Thursday, January 30, 2014

Nurture and Admonition

Nurture - the process of caring for and encouraging the growth of someone or something

Admonition - authoritative counsel

Walking through the 8th grade hall yesterday, I was greeted with smiles and "Hey, Mrs. Hamlin!" and "Hi, Asher's mom!"

"He's right over here." I saw him standing in his Geometry classroom doorway with a slightly puzzled look on his face. This was only the second time I had ventured into one of his middle school classrooms during school hours.

I showed him the brown paper bag that contained his lunch as I walked over to him. "Thanks, mom."

"No worries," I said as I walked right past him while saying "hello" to a few more of his buddies. I walked into his classroom and up to his teacher's desk. She was busy talking to a few students (the bell had sounded to end the period so I wasn't interrupting instruction time) so I waited patiently for my turn.

When she looked up and acknowledged me, I asked how Asher had done on his quiz the day before... a "B." I asked her about his behavior so far this semester. "Well, he continues to goof around... which is negatively affecting his grade. He's a smart guy who needs to pay better attention in class. I almost wrote a referral for him last week."

Enter Asher. Smiling. Perfect eye contact with me and his teacher... "I've been a better listener. I'm paying attention." Oh dear. I physically see his teacher soften. I understand. This is what he does to me. He has an uncanny ability to smooth talk his way out of undesirable situations.

I informed the teacher I wanted to know if Asher's behavior didn't improve immediately. (I followed up later that afternoon by sending her an email reminding her I wanted to stay on top of this matter.)

As Asher and I walked to his next class together he again thanked me for bringing his lunch. I said, "You can thank me by doing your best."

"I love you, mom."

"I love you, Asher."

Asher is a good kid. He's fairly responsible for a 14-year-old. He makes decent grades. (He COULD make all A's. Which frustrates me and his dad.) Coaches, teachers, friends' parents all tell me what a respectful young man he is... so, what's the issue?

He could be better.

Better? How?

By being on honor roll every semester? By using his athletic abilities to compete and win? Maybe I listen too much to society's standards. Maybe I'm not listening closely enough to him.

What are my expectations? More importantly, what are God's expectations?

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - that it may go well with you and that you many enjoy long life on this earth."

So, that's what God expects of Asher. But, the instruction doesn't end there. Now it's my turn...

"Fathers, don't exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord."

One teacher on the subject of parenting said, "Moms. Don't nag. State your expectation once. Let reality be the teacher."

It's so hard to let reality be the teacher when it includes failure. But, what is failure? Is it working below your ability? Or something else?

Asher has challenged me at every stage. However, he has always loved me, thanked me, honored me... my love for him can overwhelm me at times. My heart aches when I love him through something difficult. At other times, my heart almost bursts with joy as I watch him with wonder. Secretly celebrating the man he is becoming.

As Mary watched Jesus grow physically, grow in wisdom, and in favor with God and men, she "treasured all these things in her heart."

Maybe I listen too much to society's standards. Maybe I'm not listening closely enough to him. When I disapprove of him, what is my standard? Is it important enough for nagging?

This morning as I drove Asher and a friend to the middle school I said to Asher, "I expect perfect behavior in Geometry today. Listen and learn."

"Mom, no human is perfect. Only Jesus was."

How do I respond to that?

"Love you, Asher. Do your best. Have a good day. Bye!" (With nurture and admonition.)