Monday, October 27, 2014
A Matter of Consequence
A few years ago I visited a friend whom I hadn't seen in a long time. As we visited and I was given a tour through her home, I noticed her teenaged son sitting quietly in a corner of the room. His mother introduced him to me and without looking up he mumbled his hello. Another friend and my mother had accompanied me on this excursion and my mother, noticing the quiet young man, attempted to engage him in conversation. Her attempts were met with downcast eyes and mumbled, one-word answers. This young man was not indifferent or rude, rather he was painfully shy.
As I sat visiting with his mother, I asked about her son. She told me that his grades were excellent but he that he had a visceral reaction to school because he was so badly bullied. He also suffered from severe headaches (due to the constant downward slant of his head, which was his method of avoiding eye contact). It was the mother's opinion that her son would grow out of his shyness and everything would be fine.
I have to admit, I was rather shocked. Never in my life had I met ANYONE with that degree of "shyness". He was so withdrawn that he was, without a doubt, handicapped. My heart ached for this young man. His pain in attempting to interact with other human beings was almost palpable. It broke my heart.
Waving as we drove off, I looked at my mom, aghast, and said "Mom, that isn't O.K. That boy is 15 years old and cannot look another person in the eye (including his mother), much less hold a conversation - something must be done!". From the back seat, the friend that had accompanied us on our visit piped up. "Enola, he'll be fine, there are a lot of socially awkward guys that work on computers and make a lot of money - just leave the poor kid alone". I was stunned. This was a mother - couldn't she see what would happen to this young man if his family didn't help him through this difficulty? He would never be able to function in society without the ability to communicate. How his parents dealt with the situation now would determine the future for this young man - and it would determine if he would contribute to society or if he would drain society of its resources. This was a matter of consequence!
The brief visit with my old friend brought the challenges of parenthood into perfect clarity. In our desire to love and accept our children as they are, we often handicap our children for life. Somewhere along the line we forgot that love doesn't necessarily mean acceptance. When we love our children we see them clearly, honestly. We walk beside them as they struggle to mature and sometimes, oftentimes, we push them past their comfort zone. We see how their behavior will affect their future and we take the necessary steps to correct their path - even when those steps are painful.
I have watched my children struggle. I have been tough on them. I have drug them past their comfort zones kicking and screaming. But I have done all of these things because I love them. I want them to succeed. I want them to be capable, to be able, to contribute. I want them to walk through the hard stuff now, when I am able to encourage them and walk beside them, rather than waiting for them to learn their lessons in a cold, uncaring, unforgiving world.
I think we confuse the meaning of the word love. Love doesn't mean blindly accepting bad behavior, or behavior that will prove detrimental. Love means disciplining your children when they're naughty, because if you don't, people won't like them. Love means requiring your children to finish what they started because it will teach them to persevere. Love means giving your children the gift of consequences, whether for good behavior or bad. Love means knowing your children, acknowledging their shortcomings and being willing to do what is necessary to see them through to the other side.
We live in a world that has mistaken love for acceptance. They are not the same thing. In fact, acceptance can be on of the most unloving act any parent can commit. How we love our children truly is a matter of consequence.