Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The disobey

I was babysitting my nephews one fine spring morning, and we were outside playing in the sandbox. The two-year-old kept throwing sand out of the sandbox, and I finally warned him that if he did it one more time we would go inside. Unfortunately for the boy, he has a bit of the family strong-will, and he responded to my warning with a final sand-toss.

“Alright, we’re going inside,” I declared as I scooped up the one-year-old and beckoned his brother to follow.

“And when we go inside, we can paint with watercolors!” he enthusiastically declared.

“No, buddy,” I gently corrected. “We’re going inside because you’re being punished.”

Suddenly the boy froze in shocked horror, and I watched his face immediately transform from blissful to agonized. “Nooooooooooooo!” he began to wail as his face contorted. “I want the punishment to be ooooooooooooooover!”

I wasn’t sure how to approach this issue, having only intended a mild punishment for the minor crime of sand-throwing. “The punishment can’t be over,” I tried to gently reason. “It hasn’t even started yet.”

He dramatically threw himself on the ground and wailed all the more.

“Buddy, you disobeyed,” I softly explained to the tortured child. “When you disobey, you have to be punished. It’s not a terrible punishment, but we have to go through it.”

“Yes, it is it is!” he insisted. “It is a terrible punishment!”

“No honey,” I reasoned. “You can read a book or do something quietly, but you have to be punished when you disobey.”

The child was not to be soothed. “I want the disobey to be oooooooooooover!” he continued to moan.

Don’t we all?

My nephew is an amazing gift to have, because his early skills of articulation allows me to hear my raw, basic character flaws clearly articulated in a two-year-old tantrum. In my own sins and shortcomings, I can hardly endure gentle correction better than my nephew. I want the “punishment” to be over before it has even begun; I want the “disobey” to be over without going through the process of correction. I receive gentle correction as torturous chastisement, unable to endure the thought of needing it.

1 comment:

susanna said...

I second that: let the "disobey" be over, please. Hey,though you had sworn off Luddite-ism...?