Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Free Agency and How to Enforce It

I realize that there comes a point in every child's life where they have to stand on their own. A point where I cannot jump in every time a friend does something nasty, or a teacher picks on my child. But where is that point?

One of my children has been through the ringer the past few days. Came home from church crying, got upset after reading her email, and was on the receiving end of the cruel little trick girls play on each other involving a secret 3 way phone call. The idea there is to get the receiver of the call to say something mean about the person who is secretly the third party in the call.

And as she and I discuss all these different events, and how a person with character would handle them, what is actually running through my head is the dialogue I would like to have with the unkind teacher, the spiteful emailer, and the cruel phone callers. People, what are we thinking? But I choose not to have those discussions because;

a) I'm not sure I could handle them with the character that I want to show, and

b) I want my daughter to learn how to handle these things herself. I can support and love, but really, this is her time to learn.

We have been through this before at our house. My advice today was the same as it was then. Be nice to everyone. Some people think that stepping on you makes them look bigger, when in reality it just makes them look very, very small. The test, though, is what we do in response to these events. Will you stoop that low? Telling people about the hurtful events that made you so sad will make them look like the bad guys, for awhile. But when you really step back and look at it, is your telling the story any different than what they did in the first place?

Better to say nothing, and really look for friends who don't need to squash people to make themselves feel important.

I really am grateful for the gift of agency. Most of the time I'm really really grateful that I don't have to be in charge of other people's choices. But every now and again, I'd sure trade somebody else's agency in for a little compassion.


"Buns of Steele" said...

I love the title of this post because I sometimes wish it were possible! I am dreading the very things you are talking about as my daughter enters middle school this year. I don't have any clue how bad it is do I? Dare I say that at least it might give me excellent blogging material...?

JustRandi said...

Ahhh, out of sympathy I think we should just let you stay clueless for about 6 months longer. Why start getting carsick before the trip has begun?
Blogging material though, look forward to that!

Stephanette said...

Oh, Randi! I'm so sorry...sixth grade was the worst year of my life because of horrible tricks like that before my best friend moved to town the next year. Give your daughter a hug for me and remind her to keep her chin up. You guys can always come to the sticks to visit!

JustRandi said...

Hey Stephanette - what a great idea! Our youth conference is coming through KS in a couple of weeks on our way to a MO, IL, and NE. Maybe we could stop in. You know, about 40 of your closest friends?!
Maybe I would, um, forget to get back on the bus???