[Photo Credit: torbakhopper via Creative Commons]
A month from now, I will be taking my oldest child to the Missionary Training Center.
Porter and I have a lot of things to do, many of which are enumerated in a handy booklet that accompanied his mission call. However, more difficult for us are some of the tasks not listed.
As his mother, I am suddenly seeing a number of parenting tasks that I have failed to accomplish, despite being nineteen years on the job.
Porter doesn’t know how to wash dishes with the minimum amount of soap and water while still getting a maximum amount of decontamination. He doesn’t know his daily need for fiber. He doesn’t know how to sew on a button!
My son isn’t worried about these things. “Relax, Mom. It’s going to be OK. I know how to make chocolate chip cookies. I can barter for help with sewing.”
Nevertheless, I’m frantically narrating every daily task, trying to cram five plus decades of practical know-how into Porter’s brain. To be honest, as a bookish, dreamy person, I probably have only about five years of practical know-how to transmit. The time remaining before he leaves is still grossly inadequate.
If Porter plans to barter as way to meet his basic needs, what about his “soft skills”–as the organizational behaviorists label them. Or the emotional intelligence skills–as the psychologists name them. Can Porter manage his time, resolve conflicts, listen with empathy, apologize for his faults, set goals and self-monitor his progress? Why haven’t we read the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin?
Even If I could convey all my soft skills, I’m rarely the most emotionally mature person in the room. Have I modeled good people skills? Do we have time for a few family therapy sessions? Gah! With only a month left, maybe we both should just read All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
There’s gotta be a scripture for this situation.
“Yea, I know that I am nothing” (Alma 26:12) “With God All things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)
But did we have Family Home Evening every week? Family scripture study every day? Did he memorize enough scriptures to call them to memory in a crisis? Have I born my testimony in sacrament meeting in front of him enough times? Do I model Christlike behavior on daily basis? Um, no. Not all the time. And I’m probably not even entirely Christlike any of the time.
Each day we get closer to MTC drop off day, I become more and more like Polonius, giving a lecture to my Laertes (Hamlet Act I, scene iii). My son isn’t going to school in Paris, but Porter is likewise launching into the world. Polonius and I are both nervous about this time of transition.
So while Porter and I are in the department store buying his suits, I’m shouting, “Never a borrow nor a lender be!” In the halls of church I’m whispering fervently, “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice” And at the dinner table I’m imploring, “To thine own self be true!” Porter is rolling his eyes and calling me Polonius.
With a month left, can I shed my Polonius tendencies and send him off in a more grounded manner?
Yes, I can strive to be more practical, mature, and spiritual during this last month. But as I stew in the realities of my own shortcomings, I should gesture away from myself towards these resources: Porter has strengths that are uniquely his own. Where he falls short, he can draw on the strength of his fellow missionaries, the members, and the investigators in the Nevada Reno Mission to support him.
And my son can ask for divine help through many venues, not all of which I can enumerate for him even if I were more dedicated to that task. It’s time for me to move behind the curtain (but with a less fatal effect than in the play) and let Porter take center stage in his own life. My adult child will reach for God in ways that are uniquely his own.