Do any of the following monologues sound even remotely plausible? Is there a syllable of truth in any of them? The speakers are men aged 70, 10, and 40 respectively.
1) “I know what I’ll do. I’ll wake up this morning and pretend that I can’t hear. That way, my wife of 40 years will yell at me and treat me like I have cognitive impairments or am a deranged psychopath.
2) “I have a plan. I’ll refuse to learn how to read. Sure, I’m in fourth grade and all my classmates can read pretty well. But what I’ll do is choose to make the letters dance around the page so that I’m unable to focus or figure out the words. That way my parents will rant at me, I’ll get to go see opticians, specialists, and therapists rather than playing outside with my friends. My life will become an unrelenting nightmare of power and control issues with my folks. I’ll be accused of being unmotivated, uncaring, oppositional, and possessed by demons. But at least I won’t have to read books and enjoy a pleasant childhood.”
3) “I woke up this morning with an idea: I decided that going forward I will be attracted to people of my own gender. That way, I can be a pariah to my family, at risk of contracting a deadly disease, and have to hide my life from my coworkers. Yes, I was smart enough to graduate in the top twenty percent of my law school class. Yes, I was clever enough to get a job as a prosecutor with the state attorney’s office. Yes, I am trusted by the State of New York to try Murder One cases. But no, I wasn’t smart enough to choose to be heterosexual.”
For the record: Nobody ever chose to be deaf; nobody ever chose to have a reading disability; nobody ever chose to be gay.
What a liberating joy it is to love your kids for who they are rather than what they do. “I love you when you spill your milk; I love you when you succeed; I love you when you fail.”
What if your child were developmentally delayed? Would you love her any less? What if your child dropped the fly ball and lost the big game? Which is more important to you–that he be a sports hero or that he know he is loved? To whom is it important that he catch that ball, you or him? And if the answer is “I want him to catch the ball so that HE’LL be happy,” you better be right about your motivation.
What if your child, in spite of his best efforts, couldn’t get an A or graduate at the top of his class. (Arithmetic point: by definition, only one child can be first.)
How much of what our children don’t do is “won’t” and how much is “can’t”? In my experience, parents are frequently disappointed with their children for that which their kids can’t do. Can’t becomes won’t and then won’t takes on a life of its own.
Take your kids at their word. If they say that CAN’T do something, believe them.
And love ’em and accept ’em anyway.
Because you can’t change what they didn’t choose.