Spring 2012 - The Consequences of Our Actions
Of all the parenting challenges I've faced, from whopper contractions during transitional labor to dealing with
a defiant teenager, there's one that remains my Achilles heel: allowing my offspring to experience the consequences of their actions. I'm not talking about the consequences of studying hard or practicing the piano every day, but more along the lines of what happened last weekend.
Seven-year-old Tristin and I stopped by a community 'KidFest' sponsored by our local hospital. When Tristin
heard there was a bungee ride there, he became a boy on a mission. It's all he could talk about during the car
ride to the event. However, when we got there and he saw the line for the ride rivaled that of the Pirates of the
Caribbean at Disneyland, he made a beeline for the shorter line of the Bouncy House instead. My internal parenting radar was signaling 'Warning! Huge disappointment ahead!' Judging by the time and the length of the line, I knew there was a very good chance there would be no time left for the bungee thing if he didn't get in that line first. I carefully explained the situation to him, forewarning him of the possible consequence, yet he insisted on staying in line for the Bouncy House.
Sure enough, by the time we got to the bungee ride, the 'Closed' sign had just gone up. Tristin burst into tears. We sat down to talk about what happened—that he made a choice that came with a risk. He knew the risk going in, yet he chose to take it. Such is life, right?
I could have controlled the situation from the beginning, thus avoiding the tears, the disappointment, and the
Ward Cleaver Talk. But what would Tristin have learned about making choices? And isn't that a huge part of our
job as parents—helping our children to grow? Nevertheless, I wondered if I had done the right thing—until I
watched another mom presented with her own challenge the next day at a child's birthday party.
When her 7-year-old daughter dissolved into tears after not winning a contest (meaning she didn't win a
prize), guess how the mom handled it? Within minutes, she got her daughter not one but two prizes for her to
choose from. I winced. What did the girl learn about life? And in that moment, I felt clear about how I handled
the bungee situation. (There's nothing like witnessing other people's disasters to bring clarity!)
We so want our children to be happy, but sometimes this means they may need to endure a little bit of disappointment and crying as they navigate their way towards independence. It might not feel so good in the
moment, but in due time, when we see as well as experience their growth, it's more than worth the tears.