A Lesson from Bob

19 Oct

When my boys were in high school, we attended a funeral for our neighbor, with whom we were quite friendly. Bob was kind and caring to Ian and Max and always engaged them when he met them coming in and out of the house. At the ceremony, the minister talked about Bob’s role as a father.

He began by saying, “Bob, like all parents, had difficulties with his two loving children. The normal teenage problems separated them. But Bob loved them both deeply.” Both of Bob’s children were present. In that moment, I paused to consider what the minister had just said. He had validated the idea that parents have critical issues with their children and separation is okay!

This stunned me. At the time, I didn’t know that Bob’s children were not on speaking terms with him when he died. When the children spoke at the funeral, they tearfully expressed their regret and sadness that they weren’t in contact with their dad, but that they loved him.

After the ceremony, Ian and Max both commented on what the kids said. They couldn’t understand how a man whom they knew to be kind and warm could be isolated from his own children. I didn’t have an answer, but I told them that it was definitely not normal or okay to have a poor relationship, or no relationship at all, with one’s parents. Although I was saddened by the separation between Bob and his children and was genuinely disappointed in the minister’s remarks, I was happy that my boys took issue with his opinion.

It is important to note that even if we have a valid reason not to trust our kids, we should not emphasize it too aggressively. We need to address it, but we need to do so carefully. We do not want to instill a sense of failure in our children—they will experience that naturally enough in their interactions with friends, siblings, and teachers. There is plenty of distrust communicated outside of the home, over which we have little control. It is a part of life.

We all need the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. Allowing our children to reestablish trust, rather than holding their failures against them, will nurture their belief in themselves and our support for them.

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