Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Signs of Maturity

     When Braden was yet in diapers, too young to talk, I once prepared for him his usual breakfast of cut fruit, Cheerios, and milk. Braden always ate with healthy enthusiasm and this morning was no different, but after ingesting a few spoonsfull, he looked in his bowl, reached in with a hand to explore the contents beneath, said, “Humph!” with down-turned lips, opened his mouth wide—enabling me to see the cave-like ridges on the roof of his mouth—and let out a long, agonized wail.
      I realized in an instant what had happened: for perhaps the first time ever, there was no cut bananas—we had run out. I said with a bemused smile, “What? It's okay, I gave you plenty to eat.  You don't need bananas every day.”
      He kept on eating through his tears and sudden gulps that caught his throat like hiccups and within a couple minutes settled to his usual placid state. Obviously he was just upset 'cause he didn't get what he expected.
      I smiled at it then as I smile at it now 'cause it was so characteristic of him to react with such strong, sudden, hot, demonstrative forcefulness over such a small, unpleasant stimulus. He could be an emotional bugger like me.
      This past school quarter, one of his class electives—positive in most ways—was a distraction to him, demanding lots of time and effort that should more appropriately have been spent on academics, not on the fun but rigorous and otherwise demanding elective. As mentioned in my prior Choices essay, Braden's academics have been a serious struggle for him this past quarter mostly because he was not exerting the time and effort on them necessary to thrive. He was instead cruising (slacking) in these honors History, Math, Science, and English classes and floundering with all too frequent C's, D's, and F's.
      By quarter end, his academics had improved to marginally acceptable, but only just. His attitude, though, still had a ways to go. So based on these and other factors, I had him cancel his eighth period (non school-hours) elective that was becoming burdensome for him and us due in part to inconvenient scheduling. We had warned him that this day might come and he took the disappointment with humble maturity so I gave him back his laptop computer that we had confiscated about a month earlier for inappropriate use, lying, and bad attitudes.
      But then the school counselor advocated for Braden by telling Deanne that the teacher said Braden could rearrange his class schedule to enable him to keep the elective by attending class during study halls and twice a week after school.
      I said this was unacceptable because he needs his study halls for academics, not this one non-essential elective. Because he'd gotten so excited and hopeful about keeping the class, though, this came as a new bitter disappointment to him.
      Braden doesn't cry with open-mouthed wails anymore. But he did cry with hot huffs and tears. And he later fed Deanne some bull about, “It's going to be embarrassing to take next year since I dropped out,” which she ate and regurgitated for me. And he fed her other bull, too.
      But his tantruming didn't last long 'cause he's matured some and realized that it's only temporary—next year he gets three electives and can fit it into his normal class schedule.
      For want of bananas and want of an elective Braden reacted quite consistently, I later realized.
      I told him that life is full of disappointments. I've had many throughout the years. I shook my head and chuckled. It helps to have a sense of humor about it. Life is also full of no's—far more than yes's. No, you can't go to the moon. Or Africa. Or Antarctica. No, you can't heal the world of all its ills. Or end hunger or disease. Or get what you want all the time. Adults take such no's with calm maturity. Or work hard to change things for the better. If you don't like it, get it together and maybe we can add the class back later this year.
     I think he got it. But with youth, as with life, a lot of it is wait and see.

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