We're three weeks into kindergarten now and, overall, things are going pretty well, but Mr. Pants does go a little crazy in the evenings. Predictable, really, and I try hard to be sympathetic (while also not, say, allowing him to beat up on his sister just because he's cranky) because, you know, he's in this very structured situation with very little say over what he's doing for six hours a day and he probably needs to blow off some steam once he's out of there.
But an interesting thing happened on Friday. He came home with some little stuffed animals that he'd gotten to choose "from the treasure box!" because he'd racked up 10 days of stars for good behavior. Boy, was he excited. Remember being a kid? A treasure box! You get to pick a toy!!! Awesome!!!!!!
So he was showing me his treasures and he was so happy and then after a little while his mood shifts and he starts to pout and he quietly says something about how he's scared that he won't always be able to be good because sometimes he feels like he wants to do something against the rules and he's afraid he won't always be able to make good choices.
And a little flashbulb goes off in my head, Oh!!!! He's not just "blowing off steam" because he's got excess energy after sitting still for awhile, he's anxious. Anxious about "being good".
(And then I'm kind of pissed off, because, you know, if there wasn't a treasure box and all this pressure to have 10 perfect days in a row, he'd probably be a little less fixated, but this is not really my point...)
So, then, on Saturday night we're reading before bed and now we've gotten to Little Town on the Prarie and Laura is 15 years old and her sister Mary is two years older and, by this point, blind from a bout of scarlet fever several years before. We're at the beginning of the book and the girls are going for a walk together and there's this astonishing moment where Laura tells Mary that she used to really hate her because she was always so good and Laura just never could be that good and it made her so mad she wanted to slap her. And Mary is upset, mostly because she's afraid that Laura still feels that way sometimes, but Laura says, no, no, you just seem to be good without trying now and it isn't annoying at all.
And then Mary admits that she deserved to be slapped back then because all she was doing was "showing off", being so impressed with herself for how good she could be.
And what had changed, Laura wants to know?
First, Mary quotes the Bible, that "we are all desperately wicked" and then she says, "But that's not the point... I don't believe we ought to think so much about ourselves, about whether we are bad or good... — it isn't so much thinking as — as just knowing. Just being sure of the goodness of God."
And I'm reading this to Mr. Pants, thinking up to this point, oh, how lovely is this little vignette of two sisters reconciling and clearing the air of their younger quarrels; maybe this will help him somehow, and then we get to this and Mary's words hit me. "I don't believe we ought to think so much about ourselves."
Because, really, how much effort do I spend worrying about whether I am bad or good? About whether this purchase, that meal choice, this babysitting arrangement, that school, this career, that hobby is good or bad or good enough or at least not too bad? Too much, even if I do try so hard to avoid "showing off" about it.
Clearly, there are choices that good and bad and better or worse and it matters, but nothing is perfect and the world is so complex that we would have to be God Himself to see every last ramification of any one of our decisions. And thinking too much about myself, about whether I am "bad" or "good", sure does make me cranky after a while (or — for shame! — self-righteous), which really gets in the way of what I know is the higher calling, being sure of goodness and, maybe simply as a side effect, being a blessing to those around me.
Because I am, yes, "desperately wicked". But studying my own accounting book, however subconciously or surreptitiously, trying to make sure the "good" marks outnumber the "bad" ones can't fix that or help much of anything else, although I think most of us hope or think or wish sometimes that it could.
Hitting "post" before I lose my nerve.... Happy Monday!