Parenting Transformation Journey – Page 11
(Click here for page 1)
So at the end of the day Tuesday, I was reflecting on the fact that we hadn’t really done any implementation that day. I mean, as far as consequences goes, because none were needed. So I wondered if I was really still on track or not… was there something I was forgetting to do? Proactive parenting came to mind, but I kind of drew a blank about what intentional parenting thing I should do next. The day before I had done a whole lot of intentional parenting, but only because I needed to react – RESPOND – to situations that came up.
I did have a great day though. I spent time with the kids, got things done, nobody stirred anything up – perhaps I shouldn’t think that parenting has to be hard all the time.
I went for a walk with my girls at sunset, tried a new path in our neighborhood that we hadn’t yet explored. It was beautiful! Check it out:
Even after all this, I felt at the end of the day that I hadn’t really done anything to ‘implement’ the family government system that I’m learning from Nicholeen Peck.
I felt like I hadn’t faced any real challenge, no testing of my resolve to stay calm and intentional about our long-term goals. I wondered, Now what? But just then, one of my children texted me. This child had already gone to bed, but there was something on his mind. He started to tell me how homesick he was feeling for our old neighborhood, and how miserable he was. How much he hated his life. He explained how trapped and bored he felt.
I reminded him that it was time to start planning his get-together with all the old friends, and he said he didn’t feel like he could plan it with so many other pressures on his mind – assignments (ie. scouting, school, church) that had deadlines looming.
There was a lot of confusion in his mind about how to get those assignments done, and the confusion was making worse his anxiety about being in the new place.
So here it was. My challenge for the day to be an intentional parent, instead of just going to bed like I had planned to do. We ended up talking for probably another hour. Here’s some of the conversation:
Me: “I understand this is a hard thing for you. These feelings are valid, especially at this age. I moved when I was your age and I remember feeling out of place.”
Him: “I don’t feel out of place, just like I am in a cage.”
Me: “I also understand that you don’t believe it’s possible to feel at home here. But the truth is that you can learn to be happy no matter where you are, even if it’s in a prison camp [that’s a reference to Victor Frankl]. If you will apply yourself to the principles you have been taught, this move, and any other major life change in your future can turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. Like it or not, that’s the absolute truth. I’m trusting you with the principles. I would not be raising you the way that I am if I didn’t believe you would find it within yourself to make the most of it. I am so impressed with your ability to chuckle at stressful situations. That’s unusual, and it’s one of your gifts. … [I went on with more specific praise about his talents and skills]… I realize that this caged feeling is stressful, and too much so to chuckle about it. I certainly would never expect that… but another truth is that it is impossible to be happy without growing, without doing uncomfortable things, and without doing hard things.”
Me: “This situation is probably one of your first really big life tests. No fun. But… I know that it has within it the seed of something great, and you will look back on it one day as a blessing in your life. The sooner you accept what is, and let your spirit show you how to cope with it, and learn the lesson that God has in it for you, the sooner you can have the joy and happiness available to you.”
I went on to explain why it’s good that his friends from our old neighborhood aren’t always 100% available, because it could keep him from discovering some other things that have a greater impact on his happiness in life. I explained that his life isn’t just about his teenage years, it’s about all of his years and beyond.
I made the point that all of his older siblings went through this caged, lonely feeling when they were his age, but that they didn’t even have friends they could see every once in a while, or stay connected via the internet like he does; they were even more alone that that. And every one of them came out on the other side with more friends than they knew what to do with, but it felt like it took a very long time (several years, even).
He complained that at least his sibling’s friends weren’t a two-hour bike ride away.
I clarified, “Son, they had NOBODY. Nobody, nowhere. Not at church, not at school, not across town, nowhere. You’re actually the first of my children to actually have real friends at this age.”
“What do you mean?”
“They didn’t feel liked or accepted by anyone, because the friends who did pay them attention weren’t good friends. That just seems to be part of the program – we all get to know what it feels like to have no friends at some point in our life, perhaps to give us a chance to discover a little of what Christ felt, and to also discover that there really is a God, that he really lives and breathes right now, that he really knows you by name, and that he’s really there and hears your prayers. Sometimes teenagers never discover – really discover – what that knowledge feels like until they are brought so low that they have nowhere else to go.”
I’m summarizing a lot of this, and I know this is deep stuff. But I know it’s true because I went through the same thing myself when I was his age, and at my lowest point I found a relationship with God. The pain and loneliness I experienced at his age was worth it, because it ultimately brought me to the tremendous peace, comfort, and joy I found when I realized that there really was a Heavenly Father who cared about me. It was such a powerful experience, and after that, NOTHING else mattered. It made me want to try to make the kinds of choices that would help me feel that strength and love from Him throughout my life. What my Father in Heaven thought of me was suddenly infinitely more important to me than what my peers thought of me, and actually, that’s a really great perspective to have when you’re navigating the teenage years and negative peer pressure. I want that for each of my children, which is why I don’t panic when they tell me they don’t have friends. To get the reward, you have to pay the price, and loneliness is a common price to pay for a relationship with God, if you feel that way AND seek it.
So when my kids go through that (as they all apparently do), instead of breaking my neck to make sure they learn how to fit in with their peers, I let them feel it – knowing and trusting that through it they can learn who they really are as a Child of God, and how to confidently stand out. I try to help them see what’s possible when they get discouraged.
It’s really the Law of Polarity, which states that within every adversity there is a seed of an equal or greater benefit, and the worse the experience feels, the greater the potential reward can be on the other side – IF you think about it in the right way.
It can be super hard as a parent to watch a child struggle, but I think if we coach them through it, teach them true principles, and how to think about their challenges, the struggle can be a powerful precursor to some really great personal victories.
He asked if we would be moving again any time soon (because he still hopes that we might move back to our old neighborhood).
I told him that it’s probable we will not move, and that he has to prepare himself for whatever might happen. I said, “If this challenge triggers humility and a hunger to seek strength from God instead of triggering a typical teenage rebellion, then I know that you will get what you really want, all the faster.”
I suggested that we decide on the date and time for the party, and asked him to tell his friends about it in the morning. With that out of the way, we then talked about his other assignments that were stressing him out.
I reviewed some of the things he needed to get done in the next week, and suggested a plan where I would help with with a little bit of it each day. We broke it down into bite-sized pieces, and he agreed to let me keep him on track.
Me: “Btw, I just reviewed the assignment. There are 13 pages. I’m going to go over 2-3 pages a day with you. Okay? (Say ok) (It’s your choice… choice… choice… choice…)”
[That’s a reference to a scene from the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movie.]
Me: ” 🙂 Picture creepy fingers wiggling away from your ears. Better get some sleep now – love you.”
Him: “Ooooooooooo. You too, thanks.”
I went to bed really happy because I watched his mood shift from deep depression to calm and hopeful in just one hour. I just have to say, I’m really enjoying myself as I try to be more engaged with my children’s studies and personal progress. I’ve always wanted to be like that, but now I’m doing it more than I probably ever have. I just had to decide that it’s never too late to do what you can right now.
If you disagree with anything I’m doing, then before leaving your comments, all I ask is that you please first watch this BBC episode so you can see where this is going. They say that in the middle of a life-saving surgery it can appear as though there has been a murder in the room. It might get a little messy in the middle, but I do believe and trust in the end result. Each of my posts – standing alone – will not provide the big picture… but the episode does. Enjoy!