Tuesday, February 19, 2013

options vs. optional

I'm typing this while soaking in my tub after my run this morning.  Isn't that crazy?  Wes would freak if he knew I was putting the laptop on a ledge so close to the water, but he'll never find out.  I don't think he, or any of the rest of my immediate family, reads this blog anymore.  They are so over me.  I just keep writing because it's my journal and I feel compelled to keep record my life.

I've been thinking a lot about options lately.  And, when I say options I'm speaking of the options that are often seen as opportunities.  I want so badly for my kids to have lots of options when they grow up.  I want them to be able to make choices and strive for their dreams with everything in their pasts pushing them forward, instead of holding them back or tying them down.  Does that make sense?  Wes has a co-worker who has no options, or very little options and it is very hard to see her plug on through life in such a manner.  She came from a highly dysfunctional family life.  Her mother was (and continues to be) a drug addict.  She has four or five siblings- all from different fathers.  She struggles with boundaries, common sense and decision making.  She herself has two children from two different fathers, both of which she never married and do not give a positive male role-model to her children now.  She struggles to put food on the table, while battling exes in expensive custody hearings regularly.  It is so sad.  She is very verbal about her desire to be a full-time mom, but knows it is an impossible dream at this point.  She does her best with what she's got, but as her kids are growing up she can see that some of the unfortunate problems of her past are starting to become the lifestyle her children are embracing.

Her daughter is a teenager and they just recently moved so the mom could be closer to work.  And, of course the daughter is upset about the upheaval.  I get that.  I would be too.  But, since the move her daughter has decided since she was so unhappy she would not go to school.  She locks herself inside her room and simply tells her mom she won't go.  So, of course her mom (in case you've gotten lost, this is Wes's co-worker) has to do something.  The daughter is larger than the mom, so the mom decides she can't force her to go to school.  So, she calls the cops and tells them her daughter is being truant, and asks for them do force her.  But, they can't until it has been a certain number of days in absence (10 or 14, I can't remember) and they leave.  So the mom leaves for work and this continues.  Can you imagine?

I've pondered long and hard about this.  I've thought about what I would do in that situation.  I've asked my girls what they would expect me to do in that situation?  They all look at me wide-eyed and say "Mom, that would never fly with you and Dad.  We'd never try it."  So, I smiled and hugged them and told them what I thought I might do in that situation.  And, here is is:  I would first take off their door to their bedroom.  Second I would physically drag them to the car.  If I was unable to manage this myself, I would call in for back-ups (Wes, my home teachers, my sister).  Then I would spend the entire day with them in school.  I'd snuggle up real close and support them as they finish out all of their class periods.  And, then we'd go home.  I'd rinse and repeat this until they had come to the conclusion that going to school on their own was a choice they wanted to make and no longer needed my "assistance".  Is that wrong of me?  I mean, I'm not really about giving options when it comes to going to school. (This, of course has nothing to do with school problems and choices between what school to attend or homeschooling.  That is a whole other ball of wax)

This made me start to inventory all the things my kids have no option in.  School, obviously, but also attending early-morning seminary.  Participating in family home evening, family prayers, scripture study.  They have no options when it comes to cleaning their rooms on Saturday morning or doing the dishes on their designated "dishes day".  They have to attend their church meeting on Sunday and participate in the youth church programs.  They have to do their homework and their chores.  All these things listed out make me feel like a big bossy-pants.  But, in reality, Wes and I are simply benevolent dictators.

You see, what I'm really trying to give them is options for their future.  If they attend school then they have the option of going to college.  If they do their homework and study hard, then they have the option of going to the college of their choice and may have the option of earning scholarships.  If they attend early-morning seminary they have the option of attending a LDS sponsored university.  If they clean their rooms and do their chores, then they have the option of continuing to do so in the future and will know how to work hard and maintain a well kept home.  If they do their piano practicing everyday, then they will have the option to play beautiful music in the future.

Sometimes when things are not optional in childhood, they lead to more options in the future.  I admit that this is a tough balance for most parents, I know it is tough for us.  It is hard to force/encourage what we deem to be "good choices" when our kids are young because it is often terribly challenging to make it happen and our kids really know how to fight against it.  Some battles seem so daunting that we choose to not put up our dukes.  And that is, of course, something we all have to be prayerful and thoughtful about.  I don't want to have a negative relationship with my kids, so on things that really don't matter in the end (like hair styles!) I don't fight.  So what if your kid wants crazy hair?  That is one where I just let it lie.  Hair grows, styles change.  But other things are worth the fight.  And, I'm not saying you should have a "fight" with your kid, moreover, I'm saying you should be up for the fight.  Lead with example, encourage them, have expectations and let them be known.  Don't try to be their best friend.  They don't need you to be their best friend, they need you to be their parent.  They need you to lead.

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