When Chris and I worked at Second Nature Blue Ridge we learned more about ourselves and our relationship in that six months than ever before and maybe even since then. I could start a whole separate blog about our adventures there, maybe even write a book. The amount of self-examination and reflection was overwhelming at times but lead to much needed discoveries and growth about ourselves – individually and as husband and wife. Yes, we were there to teach and challenge the youth to desire better, try harder, respect their values, discover themselves, and ultimately believe in who they can be – I challenge anyone, ANYONE, to do that with your whole heart and not walk away a changed person.
One of the methods that we were taught to use was to present the student’s life as if they were looking in a mirror. It wasn’t our job to tell them their behavior or choices were wrong because of blah blah blah… rather, it was our job to help them see and reflect on their choices that got them there, allowing them to then search out the destructive nature of their behaviors and hopefully find the will to change. (We were also encouraged to do this without emotional attachment, which for me and my background, I found to be next to impossible – if not for being “with child” this likely would have been the impetus for leaving SNBR eventually.)
A second part of this tool is to mimic the student’s actions, tone, verbiage when engaged in conversation – heated, emotional, joyful, painful – to indicate to them that you understand, you hear them, and you are listening. For example, if I am sitting across from a student and they have their head resting on their right hand, I might rest my head in my left – as to mirror them. If a student uses a slang word like pot or reefer or maryjane, that is what I would call it in response rather than marijuana or cannibus – as to not appear above or better than them.
As interesting as all of this may be, and it is, my point is not to ramble on about SNBR – like I said, I could start a whole blog just for that…
Chris, Noah, and I were coming home from supper last night and Chris said, “I want to share an observation with you, more for myself than you, but I still want to tell you about it…”. I immediately recognize these words as SNBR lingo and my attention is acutely focused on what he is about to say. He goes on to tell me that when he was changing Noah’s diaper earlier in the day he started to get very fussy, for no reason in particular. Sometimes he doesn’t care for the changing table, but Chris said that his fussing continued on into the living room when he was playing on the floor with him, and then on into Noah’s room when Chris took him in there to play. While in his room Chris noticed that Noah was taking the folded clothes off of the stool and throwing them on the ground while making a growling type of noise and his face all distorted. He continued to watch him to see what he would do…
As he was sitting and watching it hit Chris like a lightning bolt that Noah was absolutely mimicking something he has seen before, most likely from one of two sources that he spends near about every waking moment with – Chris or Grits. Noah’s brain computes: I am frustrated = this is what daddy/doggy does = clothes thrown (with meaning) on the floor. At this point most of his behaviors are learned, something he has seen before whether we would like to admit it or not. It’s that whole nurture vs. nature thing – just because nurture sounds like a nice and fluffy word doesn’t mean that the nurture part always is. It can be ugly or nice, sassy or sweet, feisty or patient – whichever it is, he sees it, learns it, and repeats it. And that repeating part is the one the either makes us bubble over with joy or want to hide underneath the nearest table.
We’ve had a lot of lessons in parenting over the last year, but I think now that Noah is really starting to develop his own little sense of self, the lessons get a little personal. He is a walking (hypothetically), talking, fit-pitching, kiss-giving, laughing, adventurous, risk-taking, sassy, clothes throwing miniature of us. Me. Chris. People we allow to be a part of his life. Us.
Time to get our act together, it seems… we now have a reflection, about two and a half feet tall, that mirrors our every step.