Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Classic BOOKS and BAIRNS

first published Friday, September 5, 2008

(Written as Jo was about to turn 11, Atticus was 8 and a half, Logan was 6 and a half, and everyone else was a blessing we'd not yet met.)

 Apostle Paul, meet Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd, meet the Apostle Paul.

No doubt you read this post's title and began asking yourself if MG has finally gone so far off her rocker as to be certifiably insane. I regret to inform you that I have actually been certifiable for quite some time, and am now working in my PhD in the area. I'll let you know when the sheepskin arrives.

My children have fallen into a nasty little habit as of late. Of course, I am ashamed to admit that it's gotten to the stage of "habit"; in order for something like that to develop, it has to grow from a tiny little seed, be allowed to blossom and then finally entrench itself. Clearly, I missed quite a few character training moments in this particular area. Most likely, I cruised past the warning signs with my eyes eagerly trained on something I saw as more important. I do that sometimes, I'm sorry to say.
This particular habit I see my children manifesting is one that's a particular hurt to my mothering heart: tearing Logan down. Igh. Just seeing that in writing makes me cringe. I mean, how do you miss something like that?

The fact is, it's been coming for years. And while I've been trying to navigate the choppy waters of sibling relationships, I'm afraid I completely missed the boat on this one.

The seeds were sewn back when Logan was a toddler. For some reason, each consecutive child in my life has spoken intelligibly at a later date than the one before. Jo was spouting fully-formed, grammatically correct sentences with multiple, appropriate adjectives by one year of age. "Mommy, may I have the fuzzy, yellow duckling, please?" That was Jo. Atticus was somewhat slower to the draw. What set him apart was his vocabulary--apparently, falling asleep to me reading to him from Whitman's Leaves of Grass made an impression. "It's ominous!" he said of an approaching storm one afternoon shortly before his second birthday.
Logan did not speak at one year of age. He muttered little more than his own Logan-speak even as he approached his second birthday. At 30 mos., I sat down with him and made a list of every word he had ever even tried to say. The list stopped at 21 words and consisted mainly of sounds more than words: "duh" for "ball" and the like. I decided to pursue professional evaluation.

After six months of therapy, some intensive home intervention and a little maturing, Logan began to speak with fair intelligibility. It wouldn't be until he turned five, however, that I would say his speech issues became a moot point.

During those first years, his siblings learned that unless Mom was around, understanding Logan was a fairly taxing exercise. As siblings are wont to do, they often decided that this was a little more involved than they really wanted to be, so they began blocking him out altogether. Logan's response? In true Logan fashion, the reasoning came down like this: "Well, if you're not going to listen to me when I'm nice, I'll
make you listen to me when I'm mean!"

I work on this with my older kids to this day. It's not an every day thing at this point, but it's still something I keep my feelers out for. Four years of, "Are you listening to your brother?" Four years of, "Try again, Logan." Four years of, "He's talking to
you, Jo."


So that's where this all started. Logan gets ignored. Which has now been translated into, "What Logan says is probably wrong."

Now this jump I really don't get. I suspect that it comes from the fact that I have one very intelligent, dominant firstborn (that would be Jo) and one super-grandé intelligent oldest male (Atticus). And of course, anything they say is, by definition, right. And the opposite of right is ... (follow along with me here!) WRONG.

So if Logan disagrees, he's wrong. The problem is that Logan is no dummy. He's actually just as full of factoids and general knowledge as Jo, though clearly less obsessively detail-oriented as Atticus. As Logan has come into his own and is now a big old first grader, he not only wants to be heard, he wants to be
HEARD. But what he gets is often this:
Logan: "If the next president serves two terms, I'll be almost 15 when he leaves office."Jo: "Two terms is eight years."Atticus: "You'll be 14."Logan: "I know! I said almost 15, because the inauguration is in January and my birthday's in May."

Did you catch that? It's really subtle to the casual on-looker. Logan must be wrong, because he is
Logan. That's the upshot here.

I know that some people will dismiss this as part and parcel of being a little brother. I'm sorry, but I can't swallow that. It's rude, it's wrong, and above all, it's completely disrespectful. I expect more from my children.

This morning, after hearing the above exchange and watching Logan hunch down in his chair and generally lose a bit of his morning sparkle, I snapped.

"Everyone up!" I announced. The kids looked at me like I was a crazy woman. Didn't I know that there was hot food on the table? This was breakfast time, by golly. A sacred hour in my house. Who gets up at breakfast time?

"Out to the gameroom! I want each of you to build me a Lego wall. Make it 4 big bricks wide and ten bricks tall."

Their eyes still wide, Jo, Atticus and Logan marched out to the gameroom. Ten minutes later, they were back, each carrying a little Lego creation. I instructed them to put the walls in front of their plates and to listen very closely.

"My children, you have fallen into an ugly habit," I began. "The Bible says that a house divided against itself will not stand. And yet, here we are, dividing against ourselves. My children are doing to one another exactly what the world does: pick and pull and hurt. And it's got to stop."

I read to my children from 1 Corinthians 8:
We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. We talked about what we know, what we think we know, and what other people know.

Then we moved on to 1 Thessalonians 5:11:
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up. Which would be where our lovely Lego walls come in: today, whenever someone uses their words to correct someone else in any way that uses their knowledge but is ultimately undermining, they will have to physically remove one of that person's bricks. In other words, the intangible from your lips will be made tangible. You will see how you are breaking others down.

I finished up by pointing out that each one of us really and truly is a little wall of Legos. We are our own little structure ... but at the whim of others. The things that break us down can slide so easily off of the tongue as to be almost unnoticed. And there it goes ... another brick from the wall, leaving us less sound, less sure, and less encouraged.

I'll report back on the results ...


Susan in the Boonies said...

Great idea to use a visual, so that they can see in the concrete world what they are accomplishing in the emotional realm.

I hope they "get it".

Stephanie said...

I would love to hear how this has played out since you first wrote it. I have seen this coming since my third-born was about 3, have fought the good fight, and am still floundering. This past month (my kids are now only slightly older than yours were at this point) I have been quite discouraged, in fact, and my fourth, who is 3 yrs younger than my 3rd, has taken his cue from the older 2 and thinks he is smarter than his big brother. Your post heartened me a bit and I think a nice bit of lego wall building will occur soon.

Traci said...

Good stuff here.....good stuff.