When I became pregnant 19 years ago, I decided that parenting would be my first priority in life. What happened in the four walls of my home would be where I did my most important labor. Little did I know then, just how hard that job would be. But even aside from all the the abuse and trauma we endured, those topics are for other posts, raising children not only demands much, but it often demands ALL that you have and are. I am less of a teacher than I could be. I am less of a friend than I could be. I am less of a “seeker of individual fulfillment” person than I could be….All because I believe that if you are going to bring a child into this world, you make growing them into contributing members of society a trait that you place much value in. And while one may think that the hardest years are the Twilight Zone years of sleepness infanthood, I have come to realize that every stage brings it’s own trappings and unexpected wonderings.
My daugther has just turned 18. Wow. I was unprepared for all of the in-between balancing act of expectations, responsibilities, rules, consequences, power struggles, independence-creating scenarios, and groundwork laying, for pushing my little chick off the branch, so that she can fly with her own wings.
One thing I’ve learned from this step in the parenting process….A parents’ perch to have their voice heard at THIS stage of the game is solely dependent on the foundation that’s been laid in the formative stages. If I didn’t have my daughter’s respect, and her value for me now, when my voice ISN’T quite as loud, or final, the dissonance and sparring would reach a dangerous precedence….the slippery slope of reality would quickly slide out of control. And my “direction, rather than discipline”, and constructive criticism, rather than consequences”, are a source of constant creativity and wisdom seeking on my part.
Yesterday, for instance, she treated her brother in a way that isn’t acceptable for our household. After ranting and raving, and sharing a few timely dropped swear words, I was left with a decision. While racking my brain for how to REALLY follow through with my missile launches, a thought formed. Rather than grounding her ( possible, but not plausible), or taking electronics away ( dubious at best at her age), out of my mouth flew the following words, taken from a restorative practices/justice book I’ve been reading for a committee I’m on….
“This is what you need to do,” I said, a voice filled with frustration and focus. You need to figure out a way to make amends to your brother by 9 pm tonight. You need to figure out a way to restore the relationship between the two of you so that he feels loved and valued by you again. You need to apologize, and mean it by a show of your actions. Period. I love you very much, but I don’t like you right now. Good-bye”.
Two hours later I stopped by her job with a coffee, having been just across the street for another reason. When I gave her the drink, she said, ” why did you bring this? You’re mad at me. I probably don’t deserve this.” My first thought was to say,” You’re d*** right you don’t deserve it, but some times I manage to bite my tongue first BEFORE my unconstructive thoughts fly out of my mouth…..
I instead responded by saying,”I brought you the drink because I love you. Love can’t be earned. I love you no matter what. It doesn’t change that I don’t like you right now, and I’m really disappointed in you. But I want you to know that your worth and value to me never changes.”
When she got home last night, three creative acts of love and restoration were followed through by her towards her brother. Acts that spoke highly to her brother of love and appreciation.
A battle won.Wrongs made right. A few too many swear words thrown in the wind. Love spoken clearly in my little abode. At least for another 24 hours….