Before I had children, I did not really understand the concept of keeping children on the “straight and narrow.” The concept seemed very limiting to me. I mean, what kind of crazy person wants to keep their children in such a cage? Why straight and narrow? Why not a few curves and grassy clearings?
As an engineer, I tend to think of things in the limit of their possibilities. In my imagination, I take things as far as they can go and imagine the outcome. (Which is probably why my daughter’s favorite number is infinity, and why she likes to test ME to the limits of my possibilities).
Think of the school bus for a moment as a test chamber. You spend a good five or more years working on this child, trying to get it all right, and then you put this child on the bus to see exactly how that worked out for you.
If you have taught your child, for example, to tell the truth, you might well expect that the child will tell you every naughty thing that happened on the bus. He is now a tattle-tale.
If you have taught your child to have conversations with adults, then expect that he is now a distraction to the bus driver (but will know everything about the bus maintenance schedule, the route, and even the bus driver’s latest surgery).
If you have taught your child to be generous and share, expect the poor soul to lose a few toys to otherwise well meaning fellow-riders.
If you have taught your child to listen, to be a team player, your child will now become the victim of an older child’s joke.
If you have taught your child to have self-confidence, he may well appear very disrespectful, especially once he gets to school.
If your child has been instructed in leadership, then expect the line into ‘bully’ to be crossed at least a few times.
If your child has learned to love others, then a little heartbreak now and then is certainly in the forecast.
So, the other day, when my son chose something I wouldn’t have had him wear, and he was playing by himself rather than joining the group, I paused. At first, I wanted to tell him,
“Honey, don’t you want to play with the other kids? Don’t you care what they think?”
But, I didn’t tell him that. I thought a lot about what it means for a child to care a little bit too much about what the other kids think. Especially what that might mean in the preteen years. What I found out was that he didn’t want to play the same game they were playing. He wanted to play something else, but he couldn’t remember the name of it. He wasn’t excluded. He was playing on his own terms.
Of course, he bumps into the thistle on either side of that straight and narrow path on an hourly basis. Every time, I hope he explores a little bit more. How the truth is important, but maybe every detail isn’t. How sharing is important, but maintaining your own property is perfectly correct too. How it feels to be natural leader versus a ringleader.
And, of course, how we will always love him, even when the world seems full of heartbreak.