I was so proud of our sons yesterday morning. I wasn't yet out of bed and the two oldest boys were up and delivering door hangers to advertise to the people in our neighborhood about our church's upcoming Harvest Festival. They were "in the mission field" just a 9- and 11-year-old, on their own -- but together -- doing God's work.
If you knew our oldest two boys, you'd know that the number of things they do together (and enjoy) is very, very small. Our oldest two are like night and day, polar opposites in most every way but gender. They are highly competitive and often seem to actually hate one another. It's an ongoing project, helping these two brothers learn to become friends.
After they returned home, I praised them abundantly for their good work hanging 100 door hangers between them. I praised their cooperativeness. I praised their fortitude in the face of rejection (they told of many neighbors who yelled at them to get off their porches - that they didn't want the flyer). I praised the fact that when they returned home, they somehow seemed more closely bonded. They got along and didn't compete, nor argue for a good hour afterwards. They are a good team -- if only they could see it for themselves.
I made them egg and bagel sandwiches and served them in gratitude for their efforts and good attitude about the job and about each other. They were all smiles and pride.
Within a couple hours, they started back to their usual argumentative ways. They talked back to me, they argued with me and each other, they disobeyed and were just plain ornery. I tried with all my might to hold onto the brief period of time this morning that provided me with a glimpse into their future maturity. It was a hopeful time and I wanted so badly to help that feeling last.
After correcting the behavior of our oldest son once again, I sighed heavily and asked, "Didn't it feel nice this morning to hear me praising your good behavior and all that you did right?"
He said, "Yeah."
I asked, "Why don't you strive for that more? Why don't you continue making good choices so you can hear more of that from me?"
He said, "Well, I kind of thought that was by accident."
Oh my. There's a long road ahead for the boys and me, I think. Someday they will learn that they can choose to be good on purpose ... but we're not there yet.