I find one of the best ways to really get to know my 11 year old is to deep clean his room. After securing my haz-mat suit and arming myself with a shovel I enter his domain. I have put this off for awhile out of sheer terror. As he gets older he has taken to hoarding a bit . His passion, office supplies. He is the only person on this planet who feels one can never have enough paperclips, stickie notes and blank books. I also have a sense he has been eating in his room. I have not seen any evidence which means I will surely encounter 5 week old pizza lodged under his desk. Taking one last deep breath I enter this boy cave.
I stumble across bits and pieces of his life that for some reason we haven't shared and have remained under layers of daily life. We talk often so I know him really well but life moves so fast I forget the little bits.
First year Japanese language book with pages of handwritten notes
Books on trees, magic, science and jokes
Several notebooks with the first page full labeled Chapter 1
Files of his drawings
Then I stumble upon a stuffed duck. His fake fur has a well loved pallor and the stitching along his head is giving way. I am filled with a sense of reverence. This duck made his way to our home via someone else's sense of compassion. When my son was 6 he attended a Christmas function hosted by a charitable group wanting to spread some joy to the children at the deaf school. Part of the party was allowing each child to pick a stuffed toy. My son stood in line and when his turn came the volunteers showed his a variety of new fancy bears, cats and other animal creatures. My son pondered his options then spotted the well loved duck pushed off to the side.
"The duck please"
"The duck? Don't you what this?" the volunteer giving a Vanna White gesture to a rather large stuffed bear.
"No,the duck please"
When he returned home he was so happy with his new friend. I asked him why he chose the duck.
"Mom, I felt sorry for him. He needs a friend. "
I stood there with this tattered creature and felt a sense of relief. We can coach our kids to say please and thank you. We can tell them to be nice and think of others but the true lesson we are wanting them to get is empathy. I often get frustrated when he picks on his sister or doesn't bother to thank me for dinner. This duck reminded me that he often does thank me for dinner. He will read to his sister when I am working late on an order. He opens the door for his grandma and at school stands up for the kid getting bullied.
When I was finished I brought him into his new zen den. He thanked me, squealed then set about putting back all of his stickie notes, blank books and paper clips.