Sunday, April 15, 2012

Day 5: The Patient Parent

I recently learned a new trick; it's my favorite kind of thing to learn.  It's the sort of thing that you might have known all along and wouldn't be surprised if everyone else in the world was aware of iand only you were left uninformed.  Specifically, I was drinking out of an aluminum can and stumbled upon a new technique for consuming the liquid within.  Always previously I had the notion that the lips should seal around the can opening and work to draw in the liquid from the up-turned can.  When the mouth was full I would always close the lips trapping the liquid inside and only then could the throat muscles be used to swallow the contents within.  Breathe.  Repeat.  This method always served me perfectly well (I thought), but the new method I've stumbled on is actually less work and more efficient (and incidentally results in the ingestion of less air).  I found (and I'm still not sure how I discovered this), that you can leave the lips open to the air (not sealing around the can's opening), pour the liquid into your upturned mouth, and SIMULTANEOUSLY while the liquid is being poured in you can use the muscles in the back of your throat to make a controlled and measured swallow of the liquid.  (I don't really know for sure, but it feels like many of the same muscles involved in making a glottal stop are involved in the intentional swallowing motion I've just discovered.) 

I call this technique my "continuous on-line swallowing technique" (COST for short).  That's right, I have a name for this technique, but the crazy thing is, I bet most people don't have a name for it; it's just drinking.  This kind of thing is really exciting to me.  To me, it just goes to show how easy it is to think you know how things work, to believe that your experiences are like those of others to such an extent that it's seemingly IMPOSSIBLE for there to be any variation.  Not so.  Even in the simplest of things.

We are extremely tied and blindly dependant upon the experiences we've had and our immediate gut reactions to them.  We are dependant on how to do, especially it seems, simple daily tasks, on how our parents taught us to do things.  Nevertheless, we rarely think of this and we're naturally and unwisely self-assured about what we know, and what we don't know, about our shared experiences.  Newly-weds are often aghast at one another over what must and must not go in the refrigerator, what laundry should and should not be hung up, what items are and are not "logically" stored together in the cabinets or closets, and the list goes on.  

I think this has a huge implication on teaching and education.  We (teachers and students) know the obvious ways we're different and we think that's the end of it but it's likely much more nuanced than that.  The gulf of experience is wider in ways we haven't imagined, don't understand, and can't intentionally bridge. 

And, if the implications are large for teachers, they are equally or more pressing for parents.  Every parent, I think, has a well of shame to pull from whenever they choose to think about the ways they wish they'd done things differently.  My little guy is not even yet two years old, and I still wish I'd done any number of things differently. 

My grandfather would always, whenever catching people using that simple phrase "I wish" ("I wish this" or "I wish that"), warn the dissatisfied person that they should be careful and be sure not to wish their life away.

Most ashamedly for me as a parent, I've often caught myself wishing I didn't have to watch Cars for the umpteenth time, or interrupt whatever I was doing to sit and watch the same Elmo or Thomas the Tank Engine for maybe the billionth time (seemingly, anyway).    I catch myself wishing Oliver were but a bit older.  If it's a sin to wish away your own life, how much more of a sin MUST it be to wish away the life of your child! 

My motives are wholesome.  I want to share the experiences I've had and the lessons I've learned with my son; with the one person on earth (so far) I experience unquestioning agape love for.  I feel (rightly I think) that I have a lot to offer and I want to get on with offering it.  But it's fundamentally wrong to think that my son is just a smaller or younger version of me, and it's impossible for he and I to share the experiences I had over thirty years ago.

The lesson here, as I see it, is that the best way to "raise" my son, to affect positive change in his life is to absolutely meet him where he is, and to lead from that point on; to make new experiences which we actually CAN have in common.  That kind of approach is going to take discernment, perseverance, and most of all, patience.  

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