Hard Life or Easy Life

It’s a new year of school (Alec is starting the 1st grade) and with it comes a new set of challenges. Last year in Kindergarten, Alec’s performance issues were talking, playing, and doing cartwheels at the wrong time. Coming into the second week of school, talking when he should not, has turned into his first challenge. Yesterday, he had four warnings for talking which led to not completing one of his tasks.

Growing up, I don’t remember being much of a talker. As I got older, not talking turned out to be a social negative. When others were building valuable social skills, I was locked away in my own thoughts. Now I am constantly waging a battle to become more approachable, with a positive demeanor, as opposed to my normal serious countenance. Often, I have to remind myself to be more engaging, to talk more.

I asked Alec why he was talking so much. He said, “I am trying to make friends.” Now that puts me in a conundrum. Not doing what you are supposed to in school should warrant some form of punishment. Building strong social skills that can enhance your personal and professional life as an adult, however, may be a more valuable lesson than any traditional education can provide. What Alec needs is balance. He needs to be able to do both and to do each at the appropriate time.

Sometimes it is not enough to do our best, we must do what is required. –Winston Churchill

The Punishment.

In Army Basic Training, a young soldier quickly learns the consequences of not doing what he is supposed to do. Usually this is in the form of physical exertion. My platoon in Basic underwent a lot of physical exertion. In the beginning, we did our best. It was never good enough, and we paid for it in our sweat and tears. Towards the end, we learned that doing what was required far outweighed our best intentions. In doing what was required, our extracurricular physical exertion was considerably reduced.

50 Push-ups, 50 Sit-ups, 5 total minutes Wall Sit

We broke Alec’s punishment down into a simple circuit of the three above exercises. 5 repetitions each of push-ups and sit-ups followed by a wall sit for as long as he could hold it. Except the last 10 seconds of the wall sit, this workout was not too difficult for Alec. The goal of this punishment was not to break him down. It wasn’t to psychologically scare him out of talking again. The purpose was to remind him that there are consequences for our actions. As long as he doesn’t get into trouble, I encourage him to talk. More importantly, we must do what is required. In this case, completing all tasks.

Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life. –Jerzy Gregorek, author of The Happy Body and legendary Olympic weightlifter.

The Lesson.

We are always making choices. The fruits of our present choices are always borne out in the future. Looking back again on my younger years, I made many easy choices. Every time I chose credit instead of cash, cheap and easy foods instead of high quality “fuel,” or laziness over action, I paid a very expensive price at later date. All the easy choices made my life much harder. Some of these choices I am still paying for today.

When Alec chose to talk instead of completing his tasks, he was making the easy choices. A hard choice would have been wait for the right time to talk. As a result of his easy choice, he paid for it through exercise. This may sound harsh to some, but it is a relatively small price for the value of the lesson. If he can learn to do the hard things now, he can possibly have a much easier life in the future. Many parents want the best for their children. In many cases, this results in the parents enabling their children in a futile attempt at making their lives easier. But gifts are often under-appreciated and easily squandered compared to possessions earned. I want Alec to have an easy life, but I can’t give it to him. He has to earn it by making the hard choices now.

The Dark Side

Should I be concerned about my little boy?

A couple of days ago, we were watching The Empire Strikes Back. After Luke lost his hand, Darth Vader said, “Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.” Alec looked at me and said, “I think that if I was Luke, I would go ahead and join his daddy. It would be a lot easier.”

Today while working out in the garage, Alec tells me he can’t wait for Christmas so he can go ahead and get his coal. At first I thought he said “cold.” I asked him why he wants it to be cold and he confirmed that it wasn’t the cold but the coal he was waiting for. Is my sweet, precious, innocent little boy already contemplating the dark side?

No tree can go down to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell. –Carl Jung

All of us have to choose our own paths. As a parent we can only guide, hope, and pray that our children make the right choices. Answering my initial question, of course I am concerned about him. I have been concerned ever since his conception. If he is anything like me, there will always be a call to the dark side. He will have to choose. Hopefully before then I would remind him of Jerzy Gregorek’s quote, “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” Son, the dark side is the easy path, don’t go down it.