Photo courtesy of Olga Oslina.
I dig dandelions out of the lawn around our garden. The ground is wet, and the trowel goes easily into the turf. I push it in near the dandelion stem, forcing it down as far as it’ll go before cutting off the root. If you don’t get enough of the root, the dandelion will just grow back.
I pull one weed out and toss it into a trash bag. I stick the trowel in near another dandelion and repeat the steps again and again. It’s not hard, but it’s not quick work either. The grass is riddled with dandelions. After nearly an hour, the bag is full and heavy, but when I look around I still see plenty of dandelions in the grass.
Shaping our sons’ behavior feels like a similar lesson in delayed gratification. Progress comes slowly, and as much as we do or say, some weeds remain. We repeat ourselves a lot, saying things like
No jumping on the furniture.
Let’s use a fork instead of our fingers.
We don’t talk about smacking others in the face.
No jumping off the furniture.
You don’t need to shout.
Don’t hurt your brother.
That’s not appropriate.
We may go for long periods without seeing any evidence that we’re rooting out old ways. Perhaps because we’re looking at the turf of their lives as a whole, and there are still lots of dandelions growing in there. Certainly, if we don’t dig down deep enough, we don’t get the root out and the behavior reemerges.
But we have hope that one day there’ll be far fewer dandelions, that those words won’t have been repeated in vain, that they’ll learn to dig out their own weeds.