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Obsessions

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Remember when there was that one important thing—once upon a time? Think back. For a period of time, your world was consumed by it. I remember one summer (I think I was seven going on eight), my BFW (Best Friend for a While) Susie and I made a clubhouse. We walked to the appliance store about four blocks from Susie’s house. We found a refrigerator box and dragged it home. We made that box our home for one solid week. To this day, I remember, it was all I thought about. How to decorate it? What about adding a window, what will happen if it rains?

As a parent, it’s not uncommon to spend your child-raising years consumed by your kid’s activities. The science fair project you took ownership of, show choir, soap-box derby. But the granddaddy of all parent-child activities is; youth sports. Who among us does not know the parent who is obsessed by their young kid’s athletic career? Maybe, you’ve been that parent once, or, you are that parent now. The certainty, the hope. “my kid has real talent.”

We had some friends over for dinner last night. Jillian is a single Mom raising four boys age 7-15, completely on her own. Her ex-husband is out of the picture and her mother and extended family live abroad. If it takes a village, Jillian’s village is her church, friends, God, and the parents from her son’s athletic teams. Marcus, William, Brian and James are outstanding young men. They are all top students, responsible and polite. Each one plays sports, levels above their own age group. They’re constantly recruited by coaches who want them to play on their team—even James, who just finished first grade.

Marcus is starting his sophomore year in high school, this fall. He’s the little man of the family. He’s the eldest who acts as the father figure to his three younger siblings. He’s obedient and very sensible, but he made a decision this summer that broke his mother’s heart. He quit the football team. He’s sticking to basketball and lacrosse only. It still hurts Jillian, all these weeks later. I feel her pain—I do. It’s a turning point in a close relationship between mother and son, when decisions are made without your input, without your permission, without your approval.

If our relationships are healthy, those we love will ultimately make decisions that we don’t agree with. We’d do it differently. When that happens, do we have the wisdom to gracefully accept it and move on? My son Craig made his own decisions from the time he was seven; James’s age. He knew from early on, how he wanted to live his life. He has never been held back by the usual fears other kids felt. He’s wired with a DNA that allows him to take chances and choose the path less traveled. And it works for him. He’s found himself knee-deep in trouble, many a time, from very bad decisions. But, even when it seems that there’s no escape from the lousy choices made, his positive attitude carries him over to the other side.

And so it will be with the decisions your kids, your spouse or your parents make without the benefit of your wise counsel. Mistakes fuel the growth that we all need to be better people. Success is that much sweeter when it comes as a result of hard work and overcoming challenges. I pray that Jillian’s resentment about her son’s decision will soften and she will soon see the courage it took for her little man to do what’s in his heart. There are times when it’s important to be selfish. There are times when willpower is needed to disappoint someone you love. Whether it’s you delivering unwelcome news, or you receiving it, it’s a blessing to have faith to sustain us.

Choices
I watch as he weighs the choices.
I want to tell him to what to do.
“Make the safe choice.”
“Make the choice that I want,
the one that keeps you close to me.”
Help him to be more objective than I can be.

Help him to make the choice
that takes advantage of his strengths and his passions,
his knowledge and his abilities.
Help him to choose well.
Only You can give me the strength
to wait patiently until he decides.

Help me smile and congratulate him
in my heart and with my words,
as I see the man
You have helped him become.

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