Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Monday, April 26, 2010

C: Isn’t It All About Me? or The High Cost of Summer Blossoms

Recently I had a family in my office, gathered around my young-father client who was experiencing marital difficulties.  This son of the family was going through a divorce he did not want, and his parents were present because they are loving, involved grandparents. 

Sometimes I see parents of my grown clients who are really running the show behind scenes; and I have to separate them, visiting with my client alone, guiding him or her notwithstanding the parents’ inappropriate input. 

But I did not sense that situation here.  No, these were sane, ratibroken homeonal grandparents who were present because the breakup of their son’s marriage was a family tragedy, and there are young children involved. 

These grandparents were focused on the children; they were not bashing the young wife who was intent on leaving; they were not jockeying for financial position.  They were worried, sincerely, about the kids.  They were saying things like, “We wish she would go to marital counseling, but it seems she won’t…we want to keep a relationship with our daughter-in-law; we want to be able to know what the kids need and how we can help her with them.  We don’t want those kids to do without simply because our son and their mother cannot get along…”  This was rather refreshing after my usual day full of clients bent on revenge and self-dealing. 

rvpark During our conference late-50ish grandfather (I’ll call him “Bill Fisher” here)  related a story of his first encounter with sex.   (Yes, I hear it all…).  According to him, it was in his 17th summer.  His parents ran a campground where folks passing through could hook up their RV’s.  It was in a resort area of our state, so some of the visitors would be there weeks in the summer, enjoying the nearby lakes and other attractions.  Bill had a summer job mowing and such in the campground.  This made for interesting summer romances, one of which appears to have “blossomed,” as it were…

But, alas, summer blossoms fade, if not by simple attrition, then by her summer romance parents pulling the RV out and turning to home several states away!

One day in the fall, Bill was called into the office by his father.  It seems that father had received a phone call from another father about his pregnant daughter.  Bill had been named.  And, when confronted by his father, Bill had to admit that he could, indeed, be this baby’s father.

Bill then said, “My life began crashing down over my head.”  Bill’s father told him these things:

Well, Son, if this is your baby, your life has just changed.  You may want to think about quitting school, because you will soon be married and in charge of seeing to this baby and a new wife.  You will need a full time job, and I don’t know how you’re going to manage—we’ll help, but when a man starts a family, it is primarily his responsibility.”

Bill recalls protesting, “But, Dad!  What about college?  Where am I going to get that kind of job? I need to finish school!  And, besides, I don’t think I really love this girl!  I hardly know her!”

You’re right, Son.”  Dad continued.  “You do need to finish school; you do need college, and maybe you can manage that somehow while bringing this baby up.  Others have managed.  And, as for you not loving this girl, well it’s no longer about you, is it?  It is about a baby to raise, and I’ll say this: This is a Fisher baby.  No Fisher baby is going to be brought into this world without the Fisher name and without the family he or she deserves to get a start on life.  As for you and it’s mama, well you’ll just have to learn to get along.

Bill knew his father meant this.  And he knew the die was cast.  He had already transgressed, having to confess his moral failure.  To refuse to accept responsibility for a baby he had created would be to incur his entire family’s deep disappointment and disapproval. 

He knew he would have to accept this responsibility; it was how he had been raised.  He said it was a sobering moment to think that his entire life course was now altered—and he could see that it was going to be difficult. His father’s conversation put the responsibility squarely where it belonged: on him.

Biwagonsll’s dad was circling the wagons, putting the innocent babe at the center, insisting that Bill take his place on the protective outer rim, where he belonged, to fend off the world’s woes from his unborn child.  To them, this is how families behave.  Bill, now moving into fatherhood, had to move from the center to the difficult edge.

By his decisions, Bill had given up his place in the center of the circle.  As a soon-t0-be father, his own father was insisting that he come out of that shelter and be responsible.  Instinctively, Bill’s father knew that the baby was not the only person disserved by Bill’s evading responsibility—it would not serve Bill well, either, to allow that evasion.

And Bill’s dad knew that his son might have to take an arrow or two out on that perimeter, such as putting off college and having to work.  But that’s what parents do for their young.  Chances are the arrows would not be fatal; Bill had his family there with him, watching his back, shoulder-to-shoulder with him—not doing it  for  him—but helping stand guard over the most defenseless of their members.  It was, definitely, Bill’s place to be there.

Word soon came that this pregnancy ended in early miscarriage.  There would be no baby.  His life could go on as planned.  Very bittersweet news.

Bill talked to me about the impact that this episode played on the rest of his life.  For one thing, sex was never again treated cavalierly.  Second, it had caused him to ponder his own moral fiber and standards.  And he found them strengthened by this experience.

I could see what kind of man this kind of raising had forged: one who could sort through his own son’s trouble, two generations removed from his stalwart father, and—once again—put first the children of the family, in spite of the difficulties their parents found themselves in. 

This grandfather could clearly see where he needed to focus—on those children.  His goal was to spend time with these grandkids, make the most of their parents’ situation, to see that these kids have everything they need and all the support they could have in order to better face the world from a broken home. 

I have to credit Bill’s father with shaping a man who can maintain that kind of focus through the emotion which surrounded the painful breakup of his Son’s marriage.  So, I’ve thought about that story a lot in the context of the usual advice given today:

I’ve not been a big fan of “shotgun weddings.”  “Don’t get married just for the child.”  I’ve given this advice, and I hold to it in most cases.  Manshotgun_wedding_black_tshirt-p2359642145426189994eba_400y is the time expectant mama is pregnant by a bum, with whom a legal union would spell doom, not only for her but also for her baby.  I have ranted against this situation in a recent post, and still say  (can I say it enough?) women have a responsibility to prepare a safe nest for their young, and I see that failing all the time.

But don’t think I haven’t considered the view of, “Why not? Why not be required to stand up for providing this child with two parents?  Why tolerate anything short of that?”   I know that there is no formulaic, “one size fits all” answer to this situation, but I sure am taking notice of Bill’s father’s attitude.

And all around me I see the travesty of not letting our children grow up; of not backing off and saying to them, “This is your responsibility, and it’s time you were an adult.”  I see grown “children” all the time whose parents are there still shouldering responsibility that should have long ago shifted.  It does no good for either the parent or the “child” to refuse to move the fledglings from the nest and let them fly on their own.

To Bill’s father, ignoring the responsibility to put an unborn child first was unthinkable.  To Bill it was unthinkable not to follow through on that responsibility all those many years ago.  And, while he had hinted at not marrying because “I don’t love her….” his father never let him rest on that “Me-ism,” but just said, truthfully, “It’s no longer about you and what you want.  You have made a choice in life which relegates your desires to a position much lower than the needs of this innocent child.  Own it.”

Where has that attitude gone?  Can we get it back?  The US is facing nearly a 40% unwed birth rate.  This places these children at risk—cold statistics prove it.  So much about our society’s attitude would have to change for us to get to the place where Bill’s father was.  Is it possible?  C


Vickie said...

you rock C another thought provoking well written post,cheers Vickie

Barbara said...

Like Vickie said, You rock! Excellent post. I did well up and cry a little at how this family is responding to the devastion of a family break up. Wow, Lucky Grandchildren. Hopefully the Mom realizes how lucky her children are to have such Grandparents and allow them to have as much contact as possible.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Amen! Amen! Amen!!!! What a story!

Mamma has spoken said...

I agree that there are too many children being raised in a one parent household due various reasons. However, I have witness many loving one parent households where the parent is doing A LOT better because the spouse is not in the picture. Wish there was a cut and dry answer to the problem, but don't always see marriage as the solution.
As for the parents you were talking about, they are called helicopter parents: The hover over their offspring, landing if they think something is going to happen. Which is a problem in itself in that they don't let their child/adult experience the necessary events to become a successful person. Everyone needs to experience failure, not getting your way, not being picked for a team, etc.
Ok time to come off my soapbox.....

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Mamahasspoken has an excellent point. I agree that often it is better to just leave one parent out of the mix. Sometimes I have women come to me for child support, and my first question is: "Is this a man with whom you trust this child for visitation--extended visitation?" If the answer is "No," then my advice is to forget the support. C

Paul C said...

This is an incredible article that deserves publication and a wider reading audience. I think about my life as a teacher and seeing diverse kinds of parents. Some take an active interest in their child's learning while others are very passive. If only this active participation by parents would extend, as you say, in other areas as well, society may have a better grip on important values.

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

What an amazing story! It such an important message. My daughter is nine, but and all around me, I see parents who make it easy for their kids, shield them from the hurts, smooth the waters, give them all that they demand.

What I fear is that in the future, we will have a group of children who grow up to have a twisted sense of purpose and responsibility.
Only through failure and pain can we thrive and grow.

Great post!

Vee said...

It's official in my book. You should be writing a book. This is a beautifully told and powerful message!

Zuzana said...

What you describe here is happening everywhere. Even here the TV is filed with images of teenage mothers and the divorce rate is climbing. In fact, just today there was a feature in the news about a drastic rise in divorce rates in marriages, where the couples are above 60 years old.
Perhaps all is because times and perception of things has changed. It is easy to leave and people can get by on their own. And in this case, when there are not children involved, people simply do not have a reason to stay together. I feel no one want to fight for anything anymore, everyone just want to have it "easy".
Well, as far as I know, the best in life is never easy. I feel everyone who thinks that is missing out on life big time.;)
Lovely, thought provoking post as always,

Jody Blue said...

Chivalry is not dead!

Farmchick said...

WOW! What a great post and very thought provoking. I agree with the other commenters here....this does deserve publication.

Robynn's Ravings said...

OH WOW. What a POWERFUL and BEAUTIFULLY written post! This was riveting and, as the mother of a nineteen-year-old daughter and fifteen-year-old son, it hit me right where I live. My kids are both GREAT kids and serious about life and I'm blessed that they no longer embrace morals because we taught them but because they want that for themselves.

My daughter started a "Students For Life" group (part of the National Right to Life) at her college because she sees this casual approach to not worrying about what happens when you make decisions that start a life.

I'm forwarding this on to her and will read it to my son (even though he CAN read). lol It will be a great discussion forum. Thanks so much. You're a GREAT storyteller. Truly.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Realizing that there are always circumstances to consider, I agree with the concept. Seems that we have evolved into a society that ignores the values of family. The hardest thing to do as a parent is watch my child make a mistake knowing that it will cost them. But I have to watch and let them learn to become the people I taught them to be.

Noni at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

I have to say, the Bill Fisher school of thought is very compelling. I admire this whole family's way of dealing with the responsibility of parenthood.

KathySue said...

Absolutely agree with this father's no nonsense approach to "parental responsibility". The fact that this grandfather shared this story proves how powerful the "hard lessons" are that parents bestow on their children. I have unfortunately seen more of the "oh, I couldn't possibly let little Johnny miss college" type of attitude. If only parents would get back to Parenting 101--let children accept responsibility for their actions. And some adults as well!

You really do need to take your wise words "on the road"!

Queenmothermamaw said...

It must be so hard to have to deal with these situation so often. Truly a well written article and should be published. Keep up with my blog for Derby goings on. It is everywhere. Pick you out a picture of a wild hat and post it on your sidebar.

Debbie said...

Powerful, powerful post. I, too, ask those types of questions. Where is responsibility/ownership/manliness?
I so agree with all your points here, and we're all in a betwist situation many times. Hard decisions, but decisions that must be made in honor and righteousness. Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post.

Debbie said...

C, I just sent some friends your way. Like I said, this is an outstanding post.

Nola @ the Alamo said...

Debbie just pointed me in your direction, and I'm so glad she did! You can bet I'm in the choir shouting "AMEN" while reading this post. I have long said "adult decisions, adult consequences". We are not doing our children any favors by shielding them from the consequences of their actions; we are preparing them for failure. I wish more parents thought the way you (and I) do!

Vickie said...

Excellent post, C! That is quite a different way to look at things. When the situation warrants this would be the best thing. We've tried to teach our kids this principle about "owning" their mistakes, their problems as well as their successes. What a wise man the grandfather was and what a wise son he'd raised. I'm hoping that wisdom will be passed down to those kids. Thanks for sharing a thoughtful post with us.

Deb said...

that was a great post....more people should read this and take it to heart...

Joy said...

Yes, C, you do rock. And roll. You write such good stuff, it makes mine look like drivel. At any rate, I'm not sure we're going to return to Godly morals. I believe the Titanic is going down, but we have to keep trying---keep sharing the truth of God's word and God's morals. Many will choose to turn away from the truth, just as people have for eons. But we have the responsiblity to try.

Elizabethd said...

What an interesting post. The word 'responsibility' doesnt seem to be a popular one these days....more what's in it for ME?

Thank you for your visit to my blog, it's good to meet new friends.

Tracy said...

V left a message for me on my blog and pointed me here. What a great post C. You've given me much to ponder.

I like Bill's Dad. A lot. There is way too much 'it's not my fault' going on...or at least an expectation that someone will swoop in and save the day when we make mistakes.

It is this attitude that I am trying to counter on behalf of my own children as they begin their teenage journeys into adulthood. I want my kids to understand that they need to 'stand up and own it' ~ even when it's just about the little stuff.

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