Monday, September 28, 2009

Doing It By The Book

Bob Eldridge took Joshua fishing at Jackson Harbor. Before heading out the door with a fishing pole, Bob had Joshua sign a paper declaring that when Bob said so, the two of them would come home and Joshua would get in the car. Joshua signed the paper. Off they went.
Hours later, Bob came back alone. "He wouldn't get in the car," said Bob. "I left him."
I get in the car and go after Joshua. Joshua wouldn't get in the car with me. He kept fishing.
Joe went to fetch Joshua from the fishing post.
Joshua wouldn't come. Joe waited until dark with the boy still fishing. When the last light began to fade, Joshua got into the car.
Ground him for life? Take the fishing pole forever? What would you do?
I called the police.
"Joshua really likes to fish," I told him. "He fishes intently and he doesn't want to come home. Can we drop him off at Jackson Harbor and let him fish? My dad fished from Jackson Harbor when he was half Joshua's age. My grandpa fished at Jackson Harbor. Can we set him down at the Harbor with a sack lunch and water bottle until he is fished out?"
I don't remember what the officer said exactly but I got the message that there weren't no crime to it.
I called the parent educator.
"We are going to try something," I said. "Put Joshua out at Jackson Harbor and let him fish. He loves to fish. I'm listening to him."
"Does he swim?" she asked.
"Like a fish," I replied.
"Check on him during the day," she countered.
I drove out to the Harbor and made the rounds of the DNR, the "Time Out" concession at the Jackson Harbor dock, the Karfi ferry captain.
"We aren't asking you to baby sit. Joshua is going to try fishing here. We will check on him during the day. He has ONE CHANCE. If we hear any ill report he won't be here to bother," I promised. Joshua stood beside me and heard every word.
We walked together to find an overhanging roof where he could hang out in case of rain. We located the public phone and practiced dialing home. Joshua pointed out the bathroom and confirmed he knew where to go. We set a boundary for no wandering. Absolutely NO getting into a boat even it invited.
"No second chance," I told Joshua. "We get one bad report and you are out of here," I said sternly as he gathered his pole and set down his bucket on the dock.
Joshua fished through the summer. Catch and release. Fishing till dark some days. Fixing rods for other fishermen. Talking fish talk with other anglers. Untangling lines for visitors. Reminding Joshua to pick up his trash was the extent of the needed redirection.
"That boy sure does know his stuff," we heard more than once. "He is the most intent fisherman I've ever seen," said a spectator. "I've never seen anyone fish all day without stop."
We accepted our son as a fisherman and let him be.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Washed Whiter Than Snow

10:30 a.m., Sunday morning, September 27, 2009. Ring, ring. My cell phone erupted just as I said goodbye to my new neighbor.
"Hello, this is Valerie."
"This is Donna at the church, you have to pick Joshua up. He is misbehaving badly."
"I'm in my car. Will be there in five minutes," I reply.
This wasn't the first time I had received the get-him-out-of-here call. I am the only mom with cell, home and office numbers listed in the church kitchen by the wall phone with my name on it.
In less than five minutes, I was at the church searching downstairs. "Where's Joshua," I ask when finding Donna.
"Upstairs," she answers.
Other church members intercepted me before I found the boy.
"He took berries off the bushes outside and threw them."
"Look how he ruined the carpet."
"Here he is, outside." Culprit accusations were all I heard .
I followed the blue berry stains on the carpet to where Joshua sat facing a corner on his knees.
"You've lost this," I said grabbing his yellow toy radio, ready to seize any consequence I could muster. Joshua got up and followed me without protest.
We were down the front steps when the church door opened. Another member stuck his head out. "He's got stains all over the carpet," said the man.
"I'll get it," I replied before walking beside Joshua to the car.
When we got to the car, I faced the boy.
"Trever threw them too," he said.
"We aren't talking about Trever," I countered. "What does Joshua take responsibility for?"
"Mom, your are driving too fast," he cautioned.
He was right but I didn't admit it. I stopped the car and looked at him square, raised my voice and hollered. "Don't deflect this, buddy. You are the one we are talking about. Your behavior is on the line this moment." I eased on the gas to head south on Main.
We got quiet.
I drove to Bread & Water.
"Stay right here," I said as I got out of the van.
From the kitchen, I got a bucket, brush, and cleaner. I drove back to the church.
"Stay right here," I said as I got out of the van.
I filled the bucket in the sink and went to the damage.
The congregation was singing. I was on my hands and knees on the sidewalk scrubbing,
remembering that my grandfather had fallen in love at first sight with grandma when he saw her from the back side scrubbing.
"This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. This is my story......"
I sang along. Bleach on concrete helps but there was more to it than that. The big, ugly, blue blackberry stain was being washed whiter than snow. I was flinging berry bits off the side walk until I looked up and noticed that some of the berries were hitting the church siding and there was more work to be done.
Why was Joshua locked in the car? Why wasn't he doing the work? I didn't want to give him an inch. I wanted Joshua right where I knew where he was with no wiggle room to smell the flowers or any moment for me to have to correct one more iota. I didn't want no argument. I wanted to be mad.
The singing kept coming. I kept scrubbing. I walked my way into the church foyer and worked on the carpet. Every stain, every bit, every evidence, all the horror of what my kid had done, all the it-will-never-be-the-same, look-what-he has done was removed. If a trustee had gone about the work every brush stroke may have confirmed the hooligan. Because the mother's heart was at work and the heart of God, a blessing happened.
The stains removed was evidence enough for me of love's power. I worshipped in that church this morning with my scrub brush and a bucket of hot suds, in the place where they do not believe in women ministers, the place I send our children because they learn bible stories, the place where Joshua threw berries once in his life. The place where Jesus works miracles. Joshua is one of God's miracles.
"This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long."