“ Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” Proverbs 19:20 (NIV)
We watched Manchester at the Sea yesterday. While I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone (there is quite a bit of profanity and mature audience subjects), it was a thought provoking movie. However, I don’t really want to talk about the movie itself, but a lesson I needed to be reminded of which was told so perfectly on the screen.
Casey Affleck portrays an uncle who takes custody of his 16-year-old nephew. Upon first impression, this teenager is quite mature and handles adult situations in a way some adults haven’t even mastered. However, as the story unfolds, it’s clear to see he’s still only 16. There were a few scenes where the actor did a great job of showing he still needed the loving adults in his life to guide him. He hadn’t crossed the finish line into adulthood yet.
In one particular scene, they were sitting in his uncle’s car and Casey asked his nephew a question, waiting for an answer. He received the standard, “I don’t know” reply to which the uncle responded (paraphrased so as to not give away the story), “Well, it needed to be a ‘yes’ for me, but that’s me. No is acceptable too. I don’t care what you decide. (long pause) Do you need me to decide for you?”
That’s the part that struck me. “Do you need me to decide for you?” We have two teenagers in our house and an elementary school-aged child. It’s easy for me to interact with our youngest child. I still make the majority of the decisions for him, while he gets to express his opinion and make his preference known, because the most difficult questions have to do with what food he wants to eat, when he needs to go to bed, and what animals he’s going to get next or how many. Pretty straightforward, simple questions. Questions that won’t ruin his life if he chooses wrong.
However, interacting with my teenagers is different. While I want to give them as much practice as possible to exert their independence, this movie reminded me that my job isn’t finished. There will be times when I will need to decide for them. I have the wisdom and insight from living twice as long as they have to make some of the hard decisions, knowing what kind of an impact their choices will have on their life now and possibly for their future too. Their decisions aren’t simply bedtime routines and how many times they will eat in a day. Instead of feeling guilty for not letting them sprout their wings completely, I need to be strong enough to step up and say at times, “I need to make this decision for you.”
We have great kids. They make great decisions. But it was a good reminder to me that my job, while approaching the finish line, isn’t completed yet. And if done well, I will never completely be without a job. I will always be their mom. I will always have lived 25+ years longer than they have, and while eventually the roles will change and they will have to decide if they want to take care of me when I’m too old to care for myself, for now, it was a good reminder that I can (and should) step up and ask, “Do you need me to make this decision for you?” when necessary.
© Cheri Swalwell 2017