Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tough, Sacrifial Love for Son Pays Off

Parenting is the most difficult job on earth. I know we’ll have jobs in Heaven, but I hope parenting isn’t one of them. I have experienced the terrible twos, the troublesome teens and some of the tumultuous twenties with my kids. I’d pick anything over the teen years.

Living with teens is hard work; but trying to protect, direct and relate to them is nearly impossible. Their hormones are raging, their bodies are changing and they face constant judgment by peers who are living with the same craziness.

A woman I know (we’ll call her Sally) agreed to share her story:

Sally’s son (we’ll call him Steven) had been diagnosed in early childhood with ADHD and struggled because of this disorder as well as the medications to control it. During his senior year in high school Sally noticed some erratic behavior and, after some sleuthing on her own, confirmed that he was using drugs.

Steven’s choices began to get him in minor trouble with the law and school was a challenge. His girlfriend was also using drugs. Sally knew that she had to take serious action. She had never been one of those parents who took a gentle approach to this type of behavior, even calling the police herself once when she found him drunk at 15. She wanted him to experience consequences early so that he’d learn and not have bigger problems down the road.

Following the advice of a counselor and educational consultant, she sought out a rehab facility to help her son. With only three months until his 18th birthday, she was under the gun. She drove hundreds of miles from her house to see the place and meet with the counselor and “transport agent” who would accompany Steven to his temporary home.

As Sally made the long drive home on Mother’s Day 2005, she remembers feeling very tired and sadness consumed her. But the over-riding feeling was hope. She knew that while this would be an unpopular choice with her son, it was the only choice she could make.

Steven was surprised with the news of his treatment plan and taken away. He was very upset and Sally wondered if he’d ever forgive her, but that was less important than saving his life.

At the end of seven long months filled with encouraging ups and painful downs, the counselor recommended that Steven go home. When Sally picked him up he presented her with a card. On the cover it said, “Thank You for Pet Sitting.” Puzzled, she looked at him. “I don’t have many options for shopping and that’s the only one I could find,” Steven said.

The funny moment was soon replaced with an immense rush of emotion as Sally read what Steven had written inside:
“I was running for a cliff and you tripped me,
Before I could fall you caught me,
For that I will be forever grateful.”

Steven continues to do well and is living an independent and drug-free life. Sally wants to encourage parents to take big steps as early as possible to save their kids from drugs. For a single mom, this facility seemed out of reach. In addition to a chunk of her savings and a little help from Steven’s dad, she sold her son’s car and dipped into his college money to cover the cost of his treatment. She feels that it was the best investment in his future she could have possibly made.

Share your “parenting teens” stories, or offer a comment about Sally and Steven’s.
Diane Markins

3 comments:

Linda S. Fitzgerald said...

Diane,

Another great post! I had a teenage daughter who took her grief at her father's death out on life! Alcohol, trouble in school, etc. Finally an episode (we laugh about it now) ended in an arrest. That's when I said, "We're going to counseling!" Her remark was that I'm a counselor (meaning me). "No," I said. "I'm your mother first!" It took only 5 sessions with the ride to Indy one of utter silence & intense glares. But the ride home each time was 'heaven'. . . loads of chatter back & forth.

Today she's a wonderful adult woman who is the most loving caring parent with children who have no discipline problems. But my daughter loves to say "I just know I'm going to get 'payback' time!"

Thanks for a great piece (don't forget to post at the STATION) & a reminder of what the love of DAD is like & when we 'mimic' His love on earth. . . it's sometimes tough!

Much love,

Jeff Williams said...

Diane,

You are dead on with this.

As a professional counselor with 20 years of experience, the scenario you shared is one I've seen a few times.

Tough love is committed and sacrificial love. It doesn't take the path of least resistance, nor does it try to befriend those that aren't thinking clearly. Rather, it does whatever is necesssary to save a life, redirect a life, to give a life a chance of living.

More than once I've been cussed at, threatened, spat upon, etc. And more than once, the same rageful youth has returned years later to say, "Thank you. You were the only one who dared to stand up to my insolence, insanity and self-destructiveness."

There is an impostor for true love that advocates the path of least resistance and short term gains. Don't listen to their voice or follow their counsel. They know only the path of least resistance and neurotic accomplishments: short term gains that keep feathers from being ruffled, but don't solve any problems.

When a youth is living a losing game, it is wise to alter the game plan. Ask yourself, "If left uninterrupted, how will this turn out?" If your answer is "calamitous", then bold and possibly unpopular intervention may be indicated.

To loe is to risk relationship. And, relationship based on pleasure with what we do on behalf of others is no relationship.

Do what is right and best and you won't have any regrets. Hesistate or shrink from bold action and you may pay with regret for a lifetime.

Diane Markins said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective. Most of us parents have been guilty of not taking action early enough or dramatically enough (even when our kids are in first grade and lie about whether they've brushed their teeth). We so long to believe in them and our love for them that the line between corrective (loving) discipline and affection gets blurred. This results in shot-term as opposed to long-term...even eternal perspective. We need to be parenting with the absolute biggest picture in mind. No one said it would ever be easy, and it they did we should find them and sue!