I've made mistakes with my son on both sides of the spectrum; being too soft on him, and also being too firm. I guess I've never been one much known for treading the middle ground on much of anything; but I figure now's a good time to start. After his mother and I separated in early 2003, my son and I moved up to the Puget Sound area to start anew. He was an unseasonable 13 at the time, and prone to sometimes acting out. Prior to the separation, I was, for all intents and purposes, my sons secondary parent. His mother had always tended to provide him with his wants. Not necessarily his needs, but his wants. I was always the "No Man"; trying vainly to counter the constant indulging and mollycoddling. If there's one thing children understand, it's the basic concept of "path of least resistance". His mother was always "yes"; which meant many times I was simply "no". Though why I allowed myself to be is an entirely different subject altogether, that placed me square in the back seat as a parent. The point I'm attempting to establish is that when he and I moved away, I was concerned about his emotional state, and quickly became his enabler. I didn't want to lose him, so I quickly became his "buddy".
Make a long story short, this lack of appropriate guidance didn't exactly fare him well during his teen years. By the time I thought I figured it out, he was already 17; and that's when I began to hold him completely accountable for his actions and his choices. By the time he was 18, I had him packing on his own; and he faced very insurmountable odds for the next 3 years. In hindsight, I believe it's forged him into a much stronger person; but somewhere along the way I lost my compassion. I went from completely amenable, to unflinchingly strict; no middle ground. This resulted in my son having some feelings of bitterness towards me. And if there's one thing he was always capable of, it was holding a grudge. During the course of this last summer, I underwent a series of very unfortunate interpersonal mishaps; which my son ultimately witnessed. A lot of disenfranchised sons may have simply said "serves him right"; but not my son. He placed himself firmly there for me, when I had no one. That was a very humbling experience for me; for you see, my mishaps could have easily been avoided, if I simply chose to do the right thing, at the right time.
In retrospect, I firmly believe he respects the intentions I had with him previously; but it's up to me now to show him I've learned from my mistakes. Especially if I'm to insist that he learn from his. Nowadays, my son is my backbone. He tends to get overly emotional, likes to pour the proverbial kerosene on the fire; but his dedication to me and my well being is unwavering. I could have easily lost my son. I hadn't spent nearly enough time with him during his formative teen years, and then decided to teach him harsh life lessons much too quickly. He wasn't prepared for it, and that was my fault. But instead of begrudging me (as is his nature), he embraced me. At a time when I needed embracing. I will forever be thankful for my son; I just hope to God I don't ever let him down again.
A lot of people drudge through their daily lives as if their children are nothing but problems. The real problem however is that there are only 3 ways to deal with a problem. If that's how you view your children, then that means (same as with problems) you either:
- Ignore them.
- Struggle with, resist, and/or fight them.
- Take action to resolve them.
Ignoring problems doesn't make them go away; and fighting them tends to magnify them, make them grow. As to our children, we obviously don't want to ignore them, nor do we desire to struggle with them. All that's left is to take action with them. EMBRACE THEM. Same goes for problems in our lives. Embrace them. Accept them (our children, AND our problems) for what they are. Understand how they impact you. Only then can all the negativity which impacts you begin to lose its power. It doesn't mean you're surrendering; it just means that by accepting them, you can now dive headlong into resolving your problems - and your interactions with your children. Embrace them. Cherish them. Otherwise one day the clock will run out, and it will have been too late.