Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Day After Christmas

When I was a young teenager, about 13 or 14, I asked for a boombox for Christmas, and received one. It was the first time I'd ever really specified exactly what I wanted before, and the radio and tape player meant that I'd be able to listen to what I wanted, in my own room, whenever I wanted. I suppose it represented independence to me. And so I got it, and the next day, took it upstairs to my room and read the manual, played the one or two tapes I owned (I believe Paula Abdul was one of them), and got this really sad, empty feeling inside me. I missed the days of getting lots of surprises from my parents, true gifts because they were unexpected. I had a lot of confused feelings that I could not have put in words at the time - and when I try to now, it comes out sounding like me at 25, not me at 14. That was my introduction to Day After Christmas Syndrome.

A number of my kids are feeling the same way now. The Science Expo's over, I read in their puzzled, mildly-deflated faces: What are we supposed to do now? To tell you the truth, I feel it, too. Simple machines? Force and motion? Vocabulary and quizzes and grading every night and days that flow at a constant, not frenetic, pace? What is there to live for?

*****

I'm reading a new book by Thich Nhat Hanh, called Creating True Peace: Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community, and the World. I have loved Thich Nhat Hanh ever since I read a chapter from Being Peace where he describes a little meditation the monks in Plum Village (Buddhist retreat in France) do before driving the car, to make them think whether they are driving the car, or the car is driving them. So true, so important, and so grounded in the world as it is today.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes, "Perhaps there is a teacher in your child's school who listens with compassion and speaks without anger or judgment. The person who practices loving speech and deep listening is practicing peace. He or she opens the door for understanding, peace, and reconciliation to enter our hearts , our families, and our society."

I would like to become more like that teacher - more loving, less judgmental, more compassionate.

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