Too many cooks

I was in another room.

This is what I heard.

“No, you can’t have any more! You had loads on the last one!”

Uh-oh.

That’s like the starting bell at the beginning of a round at a boxing match.

I’ll set the scene.

It’s breakfast. Which on a school day is big American pancakes made, thanks to various dietary anomalies, with spelt flour and rice milk. They’re eaten in various ways, but the most popular is with golden syrup, which I now buy in bulk 🙂

Bertie, aged 6, coming in at number four of five boys, and possibly the most audible member of the household, applied his own syrup this morning. But the plate is small, had two pancakes on it one atop the other and, once the first was consumed, the second looked tragically bare.

So he’d come back for more.

Only to encounter two older brothers, who had their own opinions on what he should or shouldn’t have, was or wasn’t allowed… With, it appears, no regard for Bertie’s breakfast.

It would only have taken imagining the paucity of their own pancake under similar circumstances to ignite a little compassion, wouldn’t it?

Control.

It’s not the first time, either.

With an age range of children under this roof from 3 to 13, we have a wealth of books, something for every ability. They wander, these tomes, between bedrooms according to who wants to read what and when.

At bedtime the other evening, Bertie was trying to choose something to read. He bypassed a whole pile, and when I questioned him, replied: “I’m not allowed to read those ones. I’m too little.”

Of course, it emerged that he had wanted to try, but been told not to by an older brother. I had become quite cross at this point, and asked said older brother how he was to learn if he wasn’t allowed to try?

I am a firm believer that we learn from our mistakes. Perhaps a more positive way of expressing that is that we learn from what we do that works, and what we do that doesn’t. But that does, of course, require our being allowed to experiment. It’s no good trying to mould yourself to fit someone else’s idea of what life is, means, requires of you, or someone else’s idea of who you should be, no matter their status in your life, perceived or biological.

The way I see it is that your need to control others is directly proportional to the necessity to learn self-mastery. The more you learn to control yourself, the less you feel the need to control anyone else.

The questions for these big brothers are Why does it matter to you? Why is it important to you how much syrup your brother has? Why do you mind what books he reads? Teaching them to turn that spotlight inwards and examine their driving forces…

I am also aware of the necessity to avoid making assumptions or ascribing motivations, such as “Are you jealous of his ‘extra’ syrup? Is it because you didn’t get more?” It is all too easy to make terribly ungenerous assumptions about people’s motivations. I read yesterday something that was rather synchronous, given the various lessons on autism going on under our roof just now, too. Don’t assume: ask questions. Make sure you have it clear. And try to assure that your questions themselves do not contain evaluation. Keep your mind entirely neutral as you seek the truth.

It’s going to be a lengthy process attempting to pass this wisdom on. After all, if we teach by example, and these are all lessons I am still very much needing to practice…

And lest we are feeling overly sorry for Bertie, he is unfortunately already learning by example and is capable of giving as good as he gets.

Self-mastery. It’s our lesson du jour. (…du mois… de l’annee… pour la vie) 😉

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8 responses to “Too many cooks

  • Pia

    And I would have probably put them all on oatmeal, no syrup, and let them know why 😉

    • Alice

      *chortle*
      It’s a road that’s going to take more love and demonstration (and heaps of frustration) than punishment, and a loooong time… But I hear you! 😉

      • Pia

        well, I guess there’s a reason I don’t have kids. For some reason I do have near endless patience with animals instead! (and, well, oatmeal and no sugar is actually good for you, but I don’t expect them to appreciate that now)

      • Alice

        My youngest completely loves oatmeal with no sugar 🙂
        The others… yup… with golden syrup 😉
        Oh Pia, my patience is very far from endless! But I’m working on it…

      • Pia

        well, it sounds to me like you’ve got a pretty good grip on it, catching the older ones at power practice like that. Parents who pay attention = ftw!

  • Lin Cook

    You are extremely good at this Motherhood business Alice ~ good to see you writing here again M x

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