I had a boss who once famously told me, "Keith, you have to learn to love the process." His fame for that statement likely doesn't extend much beyond me, but for the number of times I've thought back on those words - and adjusted the way I look at life because of them - I'm of the mind a statue of him should be erected in our front yard. Katie is not of the same mind - I'm fairly certain - so a blog post will have to do.
When he shared that advice with me, I was having a hard time accepting that the program I was managing at the time wasn't performing well. Nothing major. Kids disappearing in the middle of the night. Counselors disappearing in the middle of the day. My blood pressure medication disappearing faster than both.
That's when my boss reminded me the kids we were working with were troubled and the counselors young and inexperienced. If I didn't learn to love the process of teaching them and celebrating the baby steps of change, he told me, my blood pressure was going to be the least of my worries.
Eventually I got what he meant. We really weren't in the business of building super-kids or hiring perfect staff. We were in the business of teaching both to respond as favorably as possible to the ever-changing variables of the process known as life. We were really teaching them to love the process.
I was reminded this past week of why it's so important to love the process. Elliott has been trying - and I use trying very loosely here - to ride his bike without training wheels. He gave it a shot a couple of years ago, but seemed to decide forever he wouldn't mind someday being the only teenager in Hanover County pedaling the streets on his ten speed, training wheels loaded bike. That frustrated me. I wasn't as comfortable being the only future father of a teenage in Hanover County pedaling a bike around town with training wheels. But I reminded myself, over and over, this isn't about a boy riding a bike, it's about a boy going through the process of learning to ride one.
You've got to learn to love the process, Keith.
This week, Elliott, out of the blue, asked me to take the training wheels off his bike. Almost a decade before becoming a teenager. And when we took them off, it was mere minutes before he and his bike were scooting along the sidewalk like Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France - minus the yellow jacket and performance enhancing drugs of course. When he got to the end of our street and turned around to come back, the biggest smile erupted on his face. He wasn't smiling because he could ride a bike, he was smiling because he'd conquered an incredibly challenging process.
So when Ian saw this, and asked me to take his training wheels off, he immediately fell into this:
I had to remind myself once again. Keith, you've got to love the process.
I'm pleased to report Ian has since mastered his bike. Gave up his own Elliott-like smile after doing so. And through the process revealed - or more like, once again confirmed - that we have one child who approaches life cautiously and methodically - there's a right time and place for everything, and another who always believes now is the right time and place.
That child starts kindergarten today. Our baby. There's temptation to be emotional about it. To struggle with the goodbye to memories and stories only a pre-schooler can provide. To find it sadly unfathomable that our baby Ian, who's been racing far ahead of us since the moment he was born, has somehow reached an elementary school door before we could hook our hands in the back of his britches and say no - not yet. But I'm reminded again this morning, kindergarten is just his next step in life. Oh what a process life is. And if you take too much time to reflect about the part of the process that's been completed, you'll likely miss the excitement that waits on the other side of that door.
So today, I love the process. I love watching both of the boys press on. I pray God's blessing on them this new year, along with all of their classmates and teachers and parents - many of whom may be struggling to love the process themselves. But mostly, I thank God for the opportunity to watch such an amazing process unfold. To be a cheerleader. I thank God in this process called life, there is never a dull moment.