Teaching life lessons to the next generation is hard.
You begin with the standards.
Be kind to others.
Open the door for your mother.
Be nice to your sister. Hold your fork properly. Don’t wear white after Labor Day.
You ask for a please and tell someone to say thank you and remind them to take their plate to the sink and assign chores and follow up on their homework and discourage bullying of any kind and you cross your fingers and ten toes and hope that it all sticks.
You wonder if you are making a difference as a parent. You wonder if anyone is listening. You wonder if the chicks will fly when they leave the nest.
One day you see a glimpse. A glimmer. A spark of the adult they will become.
And it makes all the trying worth every word.
Last week I finally finished the bedroom upstairs.
This room belongs to one of the twins and she wanted to design it herself.
She requested blue with a side of blue with a little more blue sprinkled on top.
It took a family to decorate a room.
My husband hung the curtains and unrolled a new rug that’s natural jute. It’s just like seagrass, but so much softer. My daughters made up the bed with new bedding. I arranged the room with painted chairs and the dance sign from downstairs and a new desk area for homework.
And my younger son painted the chalkboard.
He wasn’t happy about it.
He’s sixteen with broad shoulders and short brown hair and a few whiskers trying to poke through and way more important things to do than help his mother get a room ready for his sister.
Begrudgingly he gave us a few minutes of his super busy day.
He’s an almost-man of few words. He’s an animal lover and an athlete and a never-sit-stiller. He loves basketball and baseball and running like the wind. Our days with him are growing short. In a couple of years he’ll be off to college and all this interrupting his day with family time will be a thing of the past.
We were right in the middle of decorating.
I was arranging the chairs and directing the twins as they made the bed, when suddenly he paused his chalkboard painting and turned toward me.
“Mom,” he said. “What’s that song that GIGI used to sing to me when I was little?”
Surprised, I paused to think. “You mean Ragtime Cowboy Joe?”
“Yes,” he smiled. “That’s the one. How does it go?”
Then quietly, softly, in that upstairs room in the corner of our farmhouse, to the swish of the paintbrush and the clink of the curtain rods, I started to sing.
“Out in Arizona where the bad men are
Only thing to guide you is the evening star
The roughest, toughest man by far
Is Ragtime Cowboy Joe”
He got his name from singin’ to the cattle and the sheep
Every night he sings that herd to sleep
In a basso voice so rich and deep
Crooning soft and low he always sings”
As I sang that song my father used to sing to all of us on long ago on road trips, the song passed down from generation to generation, the song he had sung to my children when they were little, the entire family joined in.
We danced and sang and giggled until the room rang with laughter.
Later, when we finished singing and the room was done, I turned to my son and asked “What made you think of that song? Why did you want me to sing it?
He smiled at me.
The kind of smile you put in your pocket and bring out on a rainy day.
“I just thought of it when I was painting,” he said. Then he added, “I want to learn it. I want to remember all the words…
….so I can sing it to my kids one day.”
The most important lesson of all?
The lesson you learn day your children teach you right back. 🙂