It was an innocent remark, or so I thought. An innocuous, off-hand comment about a family situation unleashed a torrent of angry words from my daughter “Mom, when are you and Dad going to learn that we’re adults now? You can’t tell us what to do anymore.”
Taken aback, I nonetheless felt that the issue was “on the table” and needed to be discussed. “You’re right,” I told her, “you are too old for us to be telling you what to do…at least in the way we did when you were a child.” I then went on to tell her of something I’d read about the impact of influencing by catagion as opposed to that of compulsion. It reminded me of Brigham Young’s comment that you can’t flog a man into heaven. You can’t force a person to live the commandments or to walk the straight path, but you can influence by example, by love, and by kindness. I then reminded my lovely daughter that the only reason her father and I kept dispensing parental advice is because we loved her and her siblings very much. From now on, however, I promised to use less talk and more action in the hope that my behavior would be contagious.
Nevertheless, as I was putting the finishing touches on my Sunday school lesson this morning, I was stuck with how replete the Scriptures are with instructions from our Heavenly Father to us, His children. Not only are the commandments and reminders there for us to read and apply throughout our entire lives, but there’s also the fact that many of them are listed over and over again. If our loving Father felt the need to give us continued and repeated instructions, isn’t it permissible for us as earthly parents to do the same thing with our children that He has entrusted to us?
Perplexed, flummoxed, perhaps a little panicky. All of those adjectives describe my feelings this morning. Months ago we put our home on the market and bought another. This was AFTER prayerful consideration and the certain knowledge that things would work out just the way we needed them to. I had lightheartedly remarked that we had enough money to make three payments on the new house, never dreaming that six months later, we’d be struggling to make two payments. Remaining prayerful and optimistic has yielded no contract. This morning I feel like Marjorie Holmes, one of my mother’s favorite authors, who said that she had prayed so often for certain things that her voice was hoarse from asking and her knuckles bloody from knocking on the door. And still she knocked. And so do I. Aren’t we told that if we ask we shall receive and that if we knock the door will be opened? Recently bemoaning our proximity to the proverbial Poorhouse if something doesn’t happen soon, I quipped that even prayer doesn’t seem to be working. A spiritual friend was quick in his response: “Sure it does. You just don’t know it yet.” I needed that reminder. Although we as mortals may not understand why something is or isn’t happening just the way that we think it should, that doesn’t mean that events are not unfolding in the way that’s best for us. He has higher thoughts and better plans.
Sunday school left me bewildered….again. I’m baffled about how and why young people in today’s world can act so rudely and disrespectfully that teaching them is a chore, not a pleasure, especially teens who have been raised in loving families by parents who teach manners and appropriate, civil behavior. When a teacher has to stop her lesson to remind students to stop chatting and “listen up,” every three minutes (or less), soon the Spirit is missing. What’s up with that??? Are all youth this way, or is it just American ones?
Rather than give THE LECTURE about appropriate behavior in Heavenly Father’s house yet again, I decided to try blending a little psychology into the introduction. I gave a brief overview of the major psychological perspectives and then tried to relate their unruly, seemingly uncontrollable behavior to each of the viewpoints in order to come up with the WHY of general incivility.
- Could it be psychoanalytic? Were they misbehaving because of some regressed memories? Were there some unconscious forces that made them all vie for attention? Or maybe their ids were overpowering their superegos.
- What about the behavioral perspective. Evidently somewhere along the line someone (perhaps several someones) had reinforced being cute and talkative and disruptive. Perhaps they even did it to each other. Even worse. I could be strengthening their antics by calling attention to them.
- That brings us to the humanistic view. Were they trying to achieve positive regard? Achieve a healthy self-concept? Were they in the process of growing and “becoming?”
- The cognitive view offers “food for thought” because it’s definite that teenagers think dramatically different from younger children and from more mature individuals. I looked at these adolescents and realized that by the time they turn twenty-five, they’ll in all likelihood look back on their disrespectful behavior in disbelief. Right now they’re wrapped up in the “imaginary audience.”
- Then there’s the sociocultural perspective. There’s absolutely no doubt that teenagers in other cultures share some of the same characteristics as those in
America, and yet in many countries (especially Eastern ones), they are more disciplined and self-controlled. To giggle and chatter away incessantly while an adult talks would be unthinkable in other cultures. Is it any wonder that we’re sometimes referred to collectively as the “ugly American?”
- A biophysical viewpoint offers answers too. Perhaps the prefrontal cortex is still developing, or maybe hormones are raging or “out of whack.”
While I enjoyed thinking of these possible explanations, I came up with no definitive answers to my class’s irreverent behavior. ..and neither did they. By the way, yes I did consider that perhaps my boring lessons are the cause of the shenanigans, but somehow I don’t think that’s the case. In fact, EVERYONE who teaches or works with this group of young people is experiencing the same frustration and exasperation. What can I (we) do?
On my way to work this morning, Dr. Scott Peck’s comments about love came to mind. In The Road Less Traveled, Dr. Peck says that all love requires courage and work…courage because a person risks rejection, heartache, and perhaps even despair if his or her love is not returned or is little value to another. The work part comes in because of the sacrifices a person has to make in the name of love. I say “has to make” because according to Dr. Peck, if you say that you love someone and yet you do nothing (or very little) for that person, then it’s not love, and there are no exceptions. None.
So how does this relate to motherhood? I see young parents enraptured with the perfect little beings they have brought into this world, and I’m hopeful that things will go well for the little family. And yet, I know from experience that the sweet-smelling, velvet-skinned, adorable infant will soon grow into a busy toddler whose favorite word is “NO.” My grandchildren love to say, “I don’t want to,” when their sweet mother makes a request like picking up their toys or bringing her a diaper to change Baby Emma. A parent turns her head, and the defiant (but cute) toddler is a teenager with opinions, friends, and tastes much different from that of the parents. Teens can break a parent’s heart. Some have even been known to lash out with such statements as “I didn’t ask to be born!” Or even worse, “I hate you!” Does it take courage to have and raise a child? Absolutely!
The work aspect of love is easy to see…and hard to practice at times. Daydreaming about having children doesn’t always match reality. There’s sleep deprivation for starters, a phenomenom that begins when a child enters the world and ends…well, I’m not so sure about that one. There are still nights of insomnia when I find myself vexed or fretting about one of my children. There are always clothes to launder, fold, or press; soccer practices, dance classes, hockey games, and track meets to chaffeur; food purchasing and preparation; activities related to school including homework assistance, meeting with teachers, and actually getting children there; keeping a clean, organized, and spiritual household; and providing for the child’s temporal as well as spiritual needs. Add to this the good old fashioned need for quality time, one-on-one time with each child, and it’s no wonder that mothers are often weary and a bit overwhelmed. Motherhood is WORK.
Dr. Peck was right. Being a mother and loving a child requires both courage and work. Is motherhood worth it? You bet.
A friend and I went to Columbia intending to go on a tour of homes. On the way, however, we got sidetracked by returning an earlier purchase and then doing some unneeded (but fun) shopping. It became imperative that I purchase a green lamp for my guestroom, and she felt the urgent need to buy some butter cream scented candles.
Heading downtown, we got sidetracked and rode through some lovely residential areas and finally arrived at a unique store specializing in originally designed jewelry. What a fun place! We even got to sample chocolate coated strawberries and cheese cake drizzled on pink spoons. Yum. Before leaving, Connie spied a lovely two-strand turquoise and silver necklace with her name on it. In high spirits (was it the cheesecake or the glittering array of jewelry?), we decided to drive farther into the city to a truly unique jewelry store near the university. As I was maneuvering my trusty Camry into the only available parking spot, we saw him…only we couldn’t tell for certain if it was a he or a she. The homeless person was so disheveled that we couldn’t determine the gender for certain. The individual’s clothing appeared lumpy, as if all of his worldly goods, including whatever might have been discovered on a day of walking
Columbia’s downtown streets, were beneath the oversized blue sweatshirt.
Connie and I looked at each other, swallowed hard, and then marched right into the store, perhaps hoping to forget the image that had so disconcerted us. How were we supposed to have fun with that sad sight in our minds? Nevertheless, a few minutes in Handpicked, and our consciences were quiet. Thirty minutes and a few dollars later, the material girls emerged laughing and chatting about what was next on our agenda. Then we saw the person again. This time he was sitting on a bench right outside of the store, his bearded chin resting on his chest as he napped, his hair matted and filthy. We got in the car and discussed the homeless situation in
Columbia…and indeed everywhere. What should we do? What could we do?
Quiet for the first time that day, both of us thinking of what we’d seen, we looked to our right and saw another homeless man standing behind a tree, a bag of possessions at his feet. What can be done? Who are these people? Where are their families? Are they schizophrenics with no medication? Were they once employed in “safe” jobs that somehow ended? Is there no one who loves them?
What are we to do if we truly desire to be good Samaritans?
Welcome to my blog. As a wife, mother, educator, and writer, I’m interested in many things: improving in all of my roles, helping others to enjoy happy, effective lives, nature and its symbiotic relationship with humans, major world religions, diversity, words, health, and chocolate fudge sundaes with plenty of nuts. I’m awed by sunrises and sunsets, my grandchildren’s tiny feet, and starfish…all the wonders of the universe. If there’s a kindred spirit out there who loves families, trees, connections, books, and beaches, please respond.
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