Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Because I said so!

Parents must sometimes make decisions in the best interests of their child or family that the child does not support. Most of us recognize that you can't always please your children (Ha! Remember, I have 3 teenager girls, making this the understatement of the century!) but many of us still try, on some level, to reason with our children and make them understand why we have made the decisions we have made. Speaking for myself, I think I do this primarily out of respect for my kids and belief in their ability to understand reason and secondarily because, on some probably unattainable level, I'm hoping for a break through and a child that embraces the decision they initially abhorred. Ridiculous, I know! If all else fails, I am a proponent of "because I said so". It is a gift to parents that should neither be undervalued nor avoided. Sometimes, it's all you've got.The bottom line is that, as parents, we sign on for a lot and wear many hats but none is a "cool" hat or a "best friend to our kids" hat or even a "popular with our kids" hat. While we may change hats regularly or wear many simultaneously, it seems to me that parents may never shed the "best interests of my child" hat or "strong advocate for my child" hat and with each of those hats comes the responsibility of paying close attention and sometimes making tough decisions.

A friend recently told me that she is thinking about moving. She is a single mom of two middle graders and has decided that at this time in her life, she and her children need to live closer to her aging mother. She knows her children will not greet news of their impending move gleefully but she also knows that she is the decision-maker for the family and that children are adaptable, even when they're certain they are not. She also knows that the benefits of the proposed move will far outweigh the costs. I admire this woman greatly. It's not as easy as it may sound to put your child's feelings (and even protests) aside to lay down the law and force everyone to step in line. Not too long ago, Jeff and I agreed that it was time for one of our children to change schools. The child in question has never been one to embrace change and she felt safe, secure and extremely comfortable where she was. She hated the idea of leaving her school and made her feelings abundantly clear but we knew that the change was necessary and that she would thrive in a different environment. When we took her around to see different schools, she did what she could to sabotage potential admission but was admitted to several schools in spite of herself. She made no secret of the fact that she was furious with us and it would take a long time for her to forgive us (if ever). Six weeks into her new school, she let us know how grateful and happy she was to be there. We agreed that as soon as she felt she loved her new school, then she could buy a school sweatshirt. By the end of her first year, she had a whole school wardrobe.

Making tough, frequently unpopular, decisions like moving homes or changing schools are possible when they're thoughtfully considered and necessary. Kids do adapt and when they do, no matter how fierce their initial resistance, they may even bask in the reassurance that someone really is looking out for them. And their resourcefulness to deal with change may surprise you. If you're contemplating a big change and want to help your youngster cope, consider picking up a copy of Neville by Norton Juster (author of The Phantom Tollbooth), illustrated by G. Brian Karas. The title character in this story moves to a new town and creatively gets his name known.

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