Saturday, December 13, 2008

Teach a Child to Choose

The title screamed at me through bleary eyes. Barely able to open them enough to see, I search for answers at 5:20 a.m. as the snow and wind howl outside. My 16 year old hovers over my shoulder - asking yet once again if I will drive him to the ski hill, a 90 minute drive in good weather. My answer the first 29 times was "No," but he seems to be hard of hearing, so I'm praying and searching for direction from God - via the scripture and email devotionals. Am I crazy? Unfair? Unreasonable?  I think not. I'm searching for ways to help him understand.

Yesterday, one of the worst winter storms on record roared into southwestern Alberta, carrying with it treacherous road conditions, high wind chills and record breaking snowfall. To an avid - no, a rabid skier like my son, all he sees is "record breaking snowfall."

The road conditions and high wind chill alone should be enough reason to not ski. Unfortunately, his ski club has not cancelled training. This is where it gets really weird. He could ski, if he were willing to take the team van, but he doesn't want to train with the club. He wants to ski on his own.

When he realizes I am not wavering from my decision to not drive to the hill (not that he didn't try every trick in the book to convince me otherwise), he relents and agrees he'll train with the team if I will please just take him to where he catches the van. (Don't even get me started on the number of reasons he gave me yesterday for why the van wasn't a good choice and why me driving him was such a superior option.) Though my concern about the road conditions and high wind chills are still high, I relent and we load up and head for the rendezvous point. 

On the way, his logic finally starts to kick in. You see, he's planned an evening out with his girlfriend. We're all going to the Christmas production at church - an event with all 1,700 seats sold out for tonight's performance. Tough choice. On one hand he wants to ski. On the other hand, the only way to get to and from the hill cuts into his face time with his other top priority. He decides the van won't get him home in time.

"Turn around, Mom."

I look at him briefly, then concentrate on taking the next exit. 

"Let me make sure I understand you, Andrew," I say firmly. "You are choosing not to take the van. I'm willing to take you, we're on the way. If you want me to turn around, I will, but you need to know this is YOUR choice. I am not stopping you from going skiing."

"I know. The van won't get me home in time, just turn around."

On the way home, though, the grief hits him like a flood. It was going to be epic powder. He was going to video tape. He was going to get sponsorship for his skiing. I always take away the one thing he does best.

Woah, wait a minute, let's just back up.  

"I always take away? Who just told me to turn the van around?"

"If you would drive me, we could get home in time," he's at it again, back to the first decision I made. I'm not going to go there. He is hard of hearing, deafened by his anger and grief.

"I'm not driving." My voice is firm. 

Further discussion. Elevated volume. I offer an olive branch: 

"Look, to make it up to you, I'll take you skiing the three days before Christmas," I'm thinking this is a pretty generous offer. "Depending on weather and road conditions," I add.

He erupts, "Yeah, that just gives you another excuse then to back out of taking me. You never..."

It's one of the trigger words.  Never. Always. All. None. I don't let him finish.

"Look, I tried to get you to the van. You chose to turn around."

Never argue with a teenager. He sees his day collapsing. Rationale is gone.

"At least you can catch up on your sleep," I continue. "You could even take your girlfriend to dinner before the show if you'd like."  The idea doesn't even enter his ear canal.

"I won't sleep," he roars. "This is going to be the worst day ever and it's all your fault. You never take me. Why can't we be like other ski families who would all be going to the hill today because they know it will be epic skiing?"

He's skied every weekend since opening day. I personally drove him three of those days. His best friend's mom drove two days, and he took the team van twice.  Those facts silence him only briefly, then he returns to why I have no valid reason for not driving him to the hill today.

"I'm done." I take a deep breath and lower my voice: "You will stop the negative remarks about today, or you will not be skiing tomorrow. You made your choice to not take the van. This discussion is finished. Not one more word." 

We barely make it up the hill and I breathe a prayer of thanks for all wheel drive as we power over deep drifts and slide into the driveway.

He's a storm all to himself as he blusters out of the SUV, unloads his gear in a flurry and roars to the basement. I must admit, he's a chip off the old block. He's learned well from me how to vent his emotion. Not that it's the best way, but I feel an affinity with his conduct.

Teach a child to choose. He doesn't choose the same priorities as I, but even then, I want to give him everything possible. My heart's desire is his happiness and it devastates me to upset his plans. I do my best to accommodate him at every opportunity. Yet, I would be irresponsible as a parent not to make choices that are for his protection. In his best interest, balanced with the needs of the rest of the family.

What is most difficult is that he chooses to test our relationship in the process of trying to meet his own goals. Is this different than any other teenager? Not at all. 

I have been deeply grateful for his choices. On most counts, his preferences regarding close friends, activities and recreation reflect a sense of good judgment. Is he perfect? No. Do we argue? Obviously. Is he roaring mad at me right now? Absolutely. Does he realize he made the choice himself not to ski today? Perhaps.

I wish I could offer some closure on this. A few good hours of sleep will help adjust perspective a little more to the center. Blogging about it helps others know they are not alone. Perhaps you have similar situations where you've had better resolution - I welcome your input. Or perhaps you've had similar situations where things have escalated out of control. So have I. 

Share yours with me and I'll pray for you. Share my burden before the Lord, too, okay?

Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. (1)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (2)

By the way, here's a picture of my deck this morning. The drifts are as deep as the pile on the table. Imagine the roads. If my son is mad at me for not taking him to the hill, I'm okay with that. That's his choice.

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