Month: February 2015

Hard Question

“I don’t think you should force me to do things I don’t want to do,” my daughter told me as I grabbed her phone and replaced it with her math homework.

“I wouldn’t have to force you if you would do it willingly,” I reminded her.

“Shouldn’t it be my decision?” She asked.

“Not when you are fourteen years old,” I answered distractedly as I removed the groceries from their bags and shoved them into the refrigerator.

“Don’t you want me to be happy?”

“Of course, but that is not my main goal for you.”

“What is your goal for me?”

And that is when all my logic and love and parenting expertise failed me. I am an experienced parent. I know things. So why is my fourth child stumping me with these hard questions?

Sharla and Emery Hintz
Sharla and Emery Hintz

What is my goal for her? I want her to be happy, but I’m smart enough to know that happiness alone is not the goal. Possible answers ran through my mind: to be nice, to be smart, to be good, to do good, to change the world, to be the best version of herself, to love those around her and be loved in return. All good things, but not the right thing.

My breath caught and my heart missed a few beats as a terrifying thought struck me: I can’t have a goal for her. None. Any goal I pick for her, or any other person, is not going to work at all. The weight of it will crush her and cause her to resist it and resent me. And my unmet expectations will cause stress in me to the point of removing my own hair by forceful pulling. A stress, sadly, I have already begun to feel.

Who am I to go around setting goals for other people – even if they are my children? The only goal I can have that will work at all has to be for me. So here is my goal for myself: to parent in such a way as to equip my children with all the skills necessary for them to succeed as adults. I have to be able to live with the way I have parented and feel no regret. I will ensure that they are set up to thrive mentally, spiritually, and physically. The rest – all of it – is up to them.

So, sweet girl, I understand now that you will need to choose your own goal. I admit that it fills me with fear to let you do such a thing because I am scared you will pick a goal I don’t like.

Ninety-nine percent of life will not be affected by this revelation, but the one percent that will be affected is shockingly important. I don’t know how I went this long without seeing it. Almost none of my actions will be different, but almost all of my motivations will. I am not doing this for you. This is for me. I am parenting the way I feel I need to in order to fulfill my goal for myself. You are off the hook. Which basically changes everything.

I know that as your goal for yourself becomes more developed, our goals may conflict with each other. I pray they align, but I know they won’t always, and, certainly, this will incite times of strife between us. I will try my best to navigate the situation with love and patience. I will fail often, and I’m sorry about that. This is hard.

But I promise to always let love win.

Now stop asking me such hard questions.

Moments

Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart. If, at my first baby shower, I would have had a glimpse into the future, I

Heart by Makenna
Painted by Makenna Hintz

would have rushed out and gotten my masters in psychology right then. Or I would have joined the Amish. Or lived Swiss Family Robinson style on a remote island. I’m not sure which one.

I think the scariest thing about this journey is feeling powerless against the big moments. The everyday stuff is predictable: force the children to attend school, clean, shop, cook, force the children to do homework, clean more, eat, talk, force the children to go to bed. Repeat endlessly.

It’s the surprise moments that knock me off my feet. The time the principal called because Josiah had been in a fight. The time Makenna was in a car accident. The next time Makenna was in a car accident. The time Makenna was in an ambulance because of a car accident. The time my laid-back, levelheaded son punched a hole through his wall. The time Officer Williams called because my child had been caught shoplifting. The time I found razor blades while cleaning the bedrooms. And those are just the ones I can speak about publicly, but, believe me, there are worse moments – the kind that take your breath away and make sleep impossible.

Awhile back I watched my grandma handle an unspeakable trauma like a solid rock against the raging rapids around her, and I asked how she was able to brave it. She said, “This is but a moment in time that something happened – not the whole story.” I was astounded that she could see it that way because to me it was a consuming tragedy. But I trusted her advanced wisdom, and tried applying her advice. And I discovered that she was absolutely right. The moments are not the whole story. Some moments send us to our knees. Some moments make us dance. Some moments change all the moments that follow. Each moment consumes us and teaches us a new lesson in loving completely, unconditionally, wholeheartedly, selflessly. The story, though, goes on like a field richer for the rain.

If I could walk through time like I could walk through a field, I would pick the moments like I would pick flowers. I would pick them all: the worst, the funniest, the loudest, the horrifying, the stunning. The collection would probably say more about love than any book ever written on the subject. I’m pretty sure the bouquet would be breathtaking.

 

Sweets

“Sharla,” Grandma said after I answered the phone, “I have a grocery list for you. I need Little Debbie Cakes, powdered donuts, and Pepsi.”

“You sound like my kids,” I told her.Grandma and Grandpa

“What?”

“Never mind. Is that all?”

“Yes. That is all I need.”

As I walked through the aisles of the grocery store, I felt a strange sensation as I bought several packages of the forbidden sweets I never allowed myself to purchase. I loaded three cartons of Pepsi into my cart and two packages of powdered donuts. I had to ask directions to the Little Debbie cakes due to years of avoiding such treats. As I headed to the check out, I noticed a voice mail from my grandma.

“Oh, and Sharla?” Her voice said, “Also, pick me up a candy bar or something in case I get a craving for something sweet.”

Gotta Love Him

“I have to go shopping and get some new pants,” Mike told me as we ate a leisurely Saturday afternoon snack.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll go with you if you want.”

mike“Oh no,” Mike said. “I don’t want to go right now. I want to go sometime when it won’t be crowded.”

“Good point. It gets pretty busy on Saturdays,” I agreed as I opened a new bag of tortilla chips and poured more salsa into the nearly empty bowl.

“I hate shopping when it is crowded.”

“When do you want to go?”

“Well,” Mike said, thoughtfully, “I need the pants by tomorrow morning.”

I wish this was an uncommon conversation.