Kids will learn some things all on their own. Spencer Dryden is thankful for this one.
One of the great traps of parenting is looking for validation in your children’s behavior. It’s always been my fantasy to over hear two mothers talking about one of my sons. “Well of course he’s good at (fill in the blank), his dad stays at home.” Nope. Never heard it. But I’ve learned it can be a long time coming and sometimes not even on this side of the grave. But you gotta keep sending the message.
I have done everything they taught us in parenting class to get my boys to be better housekeepers. It’s been a hopeless cause. Their bedrooms look like the houses you see on the hoarding shows. The basement where they dwell for entertainment is littered with bottles, cans trash and dirty dishes. I have shown by example, by reminders, by removing privileges, I’ve even resorted to guilt tripping and nagging. The only thing that works is bellowing beet red in the face anger. And you know what, I don’t want to be that kind of dad. I managed to get them potty trained, so I know they are capable of learning.
Another message they have heard over and over from me, at school and church is about violence. I had no way of knowing if that message was being absorbed any better than cleaning their rooms. I got a delightful surprise a few weeks ago that nearly brought me to tears of joy. It all happened completely out of my sight. My older son, 23, got a new car and a new girl friend about the same time (I say he’s very good looking, he’s got a nice car and a good job).
Apparently her ex-boyfriend wasn’t taking this too well. Late one night, a few weeks ago, my son and his girl friend were over at her house and this guy came by and poured motor oil all over my son’s new car. Talk about major violation of guy code. Don’t mess with a dude’s car.
Here’s a story you see in the paper every day, in the police reports. One guy pisses off another guy (often over a girl or money) and the violence escalates to lethal levels. Someone goes home and gets a gun or a bunch of his homies or both, the next thing you know someone is dead.
As a parent you’re never more than a phone call away from crushing heartbreak. I didn’t get that call. My son cleaned off his car, came home, went to bed and called the police in the morning. I was blown away with pride when he told me the story. It was proof that young men can choose a different path, at least he did, this one time, but it filled me with hope.
After praising his choice, I asked him about his decision not to take matters into his own hands. He said, “Dad, it’s just like hockey. It’s always the second guy who goes to the penalty box.”
Message received and processed. Now, if we could just work on that bedroom.
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Photo: Flickr/Christopher Gollmar