Friday, January 3, 2014

Tough Love

   Today in the checkstand I overheard a conversation that was pretty private; this actually happens quite often because there are a lot of people who tend to treat checkers rather like furniture, forgetting that we are living, breathing human beings with ears to hear with. Usually what I am privy to is a bunch of mind-melting gossip about who is cheating on who, who is in jail, who got out of jail, who is knocked up, and so-on and so-forth. Not really stuff I give a rat's ass about.
   The woman who caught my attention today was somewhat different. This was the type of conversation that you shouldn't have in public, but sometimes stress gets to us rather imperfect human beings, and we say things when we shouldn't be saying them. Maybe there was a reason that the mom felt she needed to have this conversation right that moment. Maybe she was just heart sore and too tired to think about what she was saying. But before you read further, I just want to say that I am not posting this in order to pick on her. I think she is a strong woman, and I wanted to share her strength.
   This is what I heard, a conversation between a mother and her grown but young daughter:
   "You need to go to treatment. 30 days. I want you in there for thirty days."
    "I don't need treatment. I just need to get a job."
   "You need treatment. You have got to get treatment. I will pay  for it. I will pay for everything, but you have to be there, for 30 days."
   " I don't have a problem. I just need a job. I'll be fine if I can get a job."
   "You will not be fine! You need to get clean. I can't believe you started doing dope. You are fucking your life up. You have got to get treatment."
   "I don't have a problem. I just need a job."
   "Then prove me wrong. Go for 30 days. When you get back, we will renegotiate. We can talk about all this other stuff once you've been."
   "I'm not going. I just need a job."
   "I am offering to help you and you are just refusing to be helped. You are throwing your life away and I am not going to watch. You will get treatment if you want to stay with me."
    And about this time I had collected the money and they were off and I will never know if this woman took her mother's advice and went to rehab or not. You may be wondering why I have even posted this; why would I put this up on my blog?  I posted this because I wanted to say that I think this mother is doing a really wonderful thing. I think that her daughter has a better chance of recovering because she has a mother that insists on her getting the professional help that she needs. I put this up because I think this mother was also doing one of the hardest things a mother is called to do - showing her child tough love.
   As mothers, we never want to think that our children can make mistakes - sometimes terrible ones. To me, the easier route for this situation would be for the mom to say something like, "I know that you have hit hard times. So get a job and see if you can straighten yourself out. I am sure that this problem is just because you have had a hard time lately." I see a lot of people say similar things to their loved ones every day.
   This mom isn't doing that. She is saying, "You are fucking up your life. I love you, but you are going to fix this problem so that you can get your life back." Maybe that seems harsh, but we have all made bad choices before, and isn't repairing the damage from those choices always hard and harsh? We all have to pay the piper. This mom, it seems to me, is going to do her best to get her daughter to pay the piper before the cost is truly sky-high. She is not going to excuse or enable, she is going to face reality and dish out her own brand of tough love. I truly, truly applaud that, because to me, that seems like a hard road to take. I shudder to think that maybe one day I too might have to make a similar choice, but as parents, this is one thing that we all might one day face. We all like to think that the little walking, talking miracles that we gave birth to and nurtured and raised will be prefect, but no one is truly perfect. The best person in the world can screw up and make bad choices. Seems to me like this girl might have the right kind of help needed to correct those screw ups. Of course, she has to be willing to take the help, but she will never be in the position to say that help wasn't offered.
   And so that is why I shared that particular conversation. Because to me, this is an example of parenting done right, and one example that I hope I am never called on to copy. But if that dark day ever does come, I  also hope I can be as strong as this mom seemed to be, and demand that my daughter face the music and fix what needs to be fixed. 

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