Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Strong enough to bend

I've been reflecting a lot on where we were a year ago. The biggest thing I remember from a year ago is the complete uncertainty about where we would be now- a year later. Decisions were still being made, discussions were being attempted and thwarted by a teenage boy who needed to go through his own internal process, and the planner in me was staring at her calendar wishing desperately I could start filling it in but having to wait because well....decisions were still being made.

It. Was. Agonizing.

But like so many things (in fact, almost everything) this too did pass and now here we quarter away from Jack having completed his first year in college. Successfully completed, I might add. It's mind boggling.

As we watched our first-born navigate his way through so many choices and options over the past year, we were doing some navigating of our own. I don't know about everyone else doing this parenting gig, but sometimes for Superdad and I the whole thing looks an awful lot like a big game of darts. We keep flinging out ideas and plans and rules and intentions and hope that every once in awhile one of them hits the bullseye.

In case you are wondering, they do not all hit the bullseye. I don't even want to know our ratio and I'm glad no one is keeping track.

One of the things we felt very sure about in our grand plan for launching our first child out of the nest was that he should not go to college with a car his first year. Our reasons were very sound and filled with an abundance of parental wisdom. Every time the topic would come up we would toss out our razor sharp explanations with fine-tuned accuracy.

You need to earn that privilege.

We want you to get involved on campus.

It will be a distraction.

Walking is good for you and will prevent you from gaining the Freshman 15. (We didn't actually use that one, but it's good, huh?)

You need to settle into college life first and then we will consider letting you have a car at school.

And to his credit, he never really argued any of these points. Instead, he just came home a lot that first quarter. To visit his car.

And we watched...and observed....and discussed...and slowly we noticed that all of our arrow-straight rationales seemed to be landing somewhere on the outside edges of the Parenting Dart Board. They weren't hitting the mark.

Over Christmas we had more discussions and in the meantime Jack got a job downtown that meant traveling to and from school late at night. Concessions started to be made. You can take the car on the days that you can have the car for the whole weekend since you work both nights...okay, you work Monday and Wednesday so just take the car and bring it back on Thursday and then you can have it again on Friday....oh whatever, just take the car!!!

Now he has a car at school full time. And guess what? The world didn't come to an end. He is actually happier, more involved at school and spends more time on campus now that he has access to his own transportation. It helps that he has to pay for his own gas so he has gotten surprisingly thrifty about unnecessary driving, but he never complains.

Superdad and I just look at each other, shrug, and happily say, we were wrong.

We had the best intentions but in this instance, with this kid, in this moment in time, we were off the mark. We had to re-calibrate, take a deep breath and try again. Let's try something different. Show us how this could work. We are open to a new plan. We could be wrong.


And it got me you know how many things could be solved, how much pain could be avoided, how much less conflict there would be...if we would all entertain the possibility that we could be wrong?

I like to believe I am a pretty forgiving person and one of the reasons I try to be that way is because I am well aware that people need to be forgiving of me from time to time. I am not perfect. I do not always have the right answer. I do not always say the right thing. I have bad days and good days. I try to use that awareness when I encounter someone behaving in a way that I find difficult to understand. I try to extend a little grace and hope that someone else will do the same for me when I find myself adrift and not operating from my best self.

Even our most deeply held convictions do not have to be used as a bludgeon against those who disagree. Is it possible that this person has a history you don't understand and that history has shaped his or her beliefs? Is it possible that you both actually do want to arrive at the same place you just have different ideas as to how to get there? Is it possible that if you really understood the fullness of this person's life experience and could truly get inside his head you just might find some common ground?

Is it possible that you could be wrong??

I don't pretend to know much about what will come after this life. I am a person of faith who believes in a loving God so I do believe there is more....but I don't imagine for a minute that my simple mind can conceive of what that might be. But one thing I am sure of is that I will discover there were a whole lot of things I was wrong about in this life.

And knowing that makes it a heck of a lot easier for me to concede now and then, while I am still living this life, that I could be wrong.

I don't know...maybe that makes me spineless, or weak, or wishy-washy? Maybe it would be better if I put more things in the "non-negotiable" compartment of my mind and heart? Maybe my peacemaking tendencies are really just a cover-up for a fear of conflict? Maybe you really can tell everything you need to know about a person based on a label, a single moment or a point of view?


But I could be wrong.

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