Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013, 12:19 pm
Worst times are when kids need parents most
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By Liz Strader
It was another snowy, blustery winter evening in Davenport. My husband, my three daughters, and I sat down to eat dinner, and after only a few brief moments of calm, my 1-year-old started flinging her food onto the floor from her high chair, my 6-year-old was repeating, "Mom, Mommy, Mom, guess what?" over and over in her attempt to talk over the 1-year-old and tell me about her day at school, and my 3-year-old was happily shouting/singing her "ABCs" to my husband.
In the middle of the chaos of mealtime, the doorbell rang.
My husband went to answer it, followed by our 6-year-old and 3-year-old who absolutely needed to see who was at the door despite me "calmly" pleading with them to return to the table.
It was a young man, a boy, really, with a backpack slung over his shoulder and his hands gripping his coat to shield his body from the cold. My husband spoke to him for a minute or two, and came back to the kitchen to grab his phone for the kid to use to make a call.
The situation seemed odd, but my husband looked concerned, so I stayed at the table and called the girls back to eat. After a brief phone conversation, my husband came back into the dining room to tell me the young man needed a ride, and that he was going to drive him since the temperature was quickly dropping into the single digits. I hesitated, but didn't argue, and my husband hurriedly slipped his coat on and headed out to the car with the mystery man.
When he returned, my husband looked relieved but still troubled. I asked him what the story was with the kid, and it turns out our house and my husband were in the right place at the right time. The boy, a high-schooler who had just turned 18, confided during the brief car ride that he had found out that day he was the father of his off-and-on girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.
The boy's parents, upon hearing this news, had promptly thrown him out of the house and into the cold, literally. He had walked a few blocks down the street in the bad weather, realized he wouldn't make it far on foot, but discovered his phone was dead as he pulled it out of his pocket to call his girlfriend's mother to pick him up.
Luckily, he had seen the lights in our home. My husband shook the boy's hand at the end of their trip and tried to offer some words of encouragement. He could see the fear and uncertainty in the young man's eyes and knew he had an obligation to instill wisdom and confidence while he had a chance. I couldn't be more proud of my husband for treating this young man the way he did, and I hope we weren't the only ones to show this lost soul some compassion that night.
I do not condone teenagers engaging in unprotected sex that leads to pregnancy, nor do I believe in coddling or sheltering a child by taking care of things for him his whole life. I wish nothing but the best for my daughters and I have high hopes for their future successes, but I know their paths in life will have bumps in the road and mistakes that will be made.
As a parent I know it is my job to instruct, guide, and care for my children, but it is also my job to allow my children to make their own decisions and to prepare them to live with the consequences of their actions.
The young man at our doorstep had come to a crossroad already in his life, and had been thrust out into the world, alone. He was a failure that, in his parents' eyes, could only be rectified by getting rid of him. A situation that could have brought a family together instead became a harsh lesson for the boy, and one that is likely to influence his own parenting skills.
When our children fail to meet our expectations or get into situations that disappoint us is when they need our support and love the most.
We don't get to pick and choose only the nice, easy moments to be parents, and it is not in doing what is easy that we can take pride in our success. Those who are truly successful parents are able to smile with their children in times of happiness, support them in times of sadness, and offer them strength in times of difficulty.
Do not ignore or discard your child, no matter how old, because he is not who you want him to be.
Take his hand and walk with him; show him you believe that who he will grow to be is exactly what you want.
Liz Strader of Davenport is an entrepreneur, advocate, and working mom of three little girls.