I am working on perspective with Henry.
He has none.
If he forgets his lunchbox at school (which he has done exactly one time) he storms around the house throwing things and yelling about how stupid he is and that he does not deserve to be in the third grade. If he forgets his library books (which he has done exactly one time)he, once again, beats himself up, crying about how embarrassing it was and it was “all his fault” that his class didn’t get any cookies because he was the ONLY one to forget his library books. One time he forgot to do his math homework (one time) and the whole house had to hear about how much he hates to forget his homework and how stupid he is and now his teacher was going to SAY something to him.
Come on. You would think I punish him with a branding iron if ever forgets anything. When in actuality I go the other way, trying to explain to him that these events are not that big a deal in the grand scheme of life. It is only third grade and it was only one time. Much worse things could happen; we could be living in Haiti and have no place to live or running water, we could be living in America and have no house and no running water, our house could burn down, your dad could be dead.
Wait, that one really happened. Oh dear.
Therein lies the problem for me. I believe Henry should have some built in perspective meter due to the fact that he has survived much worse. Forgotten library books and lunchboxes seem rather trivial compared to your dad dying. Am I right? Really, if Bob’s death has taught us anything let it be not to sweat the small stuff.
Enjoy the small stuff, but don’t sweat it.
But apparently that is not the way it works, at least not for Henry. Maybe the opposite has happened. He knows that bad stuff does happen, and for no apparent reason. So why not freak out about small stuff like forgotten homework or library books? Next thing you know your dad might be dead. Life is a precarious event.
But that is not the lesson I want to be taken away from Bob dying. I want the lesson to be that we should be grateful for what we have and enjoy people while they are here and that your lunchbox is not that big of a deal. There is always a paper bag.
I know I have lost some of the clarity that comes with being so close to tragedy. I have blogged about it before, that feeling of being stripped of everything but the most basic necessities, and the clear knowledge that nothing matters but love, affection, nourishment, and safety.
Over the last six years the layers have built up again and I find myself getting agitated about being late to swim lessons or to a dinner date with friends, pretty small stuff in the grand scheme of things. If I want Henry to gain some perspective I need to gain it back myself. I don’t want to be living another tragedy, but I long for that stripped down feeling that made it so easy to know what was important and what wasn’t. Where can I find that and how can I teach that to my children, without someone having to die that is?
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