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Contractual Obligation

My son has a way with words.  His vocabulary is pretty big, and I give myself a little credit for that because I have never “dumbed” anything down for him.  I’ve always spoken like an adult when explaining something.  “What does that mean” is always followed by even more big words and an explanation.  It’s kind of cool because he’ll ask me out of the blue what a particular word means now and again and we get into a good conversation about it.

Yesterday at the dinner table, he showed his way with words yet again.  This time, however, not for the benefit of the world.  He made his younger sister feel belittled and sad.  After a warning he was sent to his room (we don’t allow anyone to feel put down at our table).  We finished eating and I headed up to his room for a little chat.  It’s amazing how such a wordy kid can get mighty quiet when it’s time to talk about a shortcoming.

The only way he was getting out of his room was if he appologized to his sister (something he is able to muster up the “heartfelt” words for) AND told her he thought she was smart.  “NO WAY!  I AM NOT DOING THAT!!” “Ok,” I said in return, “then you get to hang out in your room.  Come down when you’re ready to comply.”  “What’s comply?” “Agree with and act accordingly.”  “Oh, well, no way.”

30 minutes later or so I was sitting with Bis on the couch when I realized Alex was in the room.  I had forgotten about him.  Apparently, the room time threshold for paying your sister a compliment is about 30 minutes.  Here’s what I heard when he came in the room: “Bis, I’m sorry I made you feel stupid.  Dad told me I had to tell you you’re smart.”  Nice, huh?  Either way, it came out. 

My hope is that one day he’ll mean it.  I do the same thing, though…not to my family, but to God.  I have a tendency to have to go through the motions on ocassion.  You don’t feel like heading to church or tithing or what have you, but you do it because it’s what you know you should be doing.  Then, the hope is that in the midst of the action you heart begins to change.  C.S. Lewis talks about this, too.  Something like this: if I’m not feeling particularly happy I pretend to be so and find in short order that I am actually beginning to feel cheery.

Sometimes a feeling of obligation moves our hearts into the right place.  Patient parents and a patient God know that.

  1. Dana
    February 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    This post reminded me of that other infamous Alex apology: “Dad, I’m sorry you’re stupid.”

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