Friday, February 24, 2012

Airline Cable Bridges... or, Why Parenting is Harder Than it Looks

I remember when I was 15. (I'm pretty sure my parents remember it, too. Sorry, Mom and Dad.) I remember pushing against my parents almost constantly, and a the same time, wondering why I did that. As I laid on my bed pondering my own behavior, a picture came into my mind of me, standing on the edge of cliff in a jungle, with a roaring white river running past me at the bottom of the cliff, and safety on the other side. A small rope bridge spanned the gulf between me and safety. It was swaying a little in the breeze. And I was supposed to cross.

Would I just run out there? I know some people who might. But I stood at the edge of the cliff, jungle foliage shading my face, and tested that bridge. I shook it, pushed on it, pulled on it, yanked on it, testing it every way I could think of before I would trust it to hold me as I crossed.
That was why I pushed against my parents. They were telling me, "This is the way to cross the dangers of life safely," and I needed to know if their way was going to hold up.

Around the same time, I thought my parents were past all the dangers themselves. (Ha! Little did I know.) I figured they knew nothing about peer pressure, or how hard it is to stand up to someone who is trying to get you to give in. How did I not notice that they were doing it every day-- with me?
A few years ago I told my son, who was then 15, that the peer pressure I experienced as a teen was nothing compared to the pressure I feel as a parent. Sure, I liked my friends. And when they tried to get me do things I didn't want to do, it was tough. But I didn't love them like I love my kids. And when my kids claim
that I am ruining their lives, the ache I feel is almost unbearable. I want them to be happy. Really, I do! Which is exactly why sometimes I have to stand firm. Like that rope bridge. I can't give in on things that really matter, because where would that leave my kids? Yep. At the bottom of the ravine.

Ouch.


I found a quote by a church leader that I love.
"It takes courage to gather children from whatever they're doing and kneel together as a family. It takes courage to turn off the television and computer and to guide your family through the pages of the scriptures every day. It takes courage to turn down other invitations on Monday night so that you can reserve that evening for your family. It takes courage and willpower to avoid over-scheduling so that your family can be home for dinner."
-Larry R. Lawrence

Are you confused about that Monday night thing? My church encourages families to set aside one night a week as Family Night, and they recommend Mondays. But any night will do. On Family Night, everyone is home together. We might have a short lesson, play games, eat treats, or just have fun hanging out together. It's a great way to connect with the people we're supposed to be closest to. Growing up, I had a friend whose dad was CEO of a major corporation. It was cool to me that he kept Monday nights for his family, telling other businessmen he already had something scheduled then. It sent a message to me that his kids were as important to him as his business.

Last week our family celebrated Adoption Day for Family Night. It's been 12 years since we adopted our youngest two from Ukraine. It was right around President's Day when we met with the judge in Ukraine and they were officially made ours. So on President's Day every year we celebrate. This year we went to a ropes course and then the kids sang karaoke on stage. It was fun- once I got over the terror of walking on ropes two stories from the ground. The ropes reminded me of my thoughts when I was 15. And of how hard it is, as the parent, to hold that rope steady.

The ropes at the course were not just any ropes. They were apparently airline cable. This is heavy-duty stuff, with cores of steel wrapped with softer material on the outside. Kind of like good parents.

Because really, what parent has not had to find their inner core of steel? To stand steady when Junior is convinced his parents are on a mission to destroy his life because they won't let him hang out all night at the club with his buddies? Or they make her study, and keep studying, and Keep Studying, until she has those math facts down by heart, when all she wants is to play with Barbies? Or they say, Yes. Therapy really is happening. Because we all need to work through this. Even if you say you won't talk.

And then, of course, we wrap that steel core in something softer. A hug and a bedtime story. Junior's favorite meal for dinner. A high-five when they finish their chores.

And we hope that maybe, years from now, they will see that we were being the rope bridge made of airline cable, helping them stay safe.
PS. One of my favorite books about mothers being people too, and about not judging people "until you have walked two moons in their mocassins," is called Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech, and can be found on my Recommended Books page.

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3 comments:

Valerie said...

Love your last two posts! They really resonate with me!I really struggle with courage: to help a friend see a serious problem, and stand firm with my kids. The analogies are so illustrative. I'm starting to think we are "kindred spirits" :)

Will Robison said...

Do we have to grow up, though? I popped open your blog page (thanks for visiting ICON) and the first image I see is a young lady and ropes. Ironically, I recently reconnected with my slightly older cousin (mid-40's) on Facebook and the first image I saw of her was a slightly older young lady and ropes - my 40 something cousin had her picture taken at Trapeeze School. Maybe the stuff the kids do only bother us because we stopped doing them ourselves?

Rebecca =) said...

Will- I think you may be right. The more time I spent on the ropes course, the easier it got. I went from thinking I might faint and end up a splat on the concrete below, to feeling pretty cool and confident.

A while ago I started summersaults again- something I have not done since elementary school. At first they made me nauseated. But they got easier, too.

So, I second your idea. (Assuming I understood correctly.) Let's not grow up.

=)