Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From Here to There

A few weeks ago my 7th grade son ran through the door after school barely stopping to drop his backpack and say hello.

"I have to build a boat," he said and rushed downstairs to our 'toy storage' to dig up his legos and lego table.
He brought them upstairs to his room, closed the door and proceeded to build. He didn't stop for his usual 'break' after school, wasn't worried about eating, friends, or watching TV. He had a purpose and he was excited.

The boat, I eventually found out, was for a science project. From the moment he found out about it in class to the time he got home he had been planning how he was going to build it. Of course it wasn't just for looks - the boat had to float too. I kid you not when I say he invested at least 50 hours in this project. He built the base, then tweeked it a bit, then tested it and tweeked some more. Our bathtub stayed filled for several days because he would run in and test floatation then go back and work some more. [he's the youngest so it was safe to leave water in the tub]

It was so fun to watch him. School is hard for him so to see him get excited about a school project was 'WOW'! Even when he had things just right he would work on it some more. Every free minute he was in his room adding to and grooming his boat.

When the day came to turn in the project I gave my son a ride to school. This was not a project he could take on the bus. It might get bumped or something. He had prepared a special box to take it in. He did not want anyone or anything to mess with his boat. He had worked hard and he was proud of what he'd done. I was proud too. Not because of what it looked like [it was a bunch of legos with styrofoam on the bottom] but because he'd applied himself, been creative, worked hard, and done this all on his own.

Well, out of sight, out of mind. I forgot about the boat because other things took my attention. About a week later it showed up in my laundry room [lots of things get dumped here because it is next to the garage door]. It wasn't in the same shape it was when I last saw it. Pieces were missing and the box was damp. I meant to ask my son about it but got distracted again - and it wasn't laundry day so I didn't need the space. But a few days later my son brought it and set it down in front of me.

"Here's my boat," he said.

"I saw it. How did it go? Did your teacher like it?" I asked, fully expecting he did the best in the class.

"It didn't float."

"What? I saw it. It did float." I was crushed. how could his boat not float?

He shrugged. "She put a pop can on it and it sunk. I thought I tested for heavy stuff but it still didn't work."

I didn't know what to say. He'd worked so hard, put heart and soul into that project and it didn't work. He looked so dejected. I felt awful.

Well, I thought on it for awhile. I did give him a hug and tell him I was sorry but I knew that wasn't enough. He'd worked hard. I worried he would not want to work hard in the future because this project had ended in 'failure'. I couldn't stand that. There was more to building the boat than the finished project. He had a great time builiding it and that's what I wanted him to remember.

So, I pulled him aside and told him that. I acknowledged his disappointment but reminded him of his excitement of having a project he felt he would be good at. We talked about what he'd learned from trying different ideas and seeing how they worked, how fun it was to have a purpose - a goal, for his time and efforts. It was a good talk. It didn't heal how bad he felt but I think he could see that part of the fun in building the boat was the process of doing it. The end result was not the most important thing.

A few years ago, we visited Nauvoo, Illinois. One of the things that impressed me as we walked around the homes and experienced activites/responsibilities the people did  to survive was the time it took to do things. It took two years for flax to be ready to use and days to build rope, make candles, make rugs, make shoes, even bake food. It was a way of life for them. They didn't mind the process because they knew what the results would be - and that the process was necessary for the correct result.

I guess it is human nature to focus on results instead of the process but we couldn't get to the end without the beginning, middle, and everything in between that gets us to the end. The process is where we learn and grow. The process has a lot to do with the final product.

In our fast paced world it is easy to forget the importance of 'the process'. So many things are instant from communication to food but the best things in life take time. I could list those 'things' but I won't. The thing I have learned, or am trying to learn, is it is okay for things to take time.

I have struggled with this because sometimes, in the middle of something I'm working on like losing weight, writing a book, raising kids, preparing church lessons, or other goals and responsibilities, I want to know everything will turn out all right before I'm done. I want to be assured that my investment of time and effort will produce the desired results. I want to know if it's worth it before I've even finished because if it isn't I want to do something else [not the raising kids part - I'll stick with that forever. I love being a mom]

It isn't even that I want things done faster, I'm willing to put in the time if I know things will turn out all right in the end. But I'm finding that doesn't happen. If I want to see how things are going to 'end' I have to keep going through the process.

I guess I should make a point. I think what I'm trying to say is sometimes things take time and we don't always know how it will all turn out but that's okay because the process is as important as the end result.

My 7th grader has recovered from his sinking ship. Today he got to touch a heart and lungs at school. Now he wants to be a brain surgeon.