I have one child who does not like to work outside the box.
Currently this child’s box is the white overstuffed chair in my office. At times it can also be the reading corner in her room, the nest made by her down duvet, the easy chair in the kitchen, her seat at the dinner table or even her spot behind me in my our minivan.
It most definitely is within the physical confines of our family unit, with all five family members present and accounted for, close enough to see the whites of our eyes and feel the comfort of our hugs, giggles and bedtime snuggles. Which makes any necessary travel for the rest of us a “no-no” in her book and box.
Where ever it is, it is where she is and wants to stay, reading her thirteenth book for the week, munching a bowl of kettle corn, shunning much of life’s emotional effort with the wave of a hand and a red-faced, at times pleading, “I won’t do it. You can’t make me!”
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So don’t ask her to come with you to feed the homeless on Sundays because that is outside her box. Don’t sign her up for the overnight at church because her box is not big enough for all that entails. Don’t send her to school (most days) because her box is not there. Don’t take her away on vacations, most specifically to new places, because there might not be a box to crawl into. And don’t sign her up for extra-curricular activities, unless they are preapproved by her and involve at least one close friend who understands what it is like to work outside the box.
As a mother who likes to solve things – aka overanalyze - I have done my fair share of dwelling on the origins of this box. Who or what breathed it into being, hauled its parts and pieces into her life and helped her push the walls up? Perhaps it is left over colic – though that is debatable since she is well beyond three months of age. Perhaps it is due to being sent off to “Good Shepherd Day Cool” at the tender age of 3. Perhaps its cause lies in the angst of being flown all the way to Asia, and deposited there to live for two and half years of elementary school.
Then again maybe it is not nurture but nature, and this is some hidden trait – of course most likely from my family’s side of the gene pool. Maybe she was born two generations too late and belongs back with my father who despite not being the baby lived at home - being waited on “hand and foot” according to my mother - until his bride took him into a new box, a new family. Or maybe even further back, back to the Weber’s who had their fair share of unmarried adults, boxed in, and shored up by family.
Whatever the cause, I have come to know my role as this child’s mother. It is not to give in (Oh! How tempting that is!) to her pleas and protestations. It is not to engage. To enable. To hand her mortar and brick when chinks appear in the walls of her box.
Rather it is to draw her out, show her the world, tell her it will be good, that we would not steer her wrong. And then sit back for the ride continuing all the while to draw forth from the depths of my parenting soul the patience and understanding the Good Lord gave me.
Oh, and of course to be there to smile, and think (but not say!) “I told you so” when she comes back from her adventures outside her box to declare, “that wasn’t so bad. Thank you for making me do it.”