. . .when the alarm bells go off, we want to put out the fire. We assume — understandably — that we can make a child feel better by making her problem go away. Parents are habituated to this from the moment of a child’s birth: feed when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, hold when they cry. We bypass empathy and go straight to the problem solving.
But as your daughter grows more independent, and her peer culture becomes more influential, it becomes almost impossible for you to make her problems “go away” (in my experience, most girls come to accept that long before their parents do). In fact, peer aggression is one of the first moments many parents come to that painful realization: I’m not going to be able to control her world. I can’t fix it. – Rachel Simmons
This excerpt from an article by Rachel Simmons today in the Huffington Post stopped me in my tracks. She described one of the toughest realizations of parenting. I can’t fix it.
I can’t fix it. I can’t control his/her world. And, I can’t be their God. Ouch.
The article goes on to say that one of the things that evades parents when their girls are bullied is empathy. Listening, reflectively to their feelings, seeking to understand their pain. It’s a tough place to be as a parent. In a position of empathy, sitting on the sidelines with your child, rather than as their champion going out to fight the fight for them. There are times when you do step in for your child. When a 4th grader was punching kids in the stomach on the bus when 1st graders didn’t give him their milk money, we stepped in. But when friends were spreading hurtful lies and rumors, we couldn’t step in, we couldn’t fix it. Sometimes I think I listened and empathized. Sometimes I jumped in head first with solutions and bypassed empathy all together. And along with that came a large dose of righteous anger and ‘we’ll see about that’ attitude. Not the most helpful attitude for a parent to share with their child or teen.
I find fixing to be more fulfilling for me. But perhaps empathy, listening and understanding is more fulfilling for the child. My ‘children’ are now 20-somethings. But it’s still the same. Now more than ever they need someone to listen, understand and reassure. Not fix things for them.
The scriptures say, Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Don’t think you know it all. Perhaps another way of saying, you can’t fix it.