As parents, we have so many decisions, choices and responsibilities that not only affect our own life but every person we are raising. Whether we play full-time parent or part-time parent, we become the Corporate CEO of our family; see what has worked in the past and what can be improved upon, what new methods have been invented, throw out the old procedures, introduce some new technology blended with proven techniques and you have the makings of a well-intended, optimistic parent pursuing a positive and colorful future for their family.
I’ve shared some difficult experiences that I had while growing up, on this blog. And while those experiences impacted me greatly, my parents also provided a good family structure, like chores and a bedtime curfew, having dinner at the kitchen table almost every weeknight, and sitting around the living room watching All in the Family or Good Times.
Manners were important to my parents (mom and step father). They implanted a strong sense of responsibility in their kids to show respect for oneself and for others. They had rules and lessons that helped instill good values in me from which I have added many of the same lessons to my own parenting practices. However, there was one rule that I felt didn’t produced positive results and I needed re-evaluate it; fighting.
Fighting was not tolerated by our dad. To him, it didn’t matter whether we started the fight or not. No fighting. Period!
This was not a difficult rule for me because I feared fist fighting greatly. I did not once during my twelve years of high school, tell someone who was bullying or criticizing me how I felt, no matter how mad or hurt I was. I felt insecure and lacked courage. I would allow my family, friends, love interest and acquaintances mistreat me. My self-doubting personality led me to feel victimized, as if I had no control over my circumstance or outcome. Maybe I didn’t feel worthy enough to defend my position or maybe I felt those who were supposed to protect me failed to do so which left me feeling somewhat undeserving.
My son, on the other hand, was born with an assertive personality and wasn’t shy about expressing his thoughts. He had strong convictions and had enough bravery to back them up. I wanted to be sure I cultivated these qualities in Jaren that were lacking in me.
Naturally, parents want to protect their children. But we can’t provide protection 24/7 from the outside world. We have no control over what others may say to our kids, or what happens when we are not there. I felt like Jaren may be faced with different obstacles than I had growing up. For one, I was somewhat concerned that he may come face to face with racial issues. I wanted to make sure that I appropriately prepared him and assured him that he has every right to stand up for what he believes to be right and ethical. I explained to Jaren that there will always be someone who won’t like you for “some” reason. You’re too tall, too short; too thin, too round; too dark, too light; too smart, too slow; too rich, or too poor. I told him to not get hung up on that “one thing” someone might say or criticize you about. If they didn’t like you for that one thing, then they would find something else about you they didn’t like.
Jaren got in his first scuffle during pre-school on the playground one day. One of the boys was pestering one of the girls in their class. The girl told the boy to stop repeatedly but he kept doing whatever he was doing. Jaren went over to see what was going on and then asked the boy to leave the girl alone. The boy pushed Jaren. Jaren in turn pushed him on the floor and then began to punch him.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. -John 15:13
I was happy that Jaren protected his classmate and happier when Jaren’s teacher said that he didn’t get in trouble because Jaren didn’t start the fight. But at the same time, I knew I needed to have a talk with him. We needed to lay down some ground rules.
I told him how proud I was that he wanted to protect the little girl. I told him that he should always try to use his words first. I said, “If someone says something to you that you don’t like, you have every right to tell that person how you feel and you may ask them to stop. If they don’t stop, tell them that you will go to the teacher. Always try to handle it yourself first. If you can walk away from a fight, then do that.” Lastly, I enforced, “I better never EVER hear of you starting a fight but if someone hits you first, you have EVERY right to defend yourself.”
Jaren came to the defense of a classmate once again, when he was in middle school. A boy (that Jaren didn’t know) was being teased by several other schoolboys for being overweight. Jaren walked by and overheard them. The boy was nearly in tears. Jaren knew some of the schoolboys and asked them to stop. They walked away and as a result, no fight occurred.
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
But the first time I witnessed Jaren stand up for his self is one that will forever be ingrained in my heart. Jaren was only three years old. I was still in the mourning stages from relinquishing my parental rights to my second son, Noah, who was placed for adoption. My emotions were weak and my tolerance level was rather low towards my young energetic baby boy and at times I would spout off at him for every little annoyance.
Standing in my bedroom, I chastised Jaren for several minor things. My son looked up at me with his heart full of sadness and said, “Mommy, you’re not being very nice to me.” My heart dropped. I felt awful. My child was speaking the truth. I sat on my bed as tears quickly filled my eyes and called my son over to me. I hugged him and apologized. I wanted to assure him that his thoughts, feelings and opinions mattered.