Friday, July 8, 2011

Zen Master Moose Lesson #256

My zen master moose taught me something last night. The volley started with the Moose asking, "Can I watch Youtube?" The response was, "Did you do your homework?" I knew the answer, but I am trying to train him to understand that work is done before play otherwise it hangs over your head in an uncomfortable way. The amount of frustration that exploded forth was unpleasant to say the least. I am not well equipped enough to know what to do with all of that anger and frustration. I'm hoping for the "good enough mama" award at the end of my children's childhoods. Perhaps I am selling myself short, but I want wiggle room for mistakes. I tried waiting it out by sending him over to the couch to chill but it was merely a platform in which to launch a nuclear strike. The fuel rods were hot and there was no immediate way to cool down- he refused to take a deep breath; he wanted to be angry. The highlights: he threw the nearby ABC cards all over the living room; I ignored him; he picked up a pillow from the couch and whacked at the Mule and me. Finally, in a barely controlled voice I said, "Go outside." I know I am supposed to model control, but it is hard. Being outside proved to be the straw that released the flood of tears and frustration in him at last. I then opened the door and asked him to come inside. I told him, "I'm sorry. I love you, and I don't want to yell. Do you think we can be calm and eat dinner?" After a long hug, he told me he was sorry; we then focused on eating dinner. Later when my husband arrived home, the Mule launched into "The Moose Situation." I stopped her and said, "It is the Moose's story; he needs to tell Dada what he did." The Moose had a surprising response to this, he said, "She can tell him. I am too ashamed." I was a bit surprised, but I insisted he tell his dad what he had done. I said, "Telling the truth can be hard Moose, but it's important to do it." In his dad's arms and with a bit of coaching, he was able to tell of his loss of self control. I went up to take a bath. His fits exhaust me both for trying to control my own temper and for trying to help him control his.

Today I was thinking about making mistakes. What do you do when your mistake hurts another? I may have stumbled yesterday, but in one direction I feel sure: you have to say the uncomfortable, "I'm sorry." You have to learn to accept that sometimes your behavior is less than you would like it be, "I messed up by ...." It goes such a long way toward repairing a hurt heart, shameful as it might feel to admit to a flaw in our actions or in our judgment. It doesn't absolve responsibility, but it is a place from which to begin the repair.

When the munsters were in yochien Japanese preschool (age 3, 4, & 5), I was surprised to find that formal apologies were both given and expected in many circumstances. The offender had to say, "Gomenasai" a version of "I'm sorry," and the offended had to say, "Eeo," to acknowledge the offender as in "It's Ok." It is a beginning, a way of starting a practice that is helped by expectation, reinforcement, and over time, hopefully, insight.

Have you noticed, we don't stop making mistakes just because we're grown-ups? They may get more expensive or more difficult to extract ourselves from, but they continue. We are making plenty of mistakes at our house, but I hope that we are also learning from them. I was darned impressed with my six year old for being able to identify that he was "embarrassed" to say what he had done. Sometimes I wonder where he gets this insight and sometimes I think God sent a zen master here to challenge me- I am not done growing yet.