Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Our book club, led by Javamom, is reading through Volume 1 (y'all come). Javamom couldn't be there last night, and we sure missed her! Another friend kept us in line enough to get us most of the way through the assigned reading (on habit), and here are some thoughts that leaped out at me:

In conclusion, let me say that the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions––a running fire of Do and Don't; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way, and grow to fruitful purpose. The gardener, it is true, 'digs about and dungs,' prunes and trains, his peach tree; but that occupies a small fraction of the tree's life: all the rest of the time the sweet airs and sunshine, the rains and dews, play about it and breathe upon it, get into its substance, and the result is––peaches. But let the gardener neglect his part, and the peaches will be no better than sloes. p. 134

(Sloe: a tart, plumlike fruit)

This must be the measuring stick for habit training-- for those of us that feel more secure with such a thing. (That would be me.) How far do the kids follow good everyday patterns when you let them alone? And what bad habits do they fall into when you are not saying Do and Don't?

(I am reminded of a lady that I once heard chastising her daughter for some breach of good manners in public-- she said, "Have you forgot your home trainin'?!" Almost completely off-subject, but that is how my mind works.)

The next quote:

Here, again, is an illustration of that fable of the anxious pendulum, overwhelmed with the thought of the number of ticks it must tick. But the ticks are to be delivered tick by tick, and there will always be a second of time to tick in.

Hello, my name is Mother Auma, and I am an Anxious Pendulum. (Hi, Mother Auma.)

But I am working on it. The thought that there will be a second for each 'tick' reminds me of two sayings used by the eloquent family of Queen Shenaynay:

"The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you."


"Now is not forever."

Last night as we read this, a friend quoted Zechariah 4:10--

"For who hath despised the day of small things?"

This is the section where Charlotte comforts us mothers, not only with the reassurance that there will be a second for each 'tick', but that training children in good habits is habit-forming for the adult as well as the child-- the teaching of good habits eventually becomes a routine and a pleasure.

My fragmented brain went to the movie Finding Nemo at this point in the discussion. Dory is one of my favorite characters-- she suffers from short-term memory loss, but although this shortcoming leaves her with very little control in even everyday situations, she tends to trust that things will be fine. (This is where the movie falls apart in terms of redeeming qualities, imho. The Lord is never mentioned,and if she doesn't believe in the Lord, how can she think everything will turn out right? However, everything does work out, so I tend to think He just wasn't mentioned-- faith, but not according to knowledge, you know. Yes, I realize it is just a movie. But I digress.)

The dad fish, Marlin, is a frantic basket case, even before he loses his son. But Dory, with all her issues, actually helps him to let go and trust. She is fond of saying, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming." Hey, we sing this at our house some days. It reminds me to keep going, take a few steps every day, even when it seems nothing is going right (seems being the operative word here-- I tend to be a little dramatic when something is not going well). My dad sometimes says we are responsible to the Lord for process, not results, and I think that applies here.

Some days I feel like all we are doing is treading water, standing in the same place, but habits do eventually get built-- we have not yet "arrived", but I do speak from experience. I also know from experience that there are always many more pesky little faults waiting in the wings to be worked on! But isn't that the story of the child of God? We all have another sin to combat once we conquer the first besetting sin-- they peel off like layers on an onion, with something else to work on underneath (sometimes my layers come back on with a slap! much to my frustration, and I have to work them off again!). What better way to train our kids in the Christian life than to quietly and persistently lead them in the formation of good habits?

We talked about so much more, but I will leave this post as is-- it is getting lengthy. Perhaps I will sit down later and write out the rest.

Oh, but I almost forgot about the post title. Let me throw in these two quotes and the definition of the word develop:

A vigorous effort of will should enable us at any time to fix our thoughts. Yes; but a vigorous self-compelling will is the flower of a developed character... p. 139

In this part, she is talking about learning the habit of attention. Most young children are almost completely without vigorous self-compelling will. It is there-- a seed-- but strong character must be formed in order for it to flower. This is where the gardener (mom/teacher) must prune and weed and feed gently, and allow the sun and rain to do its work as well.

But it cannot be too much borne in mind that attention is, to a great extent, the product of the educated mind; that is, one can only attend in proportion as one has the intellectual power of developing the topic. p. 146

In other words, learning breeds attention, which breeds learning. This is so important for mommies who are starting with little ones. Attention develops as the child learns, and it is gradual. Our job is to make sure the lessons are age-appropriate, and short enough that the child doesn't learn the counter-habit of inattention. And, especially at the beginning, we form the implied 'must' in the background.

And my favorite definition of the word develop: To bring from latency to or toward fulfillment.

This is how I want to help my kids-- bring their good intentions and capabilities from latency toward fulfillment.

(And because we are doing the cultural literacy thing in this post, here is a favorite line from one of my favorite Dan Fogelberg songs:

"His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand."

Amen and amen. I sure want to understand that!)

Note: My apologies to those of you receiving this post on feeds-- I know you will probably get hit with it multiple times due to my unfortunate habit of editing after hitting publish. I just have a hard time envisioning what it will look like actually published. I don't know why that makes such a difference.

1 comment:

G.L.H. said...

Thank you for such a thought-full post. At first I read it with my children in mind, but then I got a picture of *me*--who never was exceptionally disciplined, but seemingly, I have really Devolved in that area. The things you (and Charlotte) have said are a good place for me to begin a "checklist" and Re-train myself in some of those things. The Lord is saying, "it's time to take care of some of this" now. I'd like to link to this post when I post again on my blog.

Thanks again!