Annoyed or Grateful?
My son graduated from high school last week. It might not seem like that big of a deal. Even I used to think it was pretty much a given that all American teenagers who grow up with loving parents, with all of the necessities of life plus lots of extras, graduate from high school. But eighteen months ago I started to realize it isn’t a given. As I sat in the auditorium on Friday, waiting for the ceremony to begin, I had so many thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head and heart.
First of all, I was grateful ~ grateful he actually finished and grateful we got to be a part of celebrating his accomplishment. While we certainly had our share of ups-and-downs as he completed all the requirements for graduation, he had persevered ~ and so did we, even though most of it was from a distance.
I also felt appreciation for two staff members at my son’s school ~ Mr. Smith and Ms. Marni. They didn’t give up on him (even though I’m sure it would’ve been easy to multiple times). They kept encouraging him and holding his feet to the fire when he wanted to give up. They kept loving him, even during times when they probably just wanted to write him off as a lost cause.
But if I’m going to be completely honest, as I sat there looking at those who had supported my son, a part of me also resented the fact that I couldn’t be that support to him because I was and am 100% willing and capable of loving my son, supporting him, and encouraging him. I wanted to be there for him through the thick-and-thin of it all, but I wasn’t allowed. And even though I know it wasn’t the staff members’ choice for my son to shut me out of his life for a while, I did wonder why he could accept their support but not mine. How could nineteen years of love be so easily trumped by people he didn’t even know three years ago?
As I sat there with these thoughts swirling through my mind, I decided I did not want to be annoyed during this time of celebration. I wanted to rejoice in my son’s accomplishment, so I asked myself, “What are you making it mean that Mr. Smith and Ms. Marni could influence him when you couldn’t?” I wanted to believe that it meant I was an awful mom, a big fat failure because even though I am capable of guiding, encouraging, and supporting my son, I wasn’t able to in this instance. Even though nobody on earth loves my son more than I do, that wasn’t enough in this situation. I wasn’t good enough to be that for him.
BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE.
And what I really wanted to believe (and I can honestly say I do believe this) is that it was a blessing that during the time my son shut me out of his life there were other people who could see his goodness, people who wanted him to succeed, people who kept reminding him to look into the future, just a little, and make choices that would make that future better than other choices. Mr. Smith and Ms. Marni were guideposts for my son when I couldn’t be. How could I be annoyed with them? Why would I be irritated that there were people who helped my son go down the path I wanted him to go down?
I told myself years ago ~ when my first son got to the age where he seemed to hear from others the same things I had said numerous times ~ that it doesn’t matter to me where he heard the truths I wanted him to know and embrace; what really matters is that he heard them. The same principle applies here. It didn’t matter that Mr. Smith’s and Ms. Marni’s words resonated with my son when the same words coming from my mouth fell on deaf ears. It mattered that he heard them, stuck it out, and finished.
I’ve always known it takes a village to raise a child. Throughout most of my parenting years I’ve been able to choose my village. But when I couldn’t choose, when I had no say in the matter, I’m grateful for the good people who stepped up to do what I couldn’t do.
How do you feel about your son’s village?