I’ve been waiting. I’ve heard the saying all my life, “this hurts me more than it hurts you.” As a parent, I’ve been frustrated, angry, sad, and bewildered by the choices my children have made. However, I can’t really say that I’ve felt exactly like they did when they screwed up or worse…until this week. Can I tell you that it really sucks? Can I also tell you that I’ve never felt more like a parent?
I work in education so I hear tales of big, ugly conflicts between parents, coaches, and students. Parents get angry, cry, blame, defend, deny, accuse, and flat-out threaten to undo the very foundation of the institution when something goes wrong in their children’s lives. Now, I am blessed to see all sides of the situation. My advice wouldn’t change from the beginning to the end of it, but I can tell you that I certainly gained some perspective and compassion for all sides.
Here’s a rundown of what I learned:
- No parent has the right answer all the time. My ex-husband and I ran the gamut of emotions when we first got the news. What was the right thing to do? Hell if we knew at that very moment. Go with the gut, add a strong dose of logic and reason, top with compassion and go with it. Toss everything you’ve got at the wall and hope it sticks.
- When your child loses something that they really, really want, it feels like it’s your own personal loss. Seriously. I had no idea that I could feel this for my kid. I cried as much as he did and I couldn’t stop. I knew what he was feeling when he woke up yesterday morning, knowing that reality was about to hit him in the face. I winced when he mentioned his pain as it floated across his consciousness. Why? Because I’ve been there. And here I am watching the closest thing to my existence go through the aftermath of pain that I’ve felt before.
- For a few moments, I did exactly what every other parent does. I Monday morning quarterbacked the situation to death. I found fault in every system that was in place. I second guessed my part in it, what was going on with the leaders, the effectiveness of the boundaries, and on and on. Why? Because I’m at this stage in life, as a parent, that I’m well-practiced in exhausting all the options of any particular situation. But, I believe that using these skills are just a mask for the real reason we do it.
- I think the main reason parents want to bail their kids out when they screw up to the point that it hurts is this: to squelch their own pain. Hey, we can own our mistakes but to be taken off guard and feel the pain with our external heart? Stop, can’t do it. I’m gonna go into warrior mode because I can do SOMETHING about THIS. However, we are missing the lesson if we do this.
- In looking back over my life, the sleepless nights with anguish over my screw ups were game changers. Reflection and reconciliation can help facilitate change no matter what the age. This is not something that I want to deny the people that I love to experience, is it?
To kill the suspense or ideas of grandeur, he was kicked off a sports team because he was being a punk when he was expected to be a leader. He is also considered to be better than his actions, so luckily he will have many more chances to prove his capabilities. On the bright side, he told the truth, he was reflective, he was remorseful, he was brave in his apologies and he took the blame for many on his own shoulders. What I am telling myself and anyone that will listen today – when a loved one reaches a place that they screw up and it hurts you…resist the urge to fix. I sit in a new level of connection today and while I am praying hard that this is the one thing that makes an impact and steers him away from the teenager foolishness, I know that we are likely to have many more trials ahead of us. God, give me the strength of heart to handle and accept the consequences that any of my children get because, in that acceptance, I give them confidence that I believe that they are worthy of failure and capable of their own decision to be better with self-led determination. Who am I to ever step in the way of that, no matter how much it hurts? My heart hopes that one day my kids are proud of who they’ve become because of the decisions they’ve made, not because of the carpets we’ve laid for them. Other than the wrinkles and gray hair that this week has caused, it all will be worth it.