So, for the past week I basically went dark on internet interaction. It was weird to leave the “computer me” behind–all my editing projects and writing and this great swirling pit of time-suck known as social media that must be done when a person has a book recently in publication. It was nice to just be non-connected, truthfully. In fact, I think I’ll start making myself take a week off here and there on a regular basis.
So, the whole impetus of this was that my husband and I took our two sons to Washington, DC, to see the nation’s capital, including the Capitol, so they could get a better sense of the absolutely great and blessed country they were fortunate enough to be born into. We saw a zillion things, including a few crazy people on the Metro, and a surprisingly large number of women in full length electric-purple fur coats. Oh, and President Obama (from a distance.)
I should add here that the trip was a result of a bribe. When our oldest started piano lessons in Kindergarten 9 1/2 years ago, I offered him a bribe: when he could play 100 hymns from our church’s hymnal I’d take him to DC. He was born there, so I kind of knew even then he would like to see it. Especially because at the time he was obsessed with space and I’d told him about the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. In the first week of January, he crossed off number 100. So cool!
I really was proud of him. It’s a big accomplishment as far as I’m concerned. In my piano career of 4 1/2 years, I only made it to being able to play about 10 hymns, and only 2 well enough to accompany anyone. Not that it stopped me from trying (and subsequently making a fool of myself in various church meetings. In fact, I remember being in a meeting where they were desperate for a pianist and agreeing to play the right hand of the opening song. After two verses, the person conducting stood up and stopped me, saying, “Oh, let’s stop there and put ourselves out of our misery.” No lie.)
The way I figure it, a young man (or anyone, really) who can play the piano is always welcomed with enthusiasm wherever he goes. You’re never a drain of the economy of the church if you can play the hymns.
I basically started saving up for the trip when I offered the bribe, and it was worth it.
Over the years I’ve realized that there’s a delicate balance in parenting. Being no expert, I can’t say how this will pan out as the five entrusted to us mature, but the times when things seem to go best — best mix of good behavior and kids-moving-forward-toward-reasonable goals, etc. — has seemed to be when we as parents employ the correct balance of THREATS and BRIBERY. I should throw in there that all important spice of PRAISE.
“If you guys finish your homework by dinner we’ll eat ice cream.” = Bribery
“If you guys don’t finish your homework by dinner you won’t get ice cream.” = Threats
“You guys are so great! You finished your homework! Let’s have ice cream!” = Praise.
Usually, however, my husband has more creative threats than this. They’re random and often relate to some chemical experiment he’s doing in his greenhouse or at his mine. My favorite of all time was about five years ago, “Are you guys going to behave or do I have to get down the sulfuric acid?” Har. As if. And I guess while my threats and bribery are meant to be taken seriously, his are mainly to shock the kids into laughing, which changes the subject from the bad behavior, accomplishing the same thing anyway.
So, back to the D.C. trip. I had to praise my kids because as we walked through Arlington Cemetery, all the way from the Iwo Jima Memorial to the Tomb of the Unknowns (to watch the changing of the guards), a good mile or two walk, our boys were very reverent as we walked over hills and past acres and acres of our honored dead, taking in the enormity of the sacrifice offered to them so they can be threatened or bribed into eating ice cream after finishing their homework here in this great, free land.