Mrs. D and I chatted during swim lessons this evening, and she shared with me a dilemma she’s having regarding her son’s newest activity. I shared with her how I felt when I had a similar issue with one of E’s activities ten years ago. She concurred and commented, “I don’t want to be a helicopter parent.”
I’ve often feared that so have refused to intervene when things got uncomfortable for my children.
As Mrs. D and I visited I watched my 6 year old son raise his hands in a prayerful form above his head, swiftly conform his body into a perfect L shape, and dive into the water like a knife cutting through warm butter.
He had begged for swim lessons last fall. He begged to quit this winter. The other kids don’t want to be friends with him. He gets in trouble when no one else does. He doesn’t think the teacher likes him. I’ve told him, “No, you started something. You’re going to finish it. You wanted to take swim lessons. You’ll finish the year and then you can decide if you don’t want to go back next year. But, you NEED to know how to swim. It’s a matter of safety.”
I threatened my 16 year old that if he did not change his behavior–his lying, cheating, irresponsibility, stealing–that I would be forced to make a decision, and he may not like my determination. I warned him. The choice was his. He could choose to “man up” and behave in a socially acceptable manner, or I would have to choose consequences for him.
He must have thought I was bluffing.
Now, as we prepare for enrollment in public school in two weeks and we’ve spent the day working on the application process for the military school, he is throwing out alternative suggestions. Perhaps he could graduate on time if we talked to the charter school one more time. Perhaps he could just finish out home school with me, like his older brother did.
Sorry, it is too late for me to rescue him from himself. Just as J needs to learn to swim, R needs to learn there are consequences for aberrant behavior.
During the years I was grooming my oldest son for college my son-in-law asked me what was wrong with me that I wanted all of my children to leave this town. He couldn’t understand why any mother would not want her children to live and raise their families near her.
My deepest desire has been for my children to have choices in life, choices I never had. I don’t want my children to look back from their 40’s and wish that they’d done things differently. I don’t want them to make decisions based upon the limitations of their available choices but rather based upon the best of the options available to them.
My oldest son is at George Washington University working on his Master’s degree in Economic Securities but has already stated that his vision is to move back to the Pacific Northwest in ten or so years. He and his best friend, also currently in DC and working as a journalist, want to open a restaurant with it’s own small brewery. Their educations will be wasted.
But, who cares?!
My son was a domestic violence survivor raised without television on the side of a mountain in a town that is nothing more than a congestion. But, he has been sailing. He has been to the symphony and many, many fine art galleries. He saw Eric Clapton (whom he idolizes) at the Rose Garden. He has traveled the country and lived in large cities. He is living and working in our nation’s capital and enjoying seeing her history firsthand. He has made friends from all walks of life from all over the globe.
He has lived.
And, if he comes back to the PNW to BBQ and brew beer for a bunch of hipsters…….who cares, if he is happy. And, he’ll always have his education and experience to fall back on should his culinary dreams fail.
I supported him in his desire to obtain this kind of education, in spite of the potential negatives I saw eight years ago, because he needed this experience. I think it was necessary for his growth.
I cry out to my Heavenly Father umpteen times a day, “Oh, Daddy God, save me, deliver me, get me out of this. I know I thought I wanted this, but it isn’t what I thought. I’m miserable. I’m in trouble all the time. Some days I don’t think you like me. I know you told me not to marry a man who exhibited that kind of character, and I did it anyway. But, I seem to always get in trouble when others around me get away with much larger sin. I always have to pay for mine. I know you warned me, but isn’t there another way we can solve this now that we’re here? I’m changing my mind! I don’t want this path afterall!”
He responds, “I’m not a helicopter Parent either. I know you are uncomfortable. But, you NEED to know how to make better choices. It’s a matter of safety. Remember, I warned you; this was your choice. You need to learn. This is necessary for your growth.”
As I watch J’s graceful form replace his awkward clumsiness in the water and I thrill over my oldest son’s opportunities and I hope for my third son’s restoration through consequences and mentoring, I imagine my Parent watching me. I imagine He is enjoying the grace I’m learning (albeit slowly) that is replacing my awkward fear. Perhaps He is thrilled over the opportunities that await me. Perhaps He is eager for my restoration through consequences and mentoring.
They may be angry at me as children and adolescents, but one day my kids will thank me. Just as now, I am often hurt or angry at my Father for not stepping in to rescue me, but one day I know I will thank Him for this.