February 15, 2018
Today’s post may not be popular. I accept that because I believe with all of my heart that it needs to be shared. Yesterday, a friend asked me, “How did you empower your kids to have empathy for others all the time?” I gave her my standard response.
“They aren’t always.” Not a deflection. A fact.
If I am honest, more often than not, they really are. But only because of years of battle.
I contemplated this question for the better part of yesterday. I learned of the shooting in Florida shortly after the conversation. As I reflected on both the shooting and the question, I realized something. To better understand my realization, you need context. Thus, I share with you a journey that rocked our family to the core.
During a routine eye exam when Hunter was in 8th grade, the doctor discovered a growth on his eye. The celebration of 20/10 vision and its impact on his batting average quickly dissipated to the sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher. We heard words like ocular oncologist, ocular melanoma, and immediate attention. In less than 72 hours, Hunter sat before numerous specialists. Each one referring us to another or pausing the appointment to consult with a doctor, not in the room. Never a good a sign.
I watched in awe as my son endured needle pokes on his eye. Imagine telling a 13 year to hold still as a needle steadily makes its way to your eye, while your eyes are open.
For 2 years, I saw only that speck. Every time the feeder vein flared up, I cringed. Hunter would tell me, with little to no patience, stop checking my eye mom. It hasn’t changed in the last hour. Our story has a happy ending. Hunter is fine. The speck is monitored yearly. But it remains.
Its presence serves as a reminder.
I return to my realization mentioned earlier. As I reflected on the level of empathy my own children have, I realized that as they navigated elementary school and adolescence Paul and I were hard on them. When they came home with complaints about peers, our first question was always the same. “What did you do to contribute to the situation?”
This question was often met with, “Why do you always take other people’s side?” The fact of the matter, we didn’t take other people’s side. We simply acknowledged and realized that every conflict has at least two participants. To think otherwise would be foolish of us. Besides, we lived with our children. We saw it all. The good. The Bad. And the ugly.
Our parenting goal has always been to ensure that we hold Maddy and Hunter accountable for their actions. Period. When they challenged us, we responded the same way every time. “Sorry. We aren’t so-and-so’s parents.” During one particular flare-up with teen drama Maddy’s senior year, I heard myself say to her in a voice completely devoid of patience, “Take care of the log in your own eye before you worry about the speck in hers.”
My grandma used that phrase all the time with me. For the first time ever, I understood it to its core.
We must champion for our children, always. Sometimes that comes in the form of accountability and ownership. When we deflect behaviors away from our children and assume that they have no responsibility in a conflict, we rob them of the opportunity to grow and learn. We rob them of the opportunity to grow through struggle. We hinder their ability to navigate conflict and restore relationships.
Nobody likes conflict.
But there will be conflict.
There will be arguments.
There will be drama.
We need to build resilience and ownership within our children. It is the only way I believe we can grow a generation of adults that will change the world. What is the worst that could happen? From my vantage point, we could create a generation empowered to acknowledge they aren’t perfect. A generation willing and able to navigate conflict and restore relationships.
Honored to Serve You All,
Food for Thought: