Yesterday while at coffee with a couple friends, the subject of malpractice came up. One of my friends wisely pointed out that doctors are not perfect…they only “practice” medicine. It got me thinking:
Doctors practice medicine.
Lawyers practice law.
My husband and I are practicing parenting.
Yesterday afternoon, when I was working through some difficult emotions with our almost-thirteen-year-old, I borrowed this idea of practice.
He is in the midst of confusion about life and his place in the world. (did I mention he’s in seventh grade? or that his dad is getting ready to leave for out-of-state work for 6 weeks? or that we are preparing to move to a new town?) His confusion is explicable, even if his behavior is not excusable.
After hacking away at what seemed to me to be surface excuses for his recent behavior, he worked to identify the feelings he couldn’t quite express. I gently pushed him a bit further. Much of his behavior has revolved around what seemed like anger toward me and my husband. (shocking for a teenager, I know!) So, I prodded him to talk through his feelings toward us. As hard as it was for me to hear his perspective, I did my best to listen without reaction.
I sat for a few minutes, taking in his viewpoint about what we are not doing quite right as parents. Honoring his feelings, I told him I was grateful he shared with me.
Then I asked him, “How long have you been here?”
“Thirteen years,” he said.
“How long have I been here?” I asked.
“Almost thirty-eight years,” he smirked, frustrated because he thought he knew where I was going.
I said, “You know what? You are practicing being in seventh grade. You’ve never done any of this before. Your dad and I have done seventh grade, and high school, and college, so we have a perspective that you do not yet have.”
He subtly rolled his eyes, because I did go where he thought. Then, I changed gears.
“The thing is, we are practicing too.”
He looked up from his hands to make eye contact with me for the first time.
“We have NEVER been parents of a thirteen-year-old before and we only get one shot to get it right.”
“No,” he sunk back into his annoyed posture. “You get to do it two more times with the girls.”
“Ok, let me rephrase. We are practicing being parents of a thirteen-year-old boy named Nate, and sometimes we try harder than we should because we so desperately want to get it right.”
He softened and made eye contact again.
“Everyone is practicing something,” I said. “We get better with more practice, but we’re never perfect. You are practicing life as an almost-teenager and your dad and I are practicing mid-life and parenting. All that matters is that all of us keep trying to get better at what we’re practicing.”
How about you? What are you practicing? Are you choosing to grow through the experience, or are you going through the motions?
Copyright 2013 Meagan Frank Choosing to Grow