The Harder Road

As our kids get older, I find I’m hearing Rob say a lot, “Let’s try to make this into a teaching moment too” when something, or usually, someone, gets into a little bit of hot water.

I guess sometimes my instinct is to just get mad, and then dish out the consequences and let the pieces fall where they may.

But Rob brings in the “teaching opportunity” mentality, wanting the kids to learn as many valuable lessons as possible from their experiences.

While I fully support this philosophy, and am so grateful that he often reminds me, and can very quickly switch into “teaching opportunity mode” rather than “bite your head off mode”, I mentioned to him the other day that this is the “harder way to do things”.

Life seems to be so much easier for you as a parent in the short term when you simply say “Yes” to everything. I think it’s a little harder when you say “No” all the time, because then you may had to deal with some backlash over the fact that you are saying no.

But to try to really think about why you are saying yes or no, to be cognizant of the potential long term ramifications of choices and decisions, to explain, guide and consult, to not always be the popular parent – that is much harder.

I especially find it challenging within the context of a blended family. I know that in traditional families it’s hard too – so I’m not discounting that. But I look at situations that we have recently dealt with with one of my step kids, and it gets really complicated when you are the step parent.

The whole “you have the responsibility but not the authority” angle. If I do something maternal, and treat my step kids as my own, or teach my values and share my thoughts, opinions and positions, I face the, “Who does she think she is? She’s not your mother. She has no say in anything you do”. And if I don’t care, then I can face the wrath of, “What does she care. If you were her biological children she’d be doing more”.

So, my choice – and really – it is the choice I made the moment I married Rob, is the former. I care. I teach. I stress. I worry. I get angry. I get disappointed. I feel proud. I feel excitement. I feel love. I go through all the emotions. For my biological kids and for my step kids.

But then I stopped the other day and said to Rob, “This is a harder road we are choosing”.

We are constantly sharing examples with the kids, asking them about their choices, having discussions with them, explaining our theories, perspective, points of view, making analogies and comparisons, reading to them, praying with and for them, telling them quotes, having Family Home Evening, drawing out little flow charts and diagrams – all trying to get them to understand what is behind the yes or no that they are hoping for. I want them to be making their own choices and decisions, with the free agency they have been given – BUT armed with knowledge and information about those choices and the natural consequences tied to them. Because when you make a choice, you are automatically getting some consequences along with that choice – like it or not.

I know that they are young and one little decision or slip up does not seemingly change much in the whole grand scheme of things.

But I also know, that it does. A degree on a compass initially takes you to a similar spot – but down the road, it will change your destination entirely. I want them to understand that life is made up of all the little decisions – so they must make those little decisions with care and consideration even now!

It certainly is easier for us to just say “Whatever” or “What difference does it make now? They are so young” and let them do whatever it is that they want. I think it is easier to be the “popular parent” now – but will being the popular parent ensure that my kids will have all the opportunities and values that they will want and need in the future? I’m not so sure.

I guess I don’t just want to parent for the here and now. Lots of things, if we let them slide, won’t hurt my kids now. But it may rob them of certain opportunities and challenges that will benefit them from learning certain lessons and values that will help them in the future. It robs them of opportunities to develop self confidence, to build character and to learn independence.

So while I think it’s a harder road, and sometimes just want to go the “whatever” easy route, I know that I only have a few more precious years to really watch out for them. The analogy I love is that our kids are each living in a field and we are standing in the watchtower looking over them. All they can see is what is right in front of them. And it’s usually pretty tall, thick grass. Up on the watchtower however, we can see beyond. We can see potential pitfalls, wrong turns, cliffs and dangerous ledges, tough trails and big monsters eating raspberries (little inside joke). We know that they will all choose their own paths, and encounter danger, make wrong turns, fall off some cliffs – and they need to have these experiences! But it doesn’t mean we won’t be trying to give them the guidance and the direction from the watchtower to hopefully make their trek a little easier. I guess it’s a harder road we are all travelling – but so very worth it.

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