Before today I never thought to wonder what goes through the mind of a drill sergeant as he shouts for recruits to stop being babies and keep going. The drill sergeant is never the protagonist in films or books. Sometimes he is the villain, but most of the time he is like a force of nature that the protagonist has to survive. But now I think that in the real world there are drill sergeants who have a deep sympathy for the pain of the recruits. The drill sergeants shout anyway because they know that being tough is the only way to prepare recruits for what they must become. The drill sergeant must drive recruits beyond their limits so that their capabilities are greatly expanded.
I though of all this today as I steeled my soul and told Kiki harshly that she has plenty of time to get her work done, but not if she spends any of it sitting on the floor crying. She glared at me, but it was the angry glare of knowing that I am right. She got back to work and is now nearly done with the art piece that has bedeviled her for nearly a week. After she stopped being quite so mad, she and I talked about the point of boot camp and how it forces people to grow or to break.
“But mom,” she said with tears in her eyes. “How do I know I’m not broken? I feel broken.”
“I can tell you’re not broken because you’ve got that pen in your hand and you’re drawing.”
She seemed to find comfort in that. Or at least to accept it. Her schedule really is manageable this year. She will have time for fun things as well as work things. The thing she will not have is large swathes of time during which nothing is expected of her. She will need to adapt. I know she can. She has already begun.
I will have to adapt too. Sympathy comes more naturally to me than harsh demands, but right now what Kiki needs is for me to push her to get the work done until doing work is a habit. So I am in drill sergeant training. I am learning how to push and when to randomly provide a reprieve because I can tell that she really is on the edge of breaking. In the process we are both becoming stronger than we were.