Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tough Love

Every good parent knows what it means, and knows how painful it can be. It is, when guiding a child toward becoming a respectable, independent adult, an unavoidable heartbreak. No matter how much wisdom we impart, no matter how much sense of responsibility and integrity we try to instill, no matter how much we love and want to protect them, there comes a time when consequences must be experienced for the lesson to be learned. Furthermore, the lessons most important are the hardest on us both, and the ones that likely take more than once to really take root. Still, as parents invested in the future quality of life for our children, we take the hard line over and over again, hoping the light will finally go on and stay on in their not-yet-mature brains. I've heard "I hate you, mom" more than once. It isn't hate though; it's frustration from not being able to challenge my authority and win. The apology that inevitably follows is genuine and we move forward without the baggage of those growing pains. We cannot change what has already happened, but we can learn and make today better than yesterday with the knowledge of what hasn't worked so well.

To be compelled to exercise tough love on my kids is a natural part of being a parent. To be compelled to exercise tough love on a friend was unexpected and frankly, it took me several days to craft my message to be direct, honest and firm without any emotional flaming darts. I recognized the potential for backlash, both from the recipient and those within her circle of friends with whom I am also connected.

Tough love is an investment, but it never feels like that to the one on the receiving end, the one who has responsibilities and truths to face, and very likely amends to make. I only hope enough of the message was received before she severed our connection. It's been said that a word spoken can be rejected, but a word read will lodge in one's brain.

I certainly hope so.