The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Building Up

He softly kicked at a rock that didn’t exist on the practice field at the school.   I noticed a fleeting glimpse of - shame?  Embarrassment?   I couldn’t tell for certain.

“She isn’t here, she’s visiting family.” He answered me and the question on the whereabouts of his mom.

“Well, that’s too bad.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her and I need to catch up with her.”

He looks up briefly and quietly asks my son, “Does she know?” nodding in my direction.

“Yes, I know”, I answer, “You did exactly the right thing Peter*.  Exactly.”

He looked at me with relief in his eyes; there was no mistaking that look.  It wasn’t that my opinion mattered; it was simply the encouragement he needed to hear.

The next 15 minutes I spent listening to a young man tell me of an encounter at school with a fellow classmate, who has a gang affiliation.  A bully.  A boy known for the trouble that follows him and the fighting he creates.  When provoked beyond what any normal teenage boy could handle, Peter backed down.  What was it that turned his red hot temper to a manageable anger?   His friend uttered the word “Football”. 

Peter knew an altercation of this sort would have a lasting and negative impact on the sport he was playing.   He determined in the split of a second a fight wasn’t worth the cost.  Although he may not have realized it at the time, that decision he made was based on great parental influence.  Both Peter and the bully were sent home for the remainder of the day.

What happened behind the closed door of Peter’s home that night?  I have no idea, nor do I need to know.  What I do know is at that moment Peter stood in front of me and I had a responsibility – not an opportunity – but a responsibility to him.  Giving Peter encouragement and praise for doing the right thing was my parental duty.  Parental?  Yes, parental.

My husband and I are the parents of two boys.  We are not perfect parents, but we are their parents.  We struggle like all parents, make mistakes, ask forgiveness and learn.  We laugh, we fight,  we grow.   As parents we spend a lot of time building up in our boys what life and responsibilities often wear down in them.   And we can’t do it all.

Read that again.

We can not do it all regardless how hard we try.  Neither can you.  I give you permission to own that statement.  You can not do it all.  You are a great parent who works diligently to give your child a life in which they succeed and are happy, but you can not do it all.  That is my responsibility.  Let me explain.

I have lost count how many times I have told my children something, or imparted a very important piece of wisdom during a conversation only to have them come home from (anywhere) after talking with (any adult) who just told them the “coolest thing ever”.  Imagine my surprise when I discover it was the exact same thing we talked about the day/night/week before.  No longer do I get upset over this.  Instead I pause and thank God He sent someone into my child’s life who told him what I wanted him to know.  That person guided my child and took on the responsibility to do so.

My responsibility is to tell your child the “coolest thing ever”.   My responsibility is to talk to your child, encourage your child as I would want my own to be.   In today’s world it is much easier to turn the other way, let them deal with ‘their’ problem, or worse – talk about them and never to them.  We have got to stop this.  For the sake of the children this must change.  We need to stand together and help each other, encourage each other, hold out our hand and pull each other up.

Standing on the practice field, it would have been easy for me to watch Peter from afar, to never approach him and to leave him to deal with “his” problem.   But I didn’t.  It was my parental responsibility to my sons to tell Peter he did the right thing by walking away; to encourage Peter his choice was the wisest choice.

What about the bully?  He needs encouragement too.  How do we reach a child with so much anger and hostility?  I don’t know and I struggle with this.  Yet it can’t be an excuse not to try.  Maybe the encouragement we can give the bully is in how he is addressed in our own homes.  My husband and I remind our boys there are reasons the bully is angry and that most bullies come from a difficult home life.  In showing our boys the other side of the bullying maybe, just maybe, a hint of compassion will emerge.  With compassion comes understanding and we all want to be understood; even if it is just a little.

After we got home, I stood at my kitchen sink, washing dishes while thinking of Peter and his mom.  I dried off my hands and reached for my phone.  Although it had been several months since I spoke to Peter's mom, I sent her a brief text message telling her she has done a wonderful job raising an incredible young man.  As difficult as life can be, we could all use some reassurance we are doing things right by our children.  Together we can build one another up and one day realize our children have been watching - and imitating - all along.


*For privacy, names have been changed.

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