So… as a parent I’m pretty sure there really isn’t one set of rules for what to do in whatever it is we tend to define as parenting. I suspect it’s pretty natural to cast your eyes over the fence at the proverbial neighbours kids and try as you might the yardsticks sneak into the back of your head. Marks, Athletics, Musical Talents, Friends, Teeth (braces/no braces), it can be a bit of a jungle out there as you go through the compulsory stages. In the end we want them safe, healthy, and happy…get those three down and then take what comes.
The challenge, or maybe it’s just my challenge, comes with that concept of agency and sustaining support for your kids when the choices they make run just a little to the left or right of what you had in mind as the best path (my view of best path) for their life. If you haven’t had a teenager yet, you’ll have to trust me on this a bit, then again perhaps you remember using the line, “You’re ruining my life….” or “It’s my life…” usually utilized in a discussion around the teen’s choices and the direct disharmony with your parental expectations. I can’t say no one’s life is ruined…sadly some decisions actually do lead to great tragedy, but I can say a lot of the decisions we bump and struggle through with our children while life impacting are not life ruining.
Having the patience to work through those without fighting in a manner that permanently scars the relationship, that can be a challenge. Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “When we are unduly impatient…we are in effect trying to hasten the outcome when acceleration would abuse agency.” This doesn’t mean we blindly acquiesce when choices run contrary with our personal beliefs, even beliefs we feel are family beliefs. It means that we need to take a much longer view at life, and the eternal nature of the family, as we continue to support and guide and allow for agency to run its course.
As parents we have a pretty good idea of what we believe. Our faith, both in practice and as it manifests itself as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), provides a few foundational guidelines…some do and do nots in the expectations. Most people who have met a “mormon” know that we don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, no drugs, no coffee, wait until you’re married, even a few simple ones things like minding our language – a few guidelines to help us along the way. At some time in life each and every individual has to decide do I follow those expectations or not – either way its an exercise in agency.
As parents we have our agency as well, and one of the choices is to make sure that our children understand the expectations and hopes we have for them. The element of unconditional love works in concert with that of expectations, values, and the focus on the eternity. Then we have to give them the room to make their choices…hard as that may be at times.
I am tremendously proud of my six children – we debate choices and consequences all the time. I’d love for all of them to be right on the path my wife and I hope for them and yes I don’t mind saying that at times we’d like their path to be closer to our path and that’s why supporting can be complicated. The first student I suspended as principal was my daughter (not Amy) they all know we don’t get to choose the consequences of our choices. They also all know that the sun will come up tomorrow and tomorrow we’ll have another set of opportunities and choices.
There is karma in all of this of course, the cycle does tend to repeat over time. As that young daughter I suspended grew older, married and had a baby girl of her own it appears her parents have become exponentially smarter…I suspect we haven’t but her point of view certainly has changed. Complicated? Yes but continue the support, it will be worth it in the eternities.
Amy’s flair for the fashion world continues – she has lead a group of students at her college to develop a magazine for the 20 somethings…admittedly quite a bit outside my comfort zone, language and some content warnings – perhaps past what you’d see in Cosmo (I’m guessing) but proud of her just the same. Check it out here