I’m going out on a limb here but I think everyone should have an opinion on something. If you don’t have an opinion you can’t really be relevant. So here goes. I had a conversation with someone today about parenting. But I think it goes deeper than parenting. Read on.
A man disclosed to me today that he was struggling terribly with his sixteen year old son. The child is in an alternative school setting as he was removed from a traditional school setting due to violence and complete disregard for rules and authority. It’s true that traditional school is not the right placement for all children however, I feel strongly that the school failed this child. Nevertheless, the child has been exhibiting violent behaviors, cutting and most recently drinking. The father stated that he came home to find his son sleeping and when he awoke him, he found that he was heavily intoxicated. I asked how he had disciplined his son to which he responded I gave up on discipline a long time ago. My wife doesn’t back me up and if we can’t be a united front, it’s never going to work so I just stay away from it. Me, probing: Don’t you feel like he was testing you? Like he wanted to see where your hard line was? If you didn’t draw the line at drinking, do you think he may push that line further the next time? Maybe… maybe. But he was so sick, I don’t think he’ll do it again for a while. He already smokes. And I know he’s gettin’ into pills too. Ah, what can you do. Kids.
I’m not sure I mentioned this before but I am a social worker. At my past job, I assisted people experiencing homelessness with finding housing, obtaining medical, mental health and substance abuse treatment, creating resumes, repairing credit and provided support with transitioning from years in prison. In my current position, I oversee a wellness program for seniors, people with disabilities and families who live in public housing. I have seen poverty. Motivated addicts, coached offenders, supported parents who have lost their children or are in the process of getting them back and made reports for them to be removed. And what I can surmise from all this I have bared witness, what I can draw from these life events which may appear critical, is that they are chronic. They are part of a chronic cycle that was learned, from one generation to the next. Passed down like a quilt or a recipe, these cycles of abuse, poverty and drug use are to blame for the generations of dysfunctional behaviors which will follow. These cycles are powerful. This life we know is not fair to humans who are born into a field which is not level. These cycles take such incredible strength to overcome that it can seem nearly impossible.
Sounds discouraging right? That generations compounded by poverty will just continue over and over again. Well here’s the kicker: Love is Free. Love, patience and time do not cost a penny. This man, sitting across from me today need do nothing more than to go home to his son and prove to him that he cares. Tell him he loves him and that he’s not going to stand by and watch him give up on life. The father has not been provided the skills to do this because his father didn’t give a shit either. It’s a total cop out to say that but it’s true. Love is free.
I am often struck by a quote from Gandhi: Be the change you wish to see in the world. Well here’s the change I wish to see in the world: I want it to be better for my kids than it was for me. I want the world they grow up in to not have nuclear bombs, ethnic cleansing and genocide. I want them to know only of kindness to humans and respect for this earth we share with plants and animals alike. I want my children to recognize when a fellow human needs help. And help. I want them to find partners they love and make babies and love them. Really love them. No small feat. But I would dare to wager that many, many parents want the same thing for their children. Even the gentleman I spoke with today. He is a good person. He works hard. He’s lost hope that his son can see and appreciate the wonderful things in this world. Just as soon as he remembers how to care about those things, he can inspire his child to see them to.
So Mamas (and Papas) be that change. I’m not a person who judges. And I certainly don’t claim to have things figured out- and I very seldom give advice without being asked but I am right here and now telling you- begging you- to see that good in the world and challenge your children to find it too. Because my kids have to live in this world with your kids. And my grandchildren have to live with your grandchildren. Be that change. And love your children. Give them your time. Grace them with your patience. It will not lighten your wallet but it will make our world that much richer.