We live in a world that confuses “young at heart”, with arrested development. Being young at heart means living life with vitality regardless of how many times your odometer has rolled over. Enjoying each moment and maintaining an optimistic innocence. It means to never stop seeing the beauty and possibility in this life we’re given and to keep learning and growing.
Unfortunately, so many have interpreted this happy little mantra to mean, “I don’t have to grow up.”.
People of all age groups who have chosen to stay young at heart still have responsibilities. They maintain employment, pay their bills on time, have stresses and disappointments. It’s in how they choose to let these things shape them that determines their “heart age”.
Someone who casts blame for their poor choices on others, lacks follow through on commitments, allows (or demands) others to support them in their frivolity or laziness is not young at heart. That person is, quite simply, immature.
I know some of those people, and have often thought, “Oh those poor parents who are stuck supporting their adult children.”
“I can’t believe that he has the nerve to buy a brand new vehicle and take extravagant holidays while his parents clean up after him, buy his food and let him live in their house. He doesn’t even have a job.”
Those poor parents.
Then one day I realized that this adult child is simply living the life he or she was raised to live.
Maybe he failed an important math test so mom badgers the math teacher until he gets a re-write.
She only showed up to 2 volleyball practises and put in minimal effort when she was there. Dad bullies the coach into putting her in the game and benching the kids who were committed and gave their all.
Forcing the situation until our children get what they want is not preparing them for life. Twenty, thirty, forty plus years of this kind of parenting only leads to a generation of entitlement and self-centeredness.
I’m not talking about helping out your adult children for a time when life has hit them hard. A job loss and no way to feed the kids, the death of a spouse, serious illness. Sacrificing for our kids in circumstances like these is loving them.
Standing up for a true injustice – that’s good parenting. Maybe your daughter is the committed player benched because the other girl’s dad is louder and angrier. In those circumstances, we stand against injustice and teach our children to do the same for others.
As a teen, I was a conscientious student. I generally did well in school and followed the rules. I may have been a teacher’s pet in a class or two. So one ill-thought out afternoon a friend and I decided to skip one class. I’m not sure about her but this was my FIRST skip! She was an equally well-mannered student. At the time we felt completely justified in our decision – looking back now we were just being stupid.
Being novices at this type of behaviour, it all blew up in our faces and we each received a 1 day suspension for our efforts. Meanwhile, chronic offenders walked away without so much as a slap on the wrist. When we questioned our principal, her response was bluntly, “We are going to make an example of you.”
I still hold this as a mild injustice.
What did our parents do? Told us each to be productive and clean our respective houses the next day since we wouldn’t be at school.
Yes, our parents were aware of the injustice in this situation, but they also saw the bigger need to teach us to respect the authority of those over us. Twenty-ish years later, I still thank them for this lesson.
So back to the title of this article…
This summer my oldest 2 children did another round of swimming lessons. In my son’s first lesson I was going to be helpful and point him continuously back to his teacher when he wandered away from the group. I had to do this a number of times in that first 30 minutes.
The second lesson the teacher (wisely) took them to a different area of the pool where my son couldn’t see me. Guess how that lesson went? Swimmingly (full pun intended)! My son responded to his teacher far better without my interference and the whole class benefited from the lack of distraction.
I sat in the observation room for the remainder of the lessons and my son did just fine.
My daughter had a great time in her lessons, but halfway through I noticed that she wasn’t jumping into the deep end, but it was more like slipping in at the edge of the pool. They all had lifejackets on so there was really nothing to be afraid of. She and I discussed this and she took no heed to my warning. In fairness, she had never experienced failure before. We have set up a cushy world that just keeps pushing our kids along regardless of their performance or effort. In this we have failed them.
So the end of lessons came and my daughter failed her level. Believe it or not, I was relieved as I expected her to be pushed through to the next level anyway. The fact was, she hadn’t earned it. She didn’t even try to jump in. Not once.
It allowed for a wonderful teachable moment for us. I explained to her that there was no justification in being upset with the instructor as he gave her everything she needed to be successful, it was her choice to not take it. The consequence of her lack of effort was that she now had to go through the exact same lessons again, now with little kids. And if she failed again, her little brother would be ahead of her. The other consequence was that her father and I now had to pay a second time for her to learn the exact same lessons again.
My prayer is that she will now carry with her the knowledge that life is worth the effort. A half-hearted attitude produces a half-hearted life.
What “tough-love” lessons have you carried with you that have shaped you into who you are today?