Thank you, kind parents, for giving me bottles to make me well.
Mr Darling in "Peter Pan" by J. M. Barrie
Every parent wishes to raise their child to be capable, independent, and yet still remain appreciative enough to visit once in a while in those declining autumn years, so that every longing look from the window shall not be in vain, and most of those that are will be sufficiently trimmed with happy memories, and with happy anticipations of many more to come.
Are any of us wise or foresightful enough to choose each experience that would develop and improve our natural situation and abilities, while eschewing every experience that would do damage to the same? Few of us are wise enough to even think upon wishing that we were so.
There is time enough for early morning study on every other blessed early morning yet to rise, it is the mornings in bed that are in short supply. Does this homework assignment really matter among so many?
It is not the tomorrows that multiply all those good intentions, for they are all born of the now which says wait and not yet, and so it is the now, in the moment, that the unyielding twig must be unbent for the sake of the tree. There will be other shining moments to improve, says the youth to the parent attempting to incline him towards improving on any of them.
The debate between can't and won't is a narrow distraction and often chosen by a schoolmaster as a more familiar and a less exerting strategy and almost as effective as combining all their wit with honeyed words, which makes only a very small helm by which to steer reluctant pupils. The schoolmaster has been beaten back by a never-ending sea of youths, wave upon wave, year upon year, dashing his castles in the sand, and leaving a pristine shore as they depart to whence they came.
The parent is a specialist craftsman, with a lifetime commitment, and with no end in view so narrow as mere matriculation, which is only one possible stepping stone of many on a carefully consulted route.
When the young lad won't go in and make so many friends for life from a group of strangers his age, what is a father to do? Where reason and determined entreaties may fail, force is futile and will only cultivate immunity against all the more gentle influences in the future.
Complete capitulation can't be countenanced -- who wants the present problem to persist permanently?
Do you know how to make a donkey turn around on a narrow staircase? It's very easy when you know the trick, which I am at liberty to reveal to you at some future time in the form of a song. The refrain is based upon the idea that a donkey will do what a donkey wants to do, and when the donkey wants to do it; and it goes like this: you got to make him want to.
It is a strategy that has often succeeded. Children will often want to do what they should when they realise that everything else is more boring.
I was once losing influence due to constant brow-beating. My over-used arguments were losing their force. The lad and I were getting fed up, and I was blowed if I was going to carry on like that all night. I needed something to strengthen the relationship, to give a distraction to clear the mind, to give time for everyone to think, while not removing the choice or obligation.
Inspiration spoke, and the solution was to go for a walk up a steep hill in the summer evening, away from the present pressing problem. Time to explore, time to talk - and if about nothing else, then about what we explore, about what we might find next, whether there will be a chip shop, and which road leads back. If the troublesome topic became too touchy, we temporarily talk of trivial things.
It was an activity that would require exertion, rewarded by a quite predictable though somewhat novel experience, and new sights of minor interest.
It was also sure to be just as steep next time, and slightly less interesting.
There were worse ways to spend the evening, and time for one to conclude (who knows?) as dread dissipates in the daylight outdoors, that going in and meeting new people might actually be better than this.
The obligation to overcome the obstacle remains. Any paths that ultimately lead back to this fearsome obstacle would be a blessing, for any steps which did not would need to be retraced.
The parent's duty is to create an environment that reflects this truth: The way out is the way through.
The boy became the master. Such situations cannot dominate him. Having paid the price, he knows their secret, and one secret more:
By paying the price, man may know the secret, and overcome.
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