Today’s the day I change. I utter these words out loud to my eleven-year-old self in the bathroom mirror. My name is Max Chase and the reason for this about-face is obvious if you know me. Okay, wait. You don’t know me. So I guess I will begin my story here.
I live with my Mom and Dad and my kid brother Frankie. Who let’s just say right here and now, does not have to change. Ever. He is the perfect kid. The perfect brother, friend, son, and grandson. Not me. I am too quiet, too sullen, and always seem to hold back. I am just not spontaneous and I am prone to get annoyed quickly. I want to be more like my best friend Ethan and some of the other more popular kids, So that's it! I have completed step number one of The ten steps to change your behavior! Step number one is Rule 1- Identify the habit, that is the first step to changing behavior. Nine more steps to go! My thoughts are interrupted as my Mom calls from the bottom of the stairs.
“Max!” “Come on down for breakfast !”
I race down the steps two at a time as I’m starving as usual. I can feel my face fall as I glance at breakfast on the table. Cold cereal, toast, a vitamin, and a glass of orange juice. I glance towards Frankie as he lifts up his head from his half-eaten cereal and says with his mouth full of Cocoa Pebbles,
“ Morning Max!” He is eating this as if it's the greatest breakfast he has ever eaten! It is the best thing since sliced bread.
“Morning,” I mumble. I sit down and pour the milk on my Raisin Bran and commend myself for not saying anything negative. My Mom turns around from the dishes she is rinsing at the sink. “Sorry for the not-so-great breakfast boys but I have to get to work early for a meeting and Dad is gonna run you to school.”
“No worries Mom! “ Frankie responds happily. Well, here I go.
“Yeah Mom, no worries .” I try to respond with glee, but even I can hear it fall flat. My Mom turns around and gives me a curious stare as if she is wondering how come I did not raise my voice or complain like usual. This is going to be good, I am going to be better off with my new attitude, this will alleviate stress and tension in the morning, besides the cereal is actually kind of okay I think as I gobble down the rye toast. Okay, I have crossed off step number two on the breaking bad habits list. Rule 2- Look at what you are getting out of it.
My Dad enters the kitchen with his usual hardy “Good Morning Family! Today is gonna be a great day, I can feel it !” He leans over to Mom and gives her a kiss on the lips as she hands him a cup of steaming coffee. He walks behind us and ruffles Frankie’s hair even though he is going to be nine, and smiles at me and says “Hey Slugger how ya doing!”
I respond “Great Dad'', this is delish !” He and Mom give each other a look with raised eyebrows. Frankie chimes in, “Hey it looks like Max is happy today !” I refrain from my usual response which is to tell him to shut up and give him a shove. Instead, I say nothing and just continue to eat. Dad claps his hands and says to us, “Okay the bus pulls out in exactly 3 minutes .”
We pile out the garage door and into Dad's white Silverado, Frankie does not waste any time jumping into the front seat. And me, once again not starting an argument mutter “ No prob.” I climb into the back seat. The ride to Lincoln Grammar School is approximately five mins, but today feels like ten because Frankie is pressing the buttons on the Sirrius radio so many times. I struggle to keep my mouth shut. But I do. It is much smarter to say nothing and Dad does not seem to mind. After all, it is only a five-minute drive. Rule 3- Honor your wisdom. Yep, I sure am!
We say our goodbyes to Dad and head into our school.
This is the part of my new plan that scares me and makes me nervous. But I am determined to be successful and to accomplish this. I'm already thinking of rule number four 4- Choose something to replace your habit. My action will be that if someone says something that annoys me or if I am asked a question I will be more forthcoming. I will do the opposite and say something nice. I am put to the test as soon as I sit down at my desk. Trey, who sits at the desk behind me says “Hey Chase, where’d you get that shirt? From the dumpster?” I try to think of a response that would allow me to follow Rule 5- Remove your triggers. I simply say “Thanks Trey, glad you like it !”
I guess it worked cause Trey says nothing. Mrs. MacMurray is beginning our English class. I usually never raise my hand or ask questions in class, so she begins by asking us,” What are the components of a sentence?” My arm shoots up in the air, she looks a little surprised, and then says “Okay Max, let's hear it .”
“A simple sentence contains a subject and a verb, and it may also have an object and modifiers.”
“ Great, yes! Good job!”
I am happy, with that response I give myself an invisible pat on the back and confirm that rule number six and rule number seven have been completed! Rule 6- Visualize yourself changing; Rule 7-Monitor your negative self-talk.
The morning goes by quickly and pretty soon it is Eleven forty-five and time for lunch.
We all head down to the cafeteria and as I get in the lunch line Trey and his friend Jason purposely jump in front of me. Normally I would say nothing and step back, but this time I say,
“Hey, I was here!”
Jason responds, “oh sorry I did not notice.” And they both smirk.
I stand up a little straiter, and puff out my chest a bit, I am actually taller than both of them and I say,
“ Okay. “ There it is Step number seven. Rule 7- Take baby steps.
I join Ethan and the crew at our lunch table, and everyone is talking about upcoming softball tryouts. Mom and Dad have been gently suggesting for me to sign up, or at least consider it. Geez, Frankie is taking part in everything, even the sports that he does not excel at. I have always held back, but now as I listen to them all talk about it with loud voices and funny stories, I think to myself, Maybe I should try out? But I’m nervous. I imagine myself getting up in front of our grade and with not a lot of confidence trying out my stance, and I'm not sure I can do this. And what if Trey is on the team. I kind of waffle back and forth as I go through the idea in my mind, and Alex says, “Hey Max, you gonna try out for the team this year ?”
I respond with hesitation and say, “ I don’t think so “. There it is number 9, not a good one but I have addressed it. Rule 9- Accept that sometimes you may falter.
I'm not happy that I have already decided not to try out.
But my decision is not set in stone. I'm thinking about talking to Dad about it tonight and perhaps giving it a shot.
I guess, since I want to change, the first step is addressing the change and wanting to see a difference. And I really want to do this, I want to be different and I'm certainly aware of how I am feeling and what needs to be done. My Mom is always complimenting me on how smart and aware I am at my age. So I'm just going to do this. I know that it's not going to happen overnight and well with that thought, I smile and think, Hey there it is step number ten!.
Rule number 10-Know that it will take time and be patient.
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