Monday, February 28, 2011

What I learned from a boy, a hammer and a guitar

Two weeks ago on a Friday, I called home to check in on the family.  It was reported to me that Will had destroyed his guitar, a real guitar, given to him by his grandmother, with a hammer.  I was enraged.  Jeremy was also enraged.  Which is rare for him, typically he is much calmer than I.  A good match, I suppose.

We were hampered in our swift discipline as he had a friend over after school.  It is always a delicate balance, not to embarrass the friend and to discipline the offender.  Jeremy spoke to him as did our babysitter.  When asked why he did it, he said, "I didn't want it anymore."  And more, "I don't care."

I was physically sick.  Literally sick to my stomach. 

I arrived home and gave him the eye.  I was spinning.  I literally wanted to dance on his head with a diatribe of how wrong this action was.  Over and over and over. 

We took away his ability to take the test at karate for his yellow belt.  That got his attention, albeit momentairly.  When his friend left, he was instructed to get into his jams, brush teeth and get up to bed.  He would not be included in reading before bed.  This hurt him.  He refused to get upstairs, so he sat on the bottom step, crying.  When the other ones were done, I opened the door and told Will it was time to go up.  We went upstairs.  It was clear that the other kids were not done as of yet, so he started to cry and complain that he could not sleep without his penguin pillow pet.  "Oh, you will not be sleeping with pengi tonight," I said.  I was red with fury, "You can sleep with these," I pointed to the broken pieces of the guitar. 

"What does he not get on this.  Does he literally not understand the magnitude of what he has done?"  I am raising a sociopath!  I told him that he and I would be spending a lot of time together discussing what had happened and why.  The other kids came up stairs and he finally fell asleep.

I slept downstairs, with the baby, per usual.  When Will came downstairs he said, "Mom, are we going to spend a lot of time together today?"  "Um, yeah, we have a lot to talk about."

I would stay home with him while the other kids went to test for their yellow belts.  He didn't seem bothered.  He wished them good luck. After a little while, I turned off the t.v. and inquired as to why he took a hammer to a guitar.  Again he reiterated, "I don't want it anymore."  To which I responded, "When we don't want things any longer we can give them to someone who would like it. We can sell them at a yard sale.  There are a lot of things we can do with something that you don't want.  But destroying something is never ever an option.  Ever."    He just looked at me like I had ten heads.

I honestly didn't know what to do.  Beating did cross my mind.  I figured the physcial pain would make the connection for him.  I kept thinking how can I make this kid get it.  I felt like I needed to ensure that he didn't have fun or smile.  And then, it dawned on me, as I just didn't want to let up on my berating.  I didn't know how else to make him GET it. 

We were supposed to take the kids out for a celebration lunch after the test.  My vote was to leave him home with me and everyone else go out.  Jer felt that because the family is going out, and he is part of the family, that we will all go out together.  So we did. 

What dawned on me was this:  Being a faithful sort, I recalled that when I ask for forgiveness it is forgiven, unconditionally.  It was very freeing.  I let it go. 

But not before I told him he wasn't going to go to karate for the week.  Without discussing this with Jer, of course.  It didn't go over well.  Decisions should be made together, he pointed out.  Agreed.

So on Monday night, Jer and I called Will into the kitchen to discuss further.  We needed for him to understand. So we started talking to him.  He nodded his head.  Over and over.  Looked between us, back and forth.  He did not use his own words, he would agree with ours.  We told him that we could not allow him to go to karate until he understood and apologized.  Then I started talking.   I looked at Will and asked him if he thought I didn't pay enough attention to him.  If I was paying too much attention to the baby.  His countenance melted.  Literally, his face softened.

It was then that tears stung my eyes.  I asked if he wanted a hug.  He came over and climbed up into my lap.  He clung to me as if we had never hugged before.  I asked if he wanted a hug from dad and he wrapped himself around me even harder.

We all went to sleep. The next morning, Will was awake, before Jer left to work he spoke to Will.  Reminding him about our discussion the night before.  They talked about how perhaps he should practice his aplogy and when I came down he could apologize.

When I came downstairs, I said good morning. I looked right at him and said, is there something you want to say?  He said, "I am sorry for breaking the guitar and I know it was wrong."

He and I will now be spending more time together, just one on one.

And that is what a hammer and a guitar taught me.


Secretary Kathy said...

That's a wonderful story, Bets, I think you should submit it to a print publication!!!

It sure touches my heart. A lesson learned for everybody.

Lisa said...

i have no words. just tears myself. you are a joy, you are a light in my world even though i can't physically be in your presence, your presence
is felt. thank you for writing.
love you.

Happy Valley Mom said...

ok, you made me cry

Melanie Gao said...

Oh Betsy, you made me cry. What a precious story. What a good mom you are. What a good boy you have.

Gina said...

Wonderful story- wiping away some tears now.
I am in a similar boat but only add about 10 years to your time frame. I have a 17 year old and we are on the college hunt. Heads are butting right now and I am one to easily lose my cool when pushed and she is pushing...away from it and us. This story is reminding me that she is still a kid and just may need a hug and some reassurance that everything will be ok. Thank you