In my heart I truly believe that kids are more resilient than we as adults/parents often know. This is true from even my own life experiences. I could have easily been another black male statistic, but I was able to defy the odds. Absolutely, the odds were unfairly stacked against me: single mom, father in prison, getting in trouble because I was bored in school…I checked all the boxes. Fortunately, that’s not how the story ended. In the midst of finding trouble all around me in the form of neighborhood temptations and low expectations, I somehow found purpose and ended up choosing that path. I believe it was definitely divine intervention, but with a series of choices. I’ve discovered that purpose is something that can’t be given, it has to be found along your own journey. We have to choose purpose.
That’s the struggle that I’m facing right now as I parent my 16 year old niece. We inherited an aimless, drifting, teenager who lacked purpose (and we all know what happens in the absence of purpose). They struggle from one poor decision to the next. In our case, it seems like it’s been one infuriating experience after another, at times pushing us as parents to the brink of wondering- is there anything else we can do? I told my wife yesterday that though we’re not giving up on her, it sure seems as if she’s giving up on herself.
Then, this morning I woke up with an email in my inbox. It was from the director of our district’s early childhood program. A week or so ago we sat down together with her counselor to map out the remainder of her high school courses and chose a career pathway. She feigned mild interest, and really the impetus for the meeting was the fact that we have to sign her up for summer school due to course passage. In that conversation she mentioned a re-occuring theme of wanting to take some classes to become a teacher. It’s something she’s said before, and truly she does demonstrate a knack for working with kids. I can tell that she enjoys it. So, despite the program being closed (she listlessly choose not to sign up when she had the chance earlier in the year), we pursued to see what we could do. Now, this morning I receive an email in my inbox stating that all she needs to do is write a letter of intent and she’s in. (Well, at least she’s good at writing letters).
So I’m staring at a few decisions with no clear answer. As much as we want for her to find her purpose and pursue it, I’m not sure that she’s ready. I know that our job as parents is to love her regardless of her choices, and that includes loving her through even some of the worst decisions she might make. Man, parenting will stretch you to grow in ways you never thought possible. It also highlights our never ending need for God’s model of perfect parenting to us, His early children. Each day I pray for wisdom to know what to do, and the courage to execute good decisions as the leader of our household. The rest is up to life.
Now about that email…