Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Picking Battles

My daughter and son-in-law left us and the other grandparents in charge of her three children for about twenty-four hours last weekend. The range of ages, one and a half to twelve, with four adults and Walker added into the mix, made for an interesting time. It rained a good part of the day on Sunday, so we played a lot of board games and pseudo-charades. (The youngest ones don't quite get the idea, but are enthusiastic participants.) We tried to include Walker in all these things with very little success. At one point I pretty much insisted that he play Yahtzee with us, but when he was equally insistent that he really didn't want to, I gave into him returning to his Polaroids and the television. I could tell that Robert, age twelve, thought I was a really wimpy parent for letting Walker off.

I can remember a similar experience with my father when Walker was about five, also during a weekend of togetherness. We were at the family lake cabin, on pristine Lake Martin. Walker left our group on the dock and headed up the hill to the cabin alone. I called out to him, he ignored me, and I didn't enforce him "minding" me. During that same trip Daddy constantly corrected Walker every time he said "yeah" or "no" in response to an adult. Daddy was certain that I had totally failed in my duties to raise a proper Son of the South by not teaching the requisite "Yes, Ma'am, No Ma'am, Thank You Ma'am, Please" manners to my son. I finally had my fill of feeling like a failure and more or less blew up at Daddy, something I had rarely done, saving most of my tantrums for Mama throughout my life.

My parents had not been around, in the same city, to see the struggle that it had taken to get this particular little boy to the degree of civilized behavior that he had achieved. They didn't realize that there were millions of niceties that the average child picks up almost by osmosis that Walker just didn't notice. He had to be taught them one by one. By that time I had four children, Walker and his sister both barely out of diapers. Yes, I should have made him mind. Yes, I probably should have not given him a choice about participating in some family games last weekend. We all pick our battles, or we end up with battle fatigue. The course of history isn't usually changed by some of the battles we choose not to fight.

When my daughter returned from the wedding, she joked that she had imagined how her children would be dressed when she came back. She only got one right. William was indeed sitting at the counter eating lunch in nothing but his underwear. We had dressed the baby, and Robert had dressed to go out, but at some point William had stripped. If any of the adults noticed, I guess we decided it wasn't a big deal.

I hope I am understanding about the battles others choose to fight. I hope I'll drum up the energy to fight a bit harder for the things that are worth fighting for. I hope I'll have some success at convincing Walker that participation in family games are part of what we do---just because.


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