Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lessons from Bamboo

I recently heard an interesting fact about Bamboo plants:  After planting, the bamboo will remain in the ground, developing here and there, ever so slowly, for a full four years.  Then suddenly, in the fifth year or thereabouts, it will shoot up out of the ground, reaching 90 feet in height over the course of about three weeks.  For years you can't see any progress, and then -- bang! -- bamboo enough for the hungriest of pandas.

I wasn't watching one of those cool nature shows on PBS when I learned this fact.  My hubby told me that it was something he heard on some parenting segment of a radio broadcast.  Now I don't know about you, but typically I don't expect to hear about the life cycle of horticulture when listening to a parenting program.  That's like hearing about volcanic eruptions on a cooking show or the ecology of tide pools at a financial seminar.  But it was brought up by some parent (who was, perhaps, a botanist?) as an apt analogy to raising children.

It especially encourages me because we have officially entered with Lilia what is popularly referred to as the "terrible twos."  It's also known as toddlerhood.  Yes, folks, the babymoon is over.  Toddlerhood is here.

Welcome to the real world.

Over the course of the past month, Jerry and I have found ourselves frequently asking this question:  "Uh, where did our adorable and sweet little baby go??"  It has prompted us to seek some wisdom from a plethora of sources, and one of those sources is a book called The New Dare to Discipline, by Dr. James Dobson.  The focus of the book is having the courage, as a parent, to discipline (train and teach) your children -- consistently, wisely, diligently, and always in a spirit of love and tenderness.

Among other things, Dr. Dobson is absolutely hilarious.  As Jerry and I sit and read this book, we often find ourselves just busting up over some of his anecdotes and descriptions.  Here is a choice tidbit on 'toddlerhood':

"... let's say a few words about that marvelous time of life known as toddlerhood.  It begins with a bang (like the crash of a lamp or a porcelain vase) at about eighteen months of age and runs hot and heavy until about the third birthday... Children between fifteen and thirty-six months of age do not want to be restricted or inhibited in any manner, nor are they inclined to conceal their viewpoint.  They resent every nap imposed on them, and bedtime becomes an exhausting, dreaded ordeal each night.  They want to play with everything in reach, particularly fragile and expensive ornaments.  They prefer using their pants rather than the potty, and insist on eating with their hands.  And need I remind you that most of what goes in their mouths is not food.  When they break loose in a store, they run as fast as their little fat legs will carry them.  They pick up the kitty by its ears and then scream bloody murder when scratched.  They want mommy within three feet of them all day, preferably in the role of their full-time playmate.  Truly, the toddler is a tiger!

We were laughing like hyenas when reading this, mostly because it describes very nearly word for word what life is now like with our once-adorable, once-angelic little Peanut.  We still love her just as much (if not more than) as ever.  She's just more... well, toddler-like now.

Part of this toddlerhood thing means training (i.e:  discipline).  Sometimes it means discipline of the same kind and for the same offense five or six times within as many minutes.  It's exhausting, and it changes your daily life.  I don't remember when I last folded laundry or fed the cat (is he even still alive?!).  Dinners are often delayed or postponed indefinitely, and need I even mention that romance with one's spouse is uh, well, not as frequent as before.  *ahem*

There are times when I really, truly wonder if it's making any difference, this intentional parenting thing.  When I find myself telling Lilia, "For the one-hundred-thousandth time, do not take objects off of the counter top," and then I proceed to hold her little arms down firmly at her sides, gently but firmly telling her no and that I love her and that if she does it again it will mean a hand-flick or a spanking because I want her to stay safe...  Is it really making any difference?  Will she ever get it?

That's where the bamboo part comes in.  It's still early days. The planting has been done, and now there's the tending, the watering, the care-taking.  And then one day, as most parents say, your child does something or says something and you realize that the growth is there.  It shoots up before your eyes like bamboo, all of a sudden.  And it's because you were diligent to watch, to love, to give, to care.

I've not known anything as exhausting as being a parent.  Teaching children in a classroom is small potatoes compared to this daunting endeavor.  But I can honestly say that parenting -- even the hard parts -- has brought more joy to my life than I ever thought possible.  Watching that little Peanut toddle around the room is just the cutest little thing in the world to me.

If I can experience that level of joy now, when the growth is still hidden, what will it be like when the shoots appear?  I can only guess, and pray, that the harvest will be unimaginably sweet.

So here's to bamboo.  (And now I should probably go see if the cat is still alive).

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Such an insightful post Debbie and a great reminder for all parents.