The Family

The Family

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Being an Influencer...

When my kids were younger, way back when I had four children under the age of seven, and a husband who was submerged often during the endless eight years of consecutive sea duty we subjected ourselves to at the time I used to tell myself that someday they would grow up and it wouldn’t be so hard.  Well I am not going to call myself a liar, although I often have a few choice words to say to myself when I think back to how deceived I was, I will say that those thoughts were probably some of the most misguided thoughts I have ever had in my life.

Let me fast forward you sixteen years to my reality…having grown up children is much harder than having those little people, who while they drove you crazy all day, and depended on you for everything, had a definite bedtime and little control of their own lives.  These days I go to bed much earlier than my children, and I have no control over their choices or decisions, influence perhaps, but no control.

I can’t put into words the struggle of having to relinquish the reigns of sanity and reason you have over your children’s lives, to them…  I love my children with all my heart and soul, with everything within me, but I am doubtful about their ability to make sound decisions that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  Looking back to my young adulthood I am painfully aware of the anguish I must have caused my parents.

Looking back scares the bejesus out of me!  I dropped out of college, went to Washington State, eloped with a very junior sailor, moved across the ocean to Hawaii and had a baby!  I promise all of you that should the above even attempt to happen with my children I may require divine intervention.  HOWEVER, when I look back at the decisions I made that kept my parents up at night I realize several things….

1.     It all turned out ok.  Even though we married very young, neither of us having financial stability, degrees, or even a plan, we made it!  We both have our respective degrees, reached a place of financial security, and even though we did not have a plan God did!
2.     That even though my decisions caused my parents some pain and some tears, they NEVER let that pain come between us.  They never took my decisions personally, they never said, “I told you so,” they never stopped loving me.  I am as grateful for the example they set on how to love me, as I am the love they gave me.
3.     Well it may sound like a cliché none of my decisions killed me, but served to make me stronger.  I may have felt pain and had to struggle because of my decisions, but thank God none of them killed me!  I am a better person because of them.  When I lay awake praying in the quiet dawn hours, praying and crying about the pain and struggles my young adults are going through I need to remember that what happened did not kill them, and pray that they use these experiences as a spring board to allow themselves to be healed and taken to the next level.   God knows that we do not ever want to see our children hurting or struggling and it will be the hardest thing we will ever do, but He has a plan and we must have faith that it will all turn out ok.

I shared with a good friend yesterday, that as they enter into the stage of their lives where they have to make decisions for themselves, it is important as a parent to pick your battles very carefully. VERY CAREFULLY.  For example, your young adult may choose to drink, which for me was a hard one to adjust to, but not a battle I chose.  Instead I chose to make my battle cry heard on drinking responsibly.  I can hear many of you discrediting my decision to not fight them on drinking, but let me ask you this, what would you rather have, a child who hides their drinking from you, potentially putting themselves in situations that are dangerous, or a child who is open with you and because you are not arguing about the topic, is able to hear what you are saying, and avoid trouble because of it?  I would much prefer that my children are able to hear me tell them to be aware of their drinks safety in public, than have some one slip something into their drink without their knowledge because no one made them aware of the danger.  I would much rather my children openly discuss the dangers of drinking and how it inhibits you and may cause you to make decisions or put yourself in dangerous situations, than for them to be taken advantage of.  I would much rather my child know that calling me for a ride when they don’t think that they or their friends should drive, than be fearful and making the decision to drive themselves.  Do you HEAR me?  Drinking is not a sin, being a drunkard is, but responsible social drinking is something we should be educating our children on, and its hard to educate them when they don’t listen to you because you chose the wrong battle.

Do I agree with every tattoo, piercing, purchase, word, thought, ideas plan, outfit, music choice, or decision my young adults make?  No, but I realize that I no longer have the control I once had in their decision making process.  I realize that I must trust that I have raised them in the way they should go, and while their actions may not show it, that their hearts and spirits have not departed from it.  I must accept that they must make decisions and stand by the consequences of those decisions in order to learn and grow.  I must accept that my role is one of influencer instead of enforcer.

As I learn to embrace the role of influencer, I will also embrace the opportunities where I am allowed to share reality in conversations where there is no yelling and fussing, but rather open honest communication between adults.

In closing my friends, I leave you with this: Our parents and generations of parents have survived this stage of life, without any generation totally destroying mankind, therefore so will we.  The question is sixteen years from now when I sit down to family dinners, will it be with well adjusted adults who have grown and prospered because they were allowed to make their own decisions and learn from them, adults with whom I have a healthy positive relationship with, or will it be an uncomfortable meal where nobody wants to be present for?