Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Charlotte Mason Living.
Susan Schaeffer Macaulay wrote:
Try a simple experiment. Take a small child on your knee. Respect him. Do not see him as something to prune, form, or mold. This is an individual who thinks, acts, and feels. He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is, not in who he will become…
Look well at the child on your knee. In whatever condition you find him, look with reverence. We can only love and serve him and be his friend. We cannot own him. He is not ours.
I tried this experiment. At nine years old, my youngest is getting a bit too old to sit on my knee. But he is not too old to take out for ice cream. He is a figure skater, and I am surprised at what he has been able to accomplish so far in his short life. His coach wants him to think about pairs skating. I decided to have a father-son conversation about it. Just the two of ice, over ice cream. Or rather, frozen yogurt.
I sat across from him at the high table at Menchie’s. I thought about Macaulay’s words before we started our conversation.
“Respect him. Do not see him as something to prune, form, or mold. This is an individual who thinks, acts, and feels.”
I asked him what he thought about pairs skating. His answer was soft, sensitive, and thoughtful. I asked a few follow-up questions. I tried to understand better.
“He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is…”
He told me he did not want to skate pairs. I probed, I gently reasoned. He said he would like to do ice dance. I explored. What is the difference, really? What is it about ice dance that makes it OK, that you don’t find in pairs?
“In whatever condition you find him, look with reverence…”
He gave me some logical reasons. I gently probed further. Do you really think that? Are you sure?
“We can only love and serve him and be his friend…”
He soon ran out of logical, rational reasons. He could no longer explain to me what was different. But at that moment, for perhaps the first time, I looked at him as if he was a person. A child who was a person. A feeling welled up in me; not so much a feeling of reverence, as much as a feeling of love. I looked at him and I loved him so very much.
In the most gentle way, he indicated that he was impatient with my questions. With a quiet earnestness, he said, “Dad, I just don’t want to do pairs.” For a moment, I felt that I could see through his face to a heart that had made a choice. A choice that he couldn’t really explain. But a choice that reflected something about who he really was.
“We cannot own him. He is not ours.”
I heard Jason Fiedler tell the story of when as a young man, he met with a pastor and explained to him his vision for ministry. Jason elaborated in great detail to this older pastor about his ideas, about his dreams. After pouring out his heart, the pastor said to him, in so many words,“You have the wrong dream. You need to go find a different dream.”
I looked at my son. Would you like to be the very best ice dancer you could be? “Yes.” I realized that I was stepping on holy ground. God forbid that I ever tell someone, “You have the wrong dream. You need to go find a different dream.”
I stopped all the questions. It seemed tears were forming in my eyes. “Son, I will tell your coach.” I don’t need to understand all the reasons. Your dream is safe with me. No coach, no parent, no adult is going to tell you to find a new one. You may be a child, but you are also a person.
I was quiet as we drove home from Menchie’s. I didn’t have all the logical reasons for the coach, but I did have the answer. And I had something precious to keep and to protect. A child’s dream.