With trust

The first time a parent watches his or her kid walk independently, interact with other kids, run into their kindergarten classroom, I can understand it would be a proud moment. It is the natural process to go from total dependency on a parent as a child to having to someday live without them even on earth.

When my mom dropped me off for college her teary eyes upset me. But somewhere I knew that she was crying because she was proud to witness the day her child who grew from eight pounds to 138 pounds,  to live alone and be nearly self-sufficient. I doubt she credited herself for my ability to walk alone but of course she was the reason. I’m sure she was simply just excited to be witnessing the miracle that something she created could become a grown-up.

I wonder though, what is teenage rebellion other than something a parent should be proud of. The teenager wants independence, typically artificial and premature but still yet it is a desire to be strong and self-sufficient. And a parent at some point typically will fight that child’s desire, clinging on to that which gives them purpose. So maybe it is justified for a teenager to fight, almost a necessity to rebel to break that sense of ownership a parent might have adopted over the years.

But also maybe it is the essential need for a child to go beyond what is necessary to find the limit. All of us know the experience of where we do something we vow never to do again. I mean it took me to hike through two feet of snow in negative sixteen wind on top of the highest ridge line in northern Virginia to find my limit. And afterward I announced I will never do that again. I have taken my training to intensities that I vow never to reach again. It is only natural to surpass a limit to discover where that line is drawn. Some maybe teenagers need to jump beyond the limit of self-sufficiency and independence to truly understand that they are still, and will be for quite a while longer, dependent on their parents.

A couple weeks ago I came out of my house to the snow covered ground to find the gate had become stuck in the frozen surface. Despite the freedom to run for miles, my dog Lola was running around the yard, sniffing about, playing the foreign fluff. And when I yelled “RUBY! Come here Ruby!,” the panting canine rounded the truck, hoping like a bunny, plowing a trail behind her, back into the yard. They were granted freedom to roam, to cause trouble and yet they stayed close. A week later I decided to go play with them outside of the feces infested backyard. I opened the gate and they stared at me, curious as to what my intentions are.

I could see them questioning me, “What? With no leash?”

“Come on. Lets go!”

They ran ten feet out and looked back at stopped to look to see if I was coming. “Are you serious? With no leash?”

Ruby and I ran around the block and I found that with the trust I granted to her, she recognized the privilege and while knowing that her gushy puppy-dog eyes prevent us from ever punishing her, she still did not run away. Every time I would turn, she would continue on straight a few paces and upon realizing I had turned, would quickly change directions and race to catch up with me.

Let me remind you that these dogs on leashes are the most ill-behaved little devils, pulling till they have dislocated every joint in my arms. But with granting them my trust, they did not abuse it.

Maybe if a parent at some point gives the child more slack then maybe the kid will pull less. With this of course I mean a trusting, loving, attentive parent, not an ignorant parent who simply does not care to hold the leash in the first place. I guess if parenting were so easy as step one, two, three and the same for every child then I would not have felt the urge to write this in the first place. Still without knowing the psychology behind the action, I do feel that teenage rebellion may be something to be simultaneously embraced and limited rather than shunned and prevented.

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