m not sure when. He’s pretty stubborn.

(But this is the same kid who woke up one morning after I’d given up on potty training and announced he was ready for underwear now. And he’s not had even ONE accident since then.)

I’m learning to stop digging fence posts in frozen ground.

It’s quite liberating.

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