The River, The Valley, and Chess
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
My high schooler son came home one day and announced, "Apparently, I'm good at chess." These are five words that strike fear in my heart, right behind, "I don't understand my math." You see, I've thus far avoided ever playing chess in my forty-plus years. Then the dreaded next words, "Mom, will you play me?" I honestly admitted, "I've never played chess--you'll have to show me how. Is it harder than checkers?" He assured me, "It's way easy, Mom." He proceeded to explain the rules--several times over. I asked if he could possibly write me up a cue card of who could do what when. He promised he would, but it's been a few weeks and we haven't attempted chess again. But I know what I need to do: start practicing against a computer so I can sooner than later pull out our fancy wooden board and exclaim, "You wanna piece of ME!?" The reason chess will be so important to us is because I've been attempting for the last year to find how to connect with this son. Whatever I suggest "Isn't something a kid does with his mom, Mom." So this is it! And it's beyond my intellect currently! So try I will, and when I win, I'll report back. [Note to reader: don't look for that post, you won't find it.] So the other day, I sat pondering about the advice of Lehi to his sons, Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon. Lehi tells his elder sons to be like a river of righteousness and a firm and steadfast valley (1 Nephi 2:8-10). I've always assumed we were being shown by Lehi how to be a good dad: tell your children how much you expect of them. Tell them when they need correction--like to be more like a river and a valley than like you are being now--a volcano and a snake pit. Verse 11 says, "Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father...."
As I sat and pondered this scripture, I struck upon the opposite: maybe we learn from Lehi what NOT to do: tell our kids what we expect of them, instead of loving them and accepting them unconditionally while we work on our own salvation. Obviously, Laman and Lemuel had already been trained to choose the right.
Would the entire course of the Book of Mormon have been altered without warring factions between Nephi and his rebellious brothers--and we'd have had to learn how to repent and obey another way? What if Lehi had said, "You know, I remember what it was like to be your age--you'll turn out fine," they would have done just that.
As you might guess, my apparently-good-at-chess son has had his choices of rebellion I wish I could correct "my way:" “Be like a gazebo and a waterfall. I’ll even name them after you.” But I want to show him I love him how he is amid his rebellion by choosing to speak his language of chess. When I feel like reminding him to be honest, to make better choices, and do things my way, I instead turn my rebellion in favor of his rebellion and say, "You know, I appreciate you so much. Even when you win."