Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lessons we don't teach

This evening our elder son is at a birthday party. The birthday boy invited him to sleep over so, instead of fetching him at the agreed time, we dropped off an overnight bag. When he texted us to tell us that he had been invited to sleep over and we hit on the idea of packing a bag for him, our younger son volunteered to do the packing. I found him standing staring tearfully into his brother's wardrobe.

"What's up?"

"I can't believe I complain about my clothes! There's nothing in here! HE HAS NO CLOTHES!"

Now this is not entirely true. Our elder son does have clothes, but he has struggled to find a job since we moved and his allowance isn't enough to secure a plentiful supply. We buy the things our boys need to wear to school, but their casual clothes are officially their own problem. Of course, every now and again, we take them somewhere and augment their wardrobes, but we deliberately keep the leash fairly short, because (a) we want them to appreciate what they have and take care of them and (b) we want them to earn their own money and appreciate the amount of work each new pair of Nike trainers represents.

The thing is our elder son never complains. He just gets on with it. He makes do with what he has. Unlike his brother, he won't throw a strop and refuse to go out because a particular pair of jeans is in the wash.

Our younger son was so convicted by the evidence of his own eyes, that he has spent the entire evening - of his own volition - washing and ironing every item of his brother's clothes that he can find. Now we didn't teach him that... not in so many words, anyway. But people don't only learn what they are explicitly taught. They learn all sorts of stuff along the way. What a neat formal/informal study!

When I saw him heading into his brother's room with a massive pile of stuff, I said "What a sweet brother!"

His reply?

"Yeah, he is."

My heart is full to bursting!


Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful! You have an angel for a son. Am teary eyed too, some souls are just saintly. Am touched by his reply, amazing! I just read this with my son not knowing what lay ahead and now he arguing with me that kids there don't have a uniform, they have school clothes. I wish my son appreciated things as your children do. You must be such a good parent to bring up such wonderful kids. The post where you mentioned about his running a bath, that too spoke of what a sensitive child you have. Lucky mother!

The upsycho said...

@rina I think that, for the most part, my kids are as they are in spite of me, rather than because of me. But bear in mind, that there is a lot that goes on that I don't share here - most of which is evidence that they are just ordinary teenagers. Like every ordinary teenager, they are both capable of moments of astonishing insight and grace.

As to you son's question about school uniform, etc. Almost all schools here have a uniform. My kids' previous school didn't but it was the exception. When the kids have finished their GCSE year (at age 16) they may choose to leave school. If they stay on for the extra two years it takes to get 'A Levels', they will not have to wear uniform, but they will usually be expected to dress smartly as adults going to the office.