Jan 13 2008
Sometimes, revelations come to me when I am trying to help someone else understand something. I’ve discovered that mostly, I ask questions and let people discover the answers for themselves, rather than give answers they wouldn’t accept anyway. I have observed that the words taste sweeter when they’ve come from their own mouths.
Jen is the daughter I never had. I have been in her life from the day she was born. I treasure every second I get to spend with her. My life is richer because of what I have hoped for her. I have always tried to teach her good life lessons, through word and deed. I encourage her to think things through so that she can make wise choices. Ask her how many times she’s heard me say Well, he/she didn’t choose wisely, did he/she? and she will laugh and roll her eyes.
When Jen was about 11 years old, she came to me very upset about something that happened to her brother. She told me that he had been unfairly kicked off his baseball team just before they went to the state finals. The officials had discovered he had used an address other than his own to be placed on a team he preferred rather than the team in his district. She was going on and on about how unfair the officials were being to her brother and the team, that the team needed their star catcher and that she would never, ever go to another game. So I asked her some simple questions. Did her father and brother understand the rules? Yes. And understanding those rules, did they choose to disregard them and purposefully enter a false address on the application so that Dan could play on the team he wanted to play on? Yes. So, who is responsible for the consequence of sending his team to the finals without their star catcher and letting down the entire team? Well, I guess Dan and Dad.
I have a 20 year old niece who is extremely intelligent and active in sports. She is also Bipolar.
About 2 weeks into her first semester at U-Mass, she called me to tell me that she was dropping out. She was in a hypomanic state. Generally, whenever she calls me in this state, I just listen. Considering that she is speed-talking, this course of action is also the easiest! When she took a breath and asked if I was still there I answered, Yes, I am playing the part of the listener to your speaker, the part of the conversation equation that you are all too unfamiliar with. She laughs, and asks me what I think. I asked her Have you thought through this decision to it’s logical conclusion? What consequences will come as a result of this choice? Would this choice help you to achieve the goals you have set for yourself? Can you be at peace with those consequences? She asserts that this is her life and therefore her choice. I replied Absolutely. But do you understand that when you are the one making the choice, you also own the consequence? That’s the double-edged sword of being an adult and making grown up choices. It’s like The Oklahoma Warranty – If it breaks into 2 parts, you own them both. She told me that she thought that I made some good points, but there are always extenuating circumstances. I know her well enough to know that in her mind she has already begun concocting a plan to lay the blame elsewhere: her parents, other students, the instructors, the courses, the text books… She has never been one to accept blame for anything – it is always Someone Else’s fault. I headed her off at the pass. I told her If you choose to quit college, I respect your choice. She thanked me for my support. She thanked me for respecting her. Then I told her I also expect that you will accept full responsibility if it turns out that you’ll be flipping burgers at Wendy’s rather than writing the next great novel or screenplay. She starts her next semester at the end of the month. However, I fully expect to repeat this conversation next semester. She’s stubborn, this one.
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