Thursday, October 10, 2013

fixing v. collaborating [part ii] | a small idea from Raising Adults

Fixers come in every size, color and shape. Rich, poor, and right down the middle. A fair amount of fixing is done out of guilt by parents who are otherwise disengaged.
I remember the sad outrage my young friends expressed after a classmate’s suicide. The kid drove off the end of a bluff, much as Thelma and Louise would shortly thereafter. But there was no one chasing this girl. The others couldn’t believe her parents were so dense. She’d already totaled two vehicles in single car accidents, but her father and mother just didn’t get it. They dutifully replaced the first car with a second, sturdier one. And they replaced the second car with the one she used to kill herself.
I suppose that’s an extreme case. Nothing like that probably ever happened in another family. Probably wouldn’t ever happen again. 
Another kid I knew stacked her empties in the bedroom closet. From time to time her mother cleaned them out without a word. The mom told me she wanted her daughter to know she was aware the drinking. What she didn’t want was the confrontation. Of course that inevitably came when the kid got so strung out she couldn’t function any longer. When things finally unraveled the girl said she couldn’t understand why her mom ignored her for so long.
The stories multiply in my head.
An adolescent girl who tortured and killed frogs and insects to gross out her parents and friends around the family pool, eventually killed herself. Everyone wondered why she was so angry. But no one ever asked. 
Another came home from a trip to find all her laxatives and diuretics—the medicinal part of her anorexia—neatly arranged on her dresser. The girl put the drugs back in the closet and continued her eating disorder, feeling more alone than ever. Years of physical and emotional harm passed before she started ironing that out with her mom woman-to-woman. 
Fixing doesn’t fix a thing. At best, it postpones the inevitable. At worst, it’s deadly.
I killed a mouse yesterday. I didn’t relish the task so I did it quickly. I did it because the mouse was caught in a trap, its back leg caught when the metal bar snapped shut. 
The little guy was moving around pretty good on three legs, trying to get free, but I could see it wasn’t going anywhere. My mind flashed to another mouse in another trap. 
That one didn’t belong inside either; that was the point of the snare. But it was moving about so vigorously in the trap that I took it outside, figuring it would hobble away, lesson learned. It seemed like a good fix. A couple of hours later I went outside to be sure it got away. It didn’t. I found it convulsed in pain, swarmed by ants crawling in and out of it’s mouth and nose. I felt sick. I feel sick remembering it now.
So yesterday I killed a mouse because there was no good fix. I didn’t relish the task so I did it quickly.
Just in case you are overly literal: I’m not suggesting we set traps for children. I’m using unpleasant imagery to say our kids can’t afford to have us fix things for them. Because it’s a trap and they may not be able to survive it. What they require from us is honesty, accountability, decisive action, compassionate love. 
If for a month you refuse to bail your kid out, he’ll be surprised, then angry, then hurt, and then he’ll slowly accept that it’s not your job to fix things for him. 
And in case you were wondering, don’t expect him to say thanks...not right away.

— from Raising Adults

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