What’s Really Important?
We have started the hay season and time is limited for posting to my blog. However, an experience with my son last week meant the world to me and while sitting on a plane to Washington DC today, I took the time to share it. Yes, it is lengthy, but perhaps you too will find a value in my experience to carry into your own life.
Epiphanies come when you least expect them. Lately, my six-year-old son has provided me a plethora.
Last week I had a series of “challenging” days with my son, culminating with an ever so important “life moment.”
Ever since Kyle started going out with me on the ranch to “help,” I have made a concerted effort to teach him responsibility, a strong work ethic, to be creative and do things independently…traits I believe will serve him advantageously in the future. However, sometimes this newly discovered ‘independence’ has created some interesting situations.
The chain of events began when I tasked Kyle with driving the ATV from the field, where we had been removing culvert, back to the barn. I specifically asked him to “follow” me. I figured that by following me, I could keep him at a safe speed….however, Kyle heard “take the ATV back to the barn.” Somehow, the “follow me” part was not heard, or not understood. He proceeded to start the ATV and took off like a flash…reached to irrigated portion of the field, spun a doughnut, reached the gate, spun out in the dirt and headed towards the barn. Half way up the lane, there was a large water puddle, from the sprinklers, he hit the puddle, veered to the left, nearly hitting the fence, veered to the right, nearly went off the road, straitened out and continued to the barn. When I arrived at the barn he was still sitting on the ATV, smiling…I noticed three or four doughnuts had appeared in the gravel in front of the barn. Trying very hard to control my temper, I calmly told Kyle that I was disappointed in his choices and failure to follow my directions. Further, I told him that he had lost the privilege of driving the ATV…until I was confident that I could trust him again. He immediately broke down.
That evening, he decided that since I took away his ATV privilege, he would refuse to help with evening chores…and proceeded to sit in the back of the pickup pouting…I said nothing more than, “I’m a disappointed in your decision.”
The next day I picked him up from school, took him to a pair of birthday parties and then headed home to change water. As he was still in his school clothes, we made a “quick stop” at the house to change. I waited in the truck for 10 minutes and no Kyle. I went inside to find him, still in his school clothes, playing in his room. I asked him what he was doing. He replied, “Playing…I’m not going to do water with you. I’m staying here.” I explained to him that I was not leaving him at the house alone and that he was going to go with me. I received the “I don’t ever get to do what I want!” Wimpering and through tearing eyes and a drooping lip, he changed his clothes and went with me. We finished with the water and made it back to the barn. I asked him if he would like to help with chores. He said he would prefer to work in the shop. I proceeded to do chores and then called for Kyle to lock up the shop and get in the truck. There was no answer. I went to the shop and discovered that a hurricane had landed. There was water all over the floor, wood, metal, fasteners and tools spread about, the drawers of my tool box were pulled open and both of my high-powered halogen work lights had been plugged in and were on….but no Kyle. I called for him again and there was no reply.
I was irritated that there was water in the shop, Kyle knew this was forbidden. I was irritated that there was wood and metal left out on the floor, Kyle knew the floor was to be kept clear. I was irritated that there were tools scattered about, Kyle knew tools were to be put away when not being used. I was irritated that my tools, from my toolbox had been used, Kyle knew that my tools were off-limits unless he asked…that is why I had given him his own toolbox and his own tools. I was irritated that he had used and left on my work lights, Kyle knew these were off-limits. I was irritated that he was not in the shop where he said he would be. I was irritated that he did not answer when I called for him.
I shut off the lights, closed the door and began to look for my renegade. I searched the corrals, the barn, the renters trailer, the hill, calling his name as I went…no answer. Growing a bit apprehensive, I hoped he had gone to the house to use the restroom. However, he had not told me that he had, which he also knew that he should do. I went in the house and called for him. He answered…from his room. As I passed through the living-room I noticed the floor was covered in toys. I continued to his room and discovered a tornado had hit. There was zero floor space to step on, without landing on a toy, book, paper, rock, bone….and Kyle was laying on his bed looking at a magazine.
“What are you doing up here?” I asked.
“Playing” he said.
“You did not tell me you were coming up here. I was worried about you” I said.
“I forgot. Besides, I’m a big boy now” he said.
“You left a disaster in the shop, used my tools and left lights on in the shop” I said.
“Oh” he said.
“You need to go feed your dog and gold fish and wash your hands for supper, now. After supper, you’ll have five minutes to pick up and put away the toys in the living-room and five minutes to clear a path from the door to your bed. Anything left in the living-room, after five minutes, I will put in a bag and find a new home for them. Then, first thing in the morning, you’ll clean up the mess in the shop” I said.
“I don’t want to feed the dog and fish” he said.
“Fine, I’ll find another home for your dog and your fish can go to a water trough” I said.
(Major meltdown occurs)
“I never get to do what I want!”
“Kelly and Spiny are mine! You can’t get rid of them!”
“My toys are mine! You can’t give them away!”
I calmly replied “Kyle, you have three seconds to get started. 1…..2……”
He sulked out of his room and headed to the porch .
I returned to the kitchen to finish supper. As I was putting food on our plates I realized that Kyle had not returned from outside, fed his fish or washed his hands.
I walked outside to find him climbing in the tree by the carport.
“Kyle! Did you feed your dog yet?”
“No, I got distracted” he said.
(At this point I think my blood pressure reached a critical level)
As calmly as I could, but in a louder than usual voice, I said, “Kyle, feed the dogs NOW and get your hands washed!!”
“In a minute,” he said.
“NO! NOW!” I shot back.
“Ok….(something unintelligible)” he replied.
We sat down to supper. I attempted to strike up conversation to no avail….questions were answered with short one and two-word answers.
When we had finished eating, Kyle asked “What’s for dessert?”
I replied, “I’ll make you a deal. It will take me about ten minutes to clean up. You clean up the living-room by the time I’m done in the kitchen and we can have some dessert, before clearing a path in your room and getting ready for bed. If there are still toys on the floor, when I am done, I’ll collect them and there will be no dessert. Deal?”
“Ok” he said.
I finished cleaning the kitchen and walked to the living-room. Nothing had been picked up…in fact, it appeared as though he had brought out yet another tub of toys and dumped them out on the floor.
“Alright Kyle, I’m getting a bag and am going to start picking up toys. I’ll find a good home for them…to children who are less fortunate than you.”
I went to the cabinet, pulled out a garbage bag and returned to the living-room….proceeding to pick up toys….one at a time.
(Second major meltdown occurs)
Despite the ongoing temper tantrum, Kyle began to race me to each toy that I reached for and quickly placed it in one of the tubs. After about two minutes the room was picked up, he was taking his tubs to his room and I had acquired 20+ toys.
“Can I have dessert now?” he asked.
“No. You didn’t hold up your end of the deal,” I replied.
“I’ll set the timer. You have 10 minutes to go brush your teeth and get your jammies on” I said.
He headed to the bathroom, I set the timer and then proceeded to work on some paperwork at my desk. The timer went off and I went to the bathroom to see the progress. I discovered Kyle dancing and singing in front of the mirror…teeth not brushed….still in his work clothes.
“Kyle! Get your teeth brushed NOW!!!”
“Now go to your room and get your jammies on….MOVE IT!”
He went to his room and changed.
“You can clean your room tomorrow after picking up the shop. It’s late and you need your sleep” I said.
He got into bed, I tucked him in, gave him a kiss…”goodnight, sweet dreams” I said and I closed the door.
I returned to my desk and continued working. The dogs began barking and I went outside to quiet them (FYI barking dogs are a MAJOR pet peeve of mine). I returned to my desk. Five minutes later, the dogs began barking again. I once again went out and reprimanded them. I returned to my desk. Five minutes later they began to bark again, but this time I thought I heard a high-pitched squealing sound. I got after the dogs and upon returning to the house, silently walked to my son’s bedroom door and waited. Sure enough, after about five minutes I heard the same high-pitched squealing sound emanating from my son’s room and the dogs began to bark again. I opened my son’s door and saw him crouching by his open window making the irritating noise and laughing at the dogs response.
I think a blew a head gasket….
“KYLE!!!! GO TO BED NOW!!!! ENOUGH!!! I HAVE HAD IT!!!!!!
He began to laugh….
“That’s it” I said. “No more dog. Your horse is going back out to pasture and no more ATV.”
I left his room and slammed the door to a shocked, devastated little boy….wailing on his bed.
I returned to my desk…fuming….
I started updating my farming schedule, only to find my mind wandering back to what had just occurred. I could hear Kyle sobbing in his room.
After 15 minutes of trying to do some work, still hearing the crying from the bedroom, I stopped typing and returned to Kyle’s room, sat down on his bed and took a deep breath.
“Kyle, do you know why I am upset at you?”
“Kyle, I only ask that you honor your mother, father and elders, respect and care for the animals and the environment and uphold the responsibilities you have been given. When you ignore what you have been told, when you tease the animals, when you leave messes, you disrespect and disappoint me. I want the best for you. I love you. I want you to grow up responsible and respectful. Why have you been so rebellious the last two days?”
Kyle: “I don’t know.” (Memories of Bill Cosby’s ‘I don’t know’ routine flood my mind)
Me: “‘I don’t know’ doesn’t cut it Kyle. Tell me…why won’t you do what I ask you and why were you teasing the dogs?”
(This is the part that brought me to tears. Through tears, sobbing, sniffing and coughing my son responded)
Kyle: “Daddy, I love you. I just like to be happy. I like to have fun. I like to laugh. I like to smile. I like to do things with you. I’m sorry daddy.”
My mind raced…my six-year-old son lay there in bed, big eyes, wet from the tears, begging for forgiveness, just wanting to be happy and be by my side. My heart broke, I felt a hand on my shoulder, my frustration was washed away and replaced with a calmness and pure appreciation and love for the boy in front of me. I took him in my arms and held him tight.
“Kyle, I love you. I forgive you. I am sorry for raising my voice at you. Forgive me.”
Kyle: “I love you daddy. Tomorrow is a new day.”
We held each other for another minute, exchanged good night kisses, wished each other a good night and exchanged ‘I love you’s.’
I had difficulty sleeping that night…..
Indeed, the next day was a ‘new day.’
The next morning, a smiling and happy boy exited his room, completely dressed and ready to work at 6:50 am. After a breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs and hot chocolate we went to the barn. Without a word, he immediately went to the shop and began cleaning while I did chores. By the time chores were completed, the shop was exactly as I had left it the previous afternoon and Kyle was sitting patiently on the ATV waiting to go change water. I started it up and we started down the lane. As we rode along, he turned around and said, “when we get back to the house dad, I’ll clean my room.” “We’ll do it together,” I replied. “And then we’ll do something you want to do.” “We’ll play catch!” he said with a beaming smile.
I share this story to simply remind you that sometimes what we think is important, is sometimes secondary to what is really important.
Ask yourself…what is really important?