March 24, 2010

A Toot for Tobin's Horn

It dawned on me after my last post that I really should make more effort to notice and applaud the spiritual growth of my children in the same way I recognize their academic achievements. After all, that is one of the major reasons we homeschool, right?! Sometimes it seems that growth is so s-l-o-w and nearly unnoticeable, until all of a sudden we realize, wow, that has not been an issue in a long time!

Since Tobin is often the, ah, challenging child in our family, it is high time I share some positive choices I've seen him make recently. Just before Ted's TDY Tobin came home from a neighbor's house in tears. His story was that one of the boys (there were a number of them playing together) had thrown a toy at him, and it hit Tobin in the head. Sure enough, he had a mark. (And two days later there were still two coin-sized bruises on his forehead.) I asked what else had happened, and he just shook his head and got his book to read. I usually take what Tobin tells me with a grain of salt, knowing he is often the instigator, and assumed that there was more to the story than he was telling me.

So two days later when he asked to play with the boys again, I let him go, assuming that since he had apparently forgotten the incident, hopefully things would be smoothed over. He returned shortly in tears again, saying that one of the moms told Tobin he could not play there since this other kid was there also. I drew the whole story out of Tobin of just what had happened previously, and it went something like this.

O.K. ("Other Kid") called Tobin a name during a game they were playing. (The name was "Stupid Sobin.") Tobin naturally got angry and promptly called O.K. the feminine version of his name (i.e. added "elle" to the end of an -el name). O.K. got angry and threw the toy at Tobin that caused the bruising. Tobin lost it, chased O.K. around the room until O.K. ran outside, and then Tobin locked the door so he couldn't come back inside. The rest of the boys turned on Tobin and told the adult in charge that Tobin had locked O.K. out of the house, and Tobin was sent home. (I'm not sure why Tobin didn't mention the welts on his head--I think in his shoes, I would have wanted to make sure it was clear that I wasn't the only one at fault!)

Arden later vouched for this story, and I also heard from a different mom that it does seem the other boys in the neighborhood tend to gang up on Tobin and pick on him. Plus, Tobin and O.K. are like oil and water, and though Tobin says O.K. is one of his "best friends," I have my doubts about the mutuality of that sentiment.

So, anyway, in my mind O.K. definitely started the tiff, but Tobin obviously played a role in the whole thing. When Tobin was sent home this second time, he was ready to head to another friend's house instead. I said I thought maybe he should consider how he could make things right with O.K. He thought about it and came up with the idea of writing an apology letter. He did so all on his own and brought it to me. It was a sweet letter that asked for forgiveness right off the bat, then launched into a list of all the fun things he hoped he could do with O.K. I approved it (although I did suggest that he actually write the words "I'm sorry" on there somewhere, LOL), and then we prayed together that O.K. would accept the apology and that God would be glorified as Tobin did his best to make things right. Off Tobin went to deliver the letter.

O.K. received the letter well and invited Tobin to play with him and the other boys, and they spent the afternoon happily playing together. When Tobin came home, I asked for a report, and he told me all had gone well. I asked if O.K. had apologized to him (since he had, after all, caused Tobin bodily harm!), and Tobin's response was amazing: "No, he didn't, but that's OK, because he doesn't go to church."

Somehow Tobin realizes that having God in his life makes him different, and he was willing to show grace to a kid who doesn't understand why our family thinks it's important to confess our wrongs and ask for forgiveness. I was blown away, and SO proud of my son!

After this incident, I started actually paying more attention to Tobin's actions and responses. Ted left for Mississippi (or, as Kenna calls it, "Mitsi-pippi"), and I have to admit that Tobin was really a huge help during his absence. Typically I lean on Charis a little to help things go smoothly--she cares so well for the little ones and can be depended on to do anything you ask her. But Tobin was the one who stayed in from playing one afternoon to help me put the house back in order when it was an absolute disaster, and Tobin was the one to give me back scratches and extra "I love you, Mom"s and "Thanks for dinner" sentiments when he knew I was feeling frustrated and unappreciated. I'm thankful for the opportunity to see my often headstrong boy in a different light, and I praise God for working in his heart even on days when I wonder whether any abstract thought will seep into that concrete head.

And one final thing to note...after I came home from a long day running a big stamp camp, I found this on the counter. You can click on the image to see it enlarged and should be able to read the sweet note Tobin wrote. The reason this is so spectacular is that he NEVER does stuff like this! Arden has always been my bring-Mom-flowers boy, picking dandelions and anything else that resembles a flower and bringing them to me with a sweet, "Here, Mom! I got this for you!" So the rarity of such an occurrence makes this especially endearing.


The Litwillers said...

Thanks so much for sharing that. Ben is quite often my challenging child and I can only pray that what we're trying to teach him is hitting home. Thanks for the encouragement.

taylordi said...

How sweet! He is head strong and curious and so sweet it just doesn't always show. Now I am off to get a tissue for the tears.

Amos said...

That just SO moved my heart I have tears rolling down my cheeks as well. You are an amazing mother and your blogging has blessed me beyond measure. Thank you SO much.