Friday, March 26, 2010

Taking Responsibility to Make The Good Stuff!

I know the almost irrepressible urge to seek and get revenge. Who doesn’t know what it is to want someone to hurt as much you do? There’s a scene in both the film and stage versions of “Steel Magnolias” where after Shelby dies her mom M’lynn says, “I just wanna hit somethin’ and hit it hard”. When we’re in pain, whether it be emotional or physical, the thought of being alone in that pain is hard. Pain makes people say and do crazy stuff. I understand that truth.

When my kids were lost and in their darkest place I was in intense pain. I really didn’t know how to deal with it, and who better to take my frustrations out on then the people closest to me. A series of sad events that brought even more distress to our lives had left us largely disconnected from long-time friends and some family, so Tom and I took our pain out on one another. Of course our kids weren’t alone in their addictions and their cohorts had parents who needed to release their anguish. When they vented they used us as a punching bag. We got several of those, “your bad kid is ruining my good kid” phone calls. Tom let those attacks roll of his back, but I internalized them.

I always believed that teaching our kids to take personal responsibility for their own behavior was a lesson that would serve them well in life. I never put 100% of blame on another child, and I never challenged a teacher—even when I disagreed with her teaching style or the way she punished my child. I believed that my kids needed to learn to respect authority and to understand that I would not step in and undermine their teachers or the classroom rules. I realize that anyone who may have known my kids in their pre-teen and teen years might be surprised to learn how very hard I worked at teaching them to respect adults, but I did try! I never bought into the “they just fell in with the wrong crowd” argument. People (little people and big people) are drawn to others with the same likes and interests. My daughter once told me that she didn’t persuade anyone to do anything they didn’t want to do or weren’t already doing. More truth. I never really figured out how to deal with the phone calls from those parents who were determined to blame me for the choices their kids were making. I typically agreed with them and accepted it probably was entirely my fault that their kid was on drugs. And I cried a lot.

Today our kids are healthy and moving forward with their lives. We are all putting our past behind us and our family relationship is strong and healthy. We like each other. Every once in a while my kids will hear from someone they used to hang out with or get into trouble with. Although some of those kids are in better places, I am sad to say that the kids whose parents blamed me for their ills are not doing so well. My kids took responsibility for their behavior. They’ve never blamed anyone (not even me) for their bad choices and they’ve paid dearly for their mistakes. I never blamed another parent for the decisions my kids were making for themselves, and I would never have considered blaming their child either. Childhood is the time to makes mistakes, then learn and grow.

I believe that taking responsibility for my indiscretions empowers me to take responsibility for making the good stuff happen. The good stuff isn’t an accident. Take ownership and make it happen!

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