I've had three different blogs in the queue this week and have wavered on which one I wanted to focus on. I've decided to go in the direction of the life lesson this week. When I think of my motivations for why I am passionate about these life lessons, I have been reminded that there was a very influential book for me as a young parent. Boundaries with Kids, by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud, colored the way I have parented since my oldest was a toddler. The description on Amazon for the latest edition is exactly how I would describe this book - a parenting approach that sees beyond the moment to the adults their children will become. The advice was all about not just parenting for today, but parenting for our children's future selves as responsible adults and citizens. I think that having these ideas and working with mostly children in my music studio these many years, have brought me lots of opportunities to see "more than a piano lesson."
This week I have been reminded of the lesson that is best learned when consequences are minimal. Here I mean, when children still have the safety net of their parents to protect them with a milder consequence of taking responsibility for their actions versus waiting until they are adults to experience much harsher realities.
Let me be specific - this week my son was tasked with getting the mowing done in our yard. In the past, he will sometimes come inside and say something like "the mower won't start." To which my instant reply is usually - "does it need gas?" He has learned my response now and has learned to go ahead and make sure it is NOT gas before he tells me he is having trouble. So this week, he came in and said "it won't start" and I proceeded to head out with him, asking him about the gas on the way. He said, "I filled it up", and so I had him show me what it was doing. He tried to crank it a few times, and big black and blue puffs of smoke came out of it. After a minute, I had a thought, and so I asked "what gas can did you use?" he said "the yellow one." OH NO - well that explained it - it was the diesel can and the lawn mower is a gas engine.
To make a long story short, he had to mow the yard this week with a push mower. It's twice as long to do and a whole lot more physical labor, but I guarantee he will never use the wrong color gas can again. He now knows through experience that there are consequences for our actions, even if they were not malicious, only accidental.
It's important for him to learn now to shoulder the blame in a situation. It doesn't feel good, and no one likes it, but perhaps it will prevent something much worse in the future. The consequence for putting gas in a diesel motor, for instance, could be much more expensive!
The headlines this week have brought a certain amount of frustration to many of us regarding the young woman who was raped by the Stanford swimmer. His sentence in the case and the letters from dad and son are all appalling. A young woman's life was permanently altered, and she must live with this now forever. I have no doubt, she will rehash her decisions that night, and wonder if she should have done something differently. Regardless of her actions, she should have never been treated with such disregard and disrespect.
He also must live with the consequences of his behavior. Of course, the problem is that both dad and son want to shift blame. The son actually blames the drinking culture of Stanford for his choice of actions that night. That's just ludicrous. I understand his deserve to avoid jail, and I can't imagine being faced with that when you are a young person just starting college, but he chose to behave the way he did. In this instance also this was certainly not accidental, he made a definitive choice to behave this way toward this young woman. His malicious choice should bear the heavy consequence.
I can't help but wonder if there had been any opportunities before this for him to have learned to shoulder some responsibility before the stakes were this high. Learning to take responsibility for each choice, and each decision is so important for our children to learn. This lesson, in turn, brings them true freedom as future adults, as they have an understanding of just how those decisions and choices can affect their futures.