Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bed Time

I saw Lord of the Rings a few months ago. First week of December. All three movies. Never had seen it ... them. Parts, yes, but never the whole thing. And this was the extended version. Must have been nine hours. There were additional discs, with games or interviews and I know not what, but I hadn't used my DVD player in years, and the remote doesn't work, and I can't pause or FF or REV or skip or select. So it was one disc at a time, straight through.

Superbly made. The extended version is just too long. Whole scenes, and lingerings, that don't need to be there, and therefore detract. But that's only if it's supposed to be art, rather than storytelling. We don't mind meanders and switchbacks, when the point is to just submerge ourselves into an experience. It's a journey rather than a destination thing. Seems like that would have some application to life itself. If we want to live our lives as if it were a work of art, we need to edit.

The problem I had with the movie(s) was that it's just too artificial, too artful. It's a geewiz thing. How do they do that, making the actors so small. And all that computer generated stuff. Ten, fifteen years ago it would have been different for me. But I no longer need all the head-lopping and body counting and the like. I don't need soaring vista after soaring vista. Epics? I may be past the need for epics.

But what I'm getting at is this. Someone loaned me these discs. Why? I can only surmise, but it must be because it was thought that I would enjoy them. An act of generosity, then. That's why we share things. It pleases us to be a blessing, in small things as in large.

A very obvious analysis, of course. But that's why we talk at all -- to say things that have been made obvious to us, but that still have some communicative power. What is encouragement, after all, but the pointing out of obvious truths, that emotion may have obscured.

I was given cause tonight to think about how I enforced rules and discipline with my son. I never, ever ever tolerated disobedience. Sort a scary sounding statement, eh? But it was easy. I didn't have many rules. Just one, really. No disrespect. So when I gave a directive, it needed to be obeyed. I didn't give many directives, because hardly anything is that important, that black and white. Bed time? It was a range, not a moment. Hey, N, looks like it's about time to start getting ready for bed. See? All sorts of room in there. He knew I didn't really mean it. And I didn't. But when I said, "Go brush your teeth" -- no room there for interpretation. See? It had to do with credibility, and with security -- he knew I meant what I said, always. We know jokes and silliness by tone -- he got that too. And if he had some reason, and said, "Can I do such and such..." well, if it was a valid thing, of course he could. We're not machines.

Part of it was not picking fights. A child has a right to be imperfect, and their emotions are much bigger to them than ours are to us. If we're not fools that is. So we have to be wise. We have to pick our moments. We have understand that sometimes a directive simply would not be obeyed. That's when we have to not give a directive. If we did, and it were disobeyed, it would just undermine our credibility. No fight is worth that. Parents should never, ever fight with their kids. Imagine such a thing. Ridiculous.

The one time -- the one and only and single time -- my son was tempted to disobey me was when he was 16, and it was a pretty stressful time, and the only reason he obeyed was the history we had, where he knew the damage disobedience would have done to our relationship was more than he was willing to risk. He respected me, you see, and he valued what we had. Sort of miraculous. I could see the calculations going on inside his head -- the temptation. "Well?" I said, not without some intensity. "I'm thinking," he said. It was a tough decision for a sixteen year old to make. But I had earned it. That was a time when he was at least as wise as I was. But he'd been given a good example. Frankly.

How about when he's little and he gets out of bed late of an evening? It is after all time to be in bed. He comes and stands in the doorway and peeks in and wants something, doesn't matter what. He doesn't really want that thing anyway. He wants me. This is the time when I have to be wise. What's really important? The thing I'm doing? -- the DVD I'm watching? -- the phone call? Usually what I'm doing is wasting time. But if I can't pick him up and tuck him in right now, then I'll hold him on my lap and finish the call, or I'll take a moment, and get down on one knee, and take hold of his hand, and look him in the eyes, and tell him to go get back into bed, but first I need one of his special hugs and a big kiss, right here. And I'll tell him I love him with all my heart, and then I'll turn him around by the shoulders and scoot him on his way, off you go honeyboy. And I'll go back to the less important thing I was doing, and there will be a bright spot of joy in my heart. The best thing to submerge myself in is love of my son.

That way, when he's sixteen, he will treasure our relationship more than whatever less important thing has been tempting him to disrespect.

Why do I share these things with you? Because it gives me pleasure.


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