My entry for the Poetic Knowledge book club. Finally. I’ve not had a “brain in gear” week, unfortunately. Perhaps my post will prove that. I decided to limit myself to one thought to ensure I stay coherent. Plus, I want to leave myself enough time to make the rounds to everyone else’s posts. :)
I was most stung by the quote Taylor included by the Headmaster of a school founded on the principles of poetic knowledge to his “head boys”:
I will first put you on guard against dangers of your function. There is, first of all, small dangers in the privileges that one concedes you, and that you interpret gladly as an excuse for greater freedoms to which you believe you have the right. But nothing is more false. Your function, rather, is service. You must be more demanding on yourselves than you are on others. You will never succeed in creating real discipline is you permit yourselves what is refused to others.
You know about synchronicity, right? Otherwise known as providence? I couldn’t hardly believe it when I came to those sentences. This is precisely where I had finally nailed myself this last weekend.
I have believed that as “Mom,” I have rights and privileges that the children do not. And, on the one hand, it still seems imminently reasonable to say so. However, what is the basis for saying the children can’t if I can?
Why are the children not allowed candy for afternoon snack, but I allow it for myself? If it’s not healthy or good for them, what makes me think it’s good for me? And, yes, just so you know, I did have a handful — ok, maybe two — of M&Ms just thirty minutes before writing this, because they were out as we were making birthday ice cream. That’s not actually relevant, right? We’re totally talking about the theoretical here.
So, back to our theories and philosophies. When the boys zone out, staring at the computer screen, hand automatically grabbing the mouse, who are they imitating? And if I don’t like the look of it in them, do I think it’s appealing in myself?
Here’s the real rub: If I expect them to do what I say, when I say so, why do I not do what I say? That is, follow my own plans. Not only that, but my children do, for the most part, turn from what they would prefer and what their appetites desire in obedience to my better judgment. And I don’t. But if they can, surely I can and should.
The reason I struggle so much with establishing order and self-discipline in our home is not because our children are undisciplined, but because I am. I am the one needing to become as disciplined — more disciplined, even — than they are. If I can discipline (and I mean the complete, full meaning of the word, not the narrow, typical usage) my children, can I not discipline myself? Should I not discipline myself? Must I not discipline myself? My position as Mother does not exempt me from discipline, but I must be the embodiment of what I am teaching, or else it will become dust and ashes in the children’s mouths as my own hypocrisy poisons what should be a benefit and delight to them — the delight of obedience, the delight of order, the delight of companionship.