Monday, November 13, 2006

EMPOWERMENT ...

Last week I discovered, by pure chance that my step-daughter, Alex had made a decision that I would describe as nothing more than a bad error of judgment on her part. When these things happen I am convinced more and more of the natural laws of the universe and how there truly are no coincidences. There are those times when without having to go looking for the information, it is “delivered” to the parents, and a successful intervention takes place by virtue of which the child benefits greatly. Then there are those times when a parents instinct will guide them to a point at which the parent has to make a choice about taking the initiative to get involved or not. I do acknowledge that there are most certainly times where situations are best served by parents not involving themselves. This was not one such time.

There was a third party parent of a friend involved in the scenario which angered me very much. Alex rightly said that blame should not be laid at this parent’s door because ultimately Alex made the choice in the situation. I agreed with her and said that given her age and lack of life experience, I felt Alex could be allowed room for error. The other parent however, I felt should have known better in the situation and she should either not have participated in the way she did, or at least suggested to Alex that she alert either me or DDTF as to what was going to take place. With respect for Alex’s privacy I will not elaborate on the detail of the situation. Suffice to say it entailed the purchase of a costly item at a most untimely juncture in Alex’s life – in the big scheme of things, not a big deal, but on a deeper level, a major deal.

I immediately brought it to Alex’s attention and explained that I had literally stumbled on the information that had enlightened me to the purchase. Alex immediately said that she had wanted to tell me but having realized she had made a mistake, she felt extremely scared to do so.

This upset me and motivated me to point out to her that her father and I have never been the kind of parents who stand over their children waving big sticks. What we have tried our level best to encourage is the truthful communication of what is going on in their lives, good, bad or other.

I asked her what she was scared of. She didn’t know. I questioned her about what I describe as her addiction to drama. Sometimes I feel that she is fueled by drama therefore her life unfolds as one drama to be addressed after another. While I fully appreciate this is part and parcel of growing up and these are all essential stops we make on the roller coaster of life – I do believe life can be experienced without a non-stop flow of drama.

The conversation that took place between us was calm and productive. I was pleased at the ease with which we found ourselves working through this situation. I pointed out to Alex that this scenario was a perfect example of what I had been trying to explain to her in a conversation we had shared about a week ago. At that time I told her that we achieve nothing by dealing with the topics of situations, but that in order to work through blocks in our lives, we need to address the issues. I asked her if she saw how in this situation the item purchased was nothing more than a topic, but that the issue is her fear … and that the issue is what she needs to take a longer, harder and deeper look at. The purchased item, who cares – put it on ebay and sell it.

A few days earlier, I had watched an OPRAH show which completely and utterly freaked me out. The show featured 15 year old Jessica Coleman who at age 15 had hidden a pregnancy from her family, school and entire community. Having given birth in the bathroom, she then hid the baby in a bag in her bedroom and after having cleaned herself and the bathroom, went and sat down at the table to have dinner with her family.

Jessica and her boyfriend then added rocks to the duffle bag in which they had stuffed the baby and threw it into the quarry. You can read more about this here and here.

In her interview with OPRAH from the jail in which she is being held, she explained that her motivating factor for doing what she did was fear.

I was in tears by the end of the show and I was surprised that I felt no anger toward this young woman. It stayed with me for days after I saw the show. This girl was to all intents and purposes a model daughter and student.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, I walked away from my conversation with Alex and I thought to myself that this is how these insane things happen in the world. It all starts in homes like yours and mine. I had asked myself HOW this child could go from delivering a baby in the bathroom to sitting down for dinner and NOBODY picked up any kind of strange vibe from her. I asked myself HOW can you not feel safe enough to go to a parent, friend, teacher, church/shul member and say, “Help – I have made a terrible mistake and I am in trouble.” No, I did not feel anger. I felt deep sadness and confusion about the whole thing.

Being a parent takes constant, conscious participation. I think that sometimes when all looks good and how we would like it to look on the surface, we can so easily be caught off our guard. Our children are masters at the art of disguise. Ultimately, it comes down to communication. While they might hate us for it in the moment, by forcing our way into their lives if we have to, our presence there can be the difference between a life and death situation. No matter how insignificant the situation might seem, knowing they have parents or at least some ONE they can turn to is vital. As hard as it might be to admit to oneself, if your relationship with your child is less than ideal, appoint someone to step in and make it known to the child that they can always turn to that person.

This was a good reminder to me that our children are not the only ones involved in learning as they grow. So do we as parents. We have to be committed to keeping ourselves as open to receiving the lessons intended for us, as we want our children to be for their own growth.

It was only on this show that I learnt of the SAFE HAVEN LAWS. I had never heard of this law in the five years that I have lived here. I am sure most people do know about it – but if not, it is worth looking into how it works in your local area.

I pray that Alex heard me and that in time she will come to terms with her fear. I have fears of my own and I am very pleased that I have learnt to allow them their rightful place in my life and how to not let them hold me back.

My parenting experience has shown me that when our children are heard, they experience their own power. When you feel your own power, don’t you feel more safe and secure? Our kids deserve to receive at least that one gift from us – the gift of empowerment.
I thank you in advance of you reading this Alex for letting me share this story

 
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