Friday, 26 April 2013

Nine years. Nine Lessons.

Today my Max is nine. Whilst this is a cause for celebration for him, it is rather disconcerting for me. We are now halfway through his 'training for life' and we still have an awful lot of ground to cover. We've taught him how to speak, how to use a knife and fork (although that is sometimes hard to believe) and how to use the toilet. Now it's time to step it up a gear.

But what have I learnt in the last nine Max years?

1. He needs to know that we're in charge. Whilst he would very much like to be in charge, he knows that ultimately we call the shots. This isn't a dictatorship. Giving him boundaries gives him a sense of safety and security. He needs them so that he can learn to make decisions for himself.

2. When he climbs a tree, it's best to look away. When my boys were little and I took them to the park, I remember overhearing another parent telling their child that they couldn't do a particular climbing frame because it was too big for them. I resolved there and then to never say that to my children. I will never tell them they are unable to accomplish something just because it is too big. I will always encourage them to have a go, even if they don't manage it. With Max, however, this has backfired on me somewhat. The bigger the tree is, the better! And so, when he climbs up so high that the branches at the top are swaying, I look in the opposite direction.

3. Just because he is fiddling with his shoelace, it doesn't mean he is not listening. Max is a 'do-er'. In order to listen, he needs to be doing something with his hands. I fact, I have realised that I'm the same. Listening to someone talking is much easier when I can doodle on a piece of paper. Max isn't being rude. He is still listening (at least, that's what I tell myself).

4. Box? What box? When it comes to thinking outside of it, the box doesn't even exist for Max. His creative thinking both delights and frustrates me equally. The disorganisation that co-exists with his ingenuity means that he forgets to put his underpants on, or that he wears his clothes inside out. His bedroom awash with dirty clothes, clean clothes, snails, books, blunt pencils and pieces of paper with his latest ideas strewn across them. Perhaps Albert Einstein's bedroom looked the same. I'm hoping so.

5. Sssshhhh, but there is actually someone more stubborn than me. Don't tell him, but I actually think he might be able to dig his heels in for far longer than me. I have had to learn when to battle and when it is not worth it. Max, at four years old, was at war with me constantly. He fought over everything. I have learnt to compromise with him (without him knowing!) so that when I dig my heels in now, it is for the important things. Some days I took him to school with no shoes or coat on. Some battles are just not worth having.

6. Injustice makes him angry. One day, he might fuel those passions into standing up for justice, but at the moment he just shouts, slams doors and occasionally throws things. I have learnt to look for the signs for when he is going to erupt, and we have taught him how to deal with his anger. It's not always successfully carried out, but we have made a good start.

7. Beneath all the bravado, lurks a sensitive soul. Max inspires me to keep pressing on in my friendship with Jesus. He amazes me with his simple faith. He has prophetic dreams, he often sees angels, he hears God and he really believes that if God says something then it will happen. One minute he can be producing impressive armpit farts, and the next he will be bowled over by something new he's discovered about his friend Jesus. It's a privilege to watch him blossoming like a flower in the sunshine.

8. There is no point trying to teach him to aim for the toilet. I have spent years trying various methods including Cheerios to aim at, ping pong balls to hit, withdrawal of privileges etc etc. All to no avail. I'm so sorry future-daughter-in-law. I think I might have failed on this one.

9. Last but by no means least. Adventure should be his middle name. Give Max a challenge and he will face it head on, without taking a second to contemplate the consequences. When Max saw Felix Baumgartner take his giant skydive, he decided he wanted to go higher and beat the record. My job is to help him think about what he is doing, not to stop him doing it.

My boy has taught me so very much in just a few short years. I'm so grateful for him. I wonder what the next lessons will be as we head towards the pre-teen and then the dreaded teen years.....

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