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Friday, May 11, 2007

Practical application for the post "Happy Family"

I am in another state visiting my son for Mother's Day. I'm having a wonderful restful time with him. While he's at work I've spent my days reading and writing. Since he has a pool and hot tub, I've ventured out for some exercise.

On Thursday I wrote about components of The Happy Family. I made the statement that sometimes spoiled children aren't ones that have the most but rather are ones that have been deprived of parents and training. Last night when I went to the pool I saw that very principle in action.

The pool is kidney shaped and at one end there is a connected hot tub. I went to the far end so I could use the steps to ease myself into the cooler pool and do my laps. There were two ladies sitting outside of the hot tub and two dogs tied to a chair. A man and woman sat in the hot tub.

I swam two laps and hung on to the edge of the pool. Two women and two small children were entering the pool area by my end. The little girl (about 3) ran to the side of the pool. The little boy (about 4 - clinging to his mother) screamed and cried. Mom put him down by the gate and began to walk away.

"He's afraid of all dogs." She said for all to hear. She calmly walked to a chair and put down her towel and shoes. He followed screaming all the way.

I turned to see what the people in the hot tub would do. I was sure they would take their dogs back to their apartments and then return. But no, not these selfish people. Instead they reached into a box and pulled out a third furry puppy. They proceeded to talk and look at this obviously traumatized child as if he were somehow stealing their fun.

I turned back to the mother just in time to see her walking away from a still crying child and saying, "Get a grip. They aren't going to hurt you, just come with me." Cold, unfeeling and totally unconcerned for her child, she wandered to the hot tub - made friends with the others and slid into place.

My heart broke for the abandoned child. He stood by his mother's towel, hands reaching for her and cried crocodile tears. I waited a few minutes knowing that stepping into domestic situations can backfire. Finally when I couldn't stand it anymore I swam near the hysterical child.

When he finally made eye contact, in a calm but confident tone I said, "Honey, it's o.k. Trust me. They can't get to you. They are tied to the chair with a strong rope. You are safe back here." Each time I repeated the phrase I waited for him to respond. I had to repeat it three times before he finally approached me. His bloodshot eyes pleading for more information.

"Where's the rope?"

"Look at the little white dog and you'll see a blue and green rope or leash. It's hooked to the chair that big lady is sitting in. Watch him. He pulls on it but he can't get away."

His mother paid no attention as I talked with her son. In fact, she kept her back to us. I talked with him about several things and complimented him whenever I possibly could.

"I like to swim."

"That's great honey, I do too. I bet you are a lot of fun in the water."

He moved closer to the edge of the pool. This bothered me. I was in 5 foot of water and this child was only about 3 foot. "Honey, it's way over your head here. But you could sit on the steps and kick your feet in the water."

He sat for a few minutes and talked. Finally he decided to come in and reached out his arms. I wasn't sure it was safe. The water was up to my shoulders and I wasn't his parent. I couldn't be sure how he would react. He jumped anyway - thank Goodness I was able to catch him and keep him above water as I back up into safer levels. I turned in time to see his mother looking my way and yelling, "He can swim." Then she turned and went back to her conversation.

I swam with this little guy for a bit and then decided I needed to get out of there before I was angry enough to tell the mother how awful she was. He begged me to stay with him. We exchanged names (let's call him John )and I told him maybe I would see him again. As I left I saw this sad little face watching me go. No one came to his rescue.

Why did I tell you this story? I saw the consequences. Did you?

Before I stepped in, John was not taught how to handle a stressful situation. His fears were allowed to overcome his desire for a good time. He felt the frustration of being told to do something without possessing the tools to get the job done. He now has the subconscious knowledge that when he's in trouble his mother will be the first to walk away. He can't trust her for information, help or comfort. He has learned that simply asking or crying in order to let someone know you need help doesn't work. He will be searching for something else that does.

Let's speed little John to age 15. He likes a beautiful young girl in his math class. She is popular and intelligent. He desperately wants her to like him. He has fears about being rejected by her, but is determined to try. His hands shake as he walks toward her. He knows he is not allowed to show fear to those around him. That won't get him noticed and will produce jeers. He valiantly pushes his fear as he walks. He tries to talk to her, but she snoots at him and turns to walk away. Years of watching his mother walk away brings on anger. He tries again. Running up to her he says, "I just want to talk to you." She looks at him in disgust and like the fear of dogs he's never conquered - she barks - "I don't know you and further more I don't want to." Nose in the air she stalks away.

John is devastated, embarrassed and frustrated because he doesn't know the rules of relationships and can't recognized that she is the problem, not him. His anger after years of family rejection is escalating to a high pitch. He wants to resolve the situation but has no idea how to properly handle his emotions or his anger. He yells obscenities and throws his notebook toward her, hitting an unsuspecting student in the face. A fight ensues and he is pushed into the Principal's office and suspended. His life of deviant behavior is set - all because Mom didn't teach him how to handle fear and how to respond properly. When she is called to the Principal's office she whines..."I just don't know what's wrong with him."




Dear God, please help this nation of parents to realize how important their job is.

I want to know what you think?

God loves you,



Michael J. May Sr said...

The longer I am a parent, the more I learn and the harder parenting gets. Let me explain. Everyone is afraid of different things, but does that mean our children have to be afraid of the SAME things? No, not at all. Take me for example, I am terrified of birds. (unless of course it is battered and fried laying on a plate in front of me!) Not all birds, ducks and geese mostly, oh and chickens too. I don't know why, nothing bad ever happened to me as a child that I recall, but still I am afraid.
Recently, my wife had some old bread that she needed to get rid of, so rather than throw it out she came up with the idea of giving it to the ducks. Oh great. So I said that it was a great idea and that she should take the boys by herself. Wrong. She responded that WE were going to take the boys together as a family. Great again, she is going to feed ME to the evil ducks. So, I agreed to go and make the best of it.
Once we got to the pond, i noticed that someone had built a floating dock for us to walk out onto. Great again. As the children raced from the car like it was on fire with bread bags in hand, I of course took my time and hung back a bit hoping they wouldn't notice. Wrong, they noticed. As I caught up to them, the boys ask me to open their bags of bread. My 2 year old, "Scooter"as we call him, took my finger and pointed towaard the end of the dock. My fear gripped me and I froze in place. I realized quickly that my 6 year old, Kenneth, was looking at me curiously, and then it hit me. My boys aren't afraid of the ducks, they don't break out into a cold sweat thinking that the ducks will jump out of the water and attack them and drag them under the water and consume them whole, like I do. Then it became clear. This was my fear, not theirs. They were looking to me, I could see it in their eyes, for assurance. I put on the bravest face I could muster and said as ahppily as I could "who wants to feed the ducks!?" And off we went. The boys were none the wiser, and I didn't get eaten.
Kenneth and Scooter will have their own fears without me forcing mine on them, yeat every day I see or hear a parent somewhere budening their child with their own fears. Life is hard enough for a young growing mind, without taking on fears that are not their own. We as parents ought to have a sign tatoo'd on our forehead " Keep your fears to yourself, kids have enough to be afraid of" Don't get me wrong, I am not talking about talking to strangers, or playing in the street or playing with jumper cables. I am talking about little insignificant fears that we as adults developed as children, like fear of spiders, or bees, or heights and even fear of the dark. Some kids fear nothing, others fear everything. When Kenneth tells me he is afraid of something, I ask why? I try to explain reasons that he will understand to comfort him, sometimes he buys it and is not afraid anymore and sometimes he is still afraid. Fine. He is afraid of heights, I explain to him that I am too. When he sees me on the roof of the house and questions me about it, I just tell him I am still afraid of heights but I am trying to be brave because I don't want to be afraid anymore. I also explain to him that it is OK if he is still afraid to go up high.
I will not make my past my childrens past. Hopefully, I will leave them a better past than I have had. Isn't that the goal of every good parent? To make the life of their child a little better than their own?
Too many times we are too self-centered to stop and realize what our fears are doing to our kids.

Anonymous said...

Your children are so blessed to have you for a Mother. Thank you for being an inspiration.