A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
There are times when it’s really hard to be Elizabeth’s
I mean, look at her. She’s adorable. She’s talented. She’s a great student. She has a fun, bubbly personality. She never gets into any trouble more heinous
than not making her bed or being a little unkind to her brother. And when there is work to be done, she’s the
first – and usually the only – one to offer to help, or to do it herself.
See what I mean?
Especially when the time comes to make a parental
decision that you know is going to disappoint her. How do you say “no” to such a girl when you
know how much she deserves to hear “yes”?
With Amy and Joe, our first two children, saying “no”
was never all that difficult. Getting
them to understand what “no” meant was the hard part. Our third child, Andrea, was a lot like Elizabeth
as a teenager. But as an adult she’s so
busy she’s never around long enough for us to say “no” – not that it would
matter if we did. And while Jon is two
years younger than Elizabeth, he’s .
. . well, you know . . . male. So “no” comes
pretty naturally for him.
for one reason or another, is the model 14-year-old. So when she wanted to participate in Something
Very Important, our natural inclination was to do everything we could to make
it happen for her. After all, she
deserved it. So Anita and I worked on it
for a couple of weeks. We looked at it
from every angle. We talked about it
late into the night. We prayed about it –
hard. But in the end it became clear
that it just wasn’t going to work out, no matter how much Elizabeth
Life can be that way, you know? The
hardest working team doesn’t always win the game. The most qualified applicant doesn’t always
get the job. Sometimes nice guys finish
last, virtue isn’t rewarded, cheaters prosper and the worm beats the heck out
of the early bird. Life isn’t fair, no
matter how hard we try to legislate, litigate and negotiate otherwise. Unfairness happens. We can’t control that. The only thing we can control is how we will
respond to unfairness when it happens, as it inevitably will.
For Anita and I, that meant putting off telling Elizabeth
“no” for as long as we could. Neither
one of us wanted to face it. But finally
last night we sat with her and tried to explain why Something Very Important
wasn’t going to happen. She cried. I couldn’t blame her. I cried too.
But she didn’t complain. She didn’t
whine. She didn’t wail about how unfair
it was. She didn’t even remind us that
she deserved better, even though we all knew perfectly well that she did.
“I know you guys tried,” she said through her
tears. “That’s all I can ask.”
Later that night, long after she had gone to
sleep, I snuck into Elizabeth’s
room to kiss her forehead and stroke her hair and whisper one more time how
sorry I was that things didn’t work out.
I could see that her eyes were puffy from all the crying. They were still a little red this morning
when she came downstairs for breakfast. But
there were no more tears. Instead, her
face was dominated by her characteristic happy smile. She didn’t say a word about her
disappointment. All she could talk about
was how excited she was for the activities and opportunities of the new day.
Do you have any idea
how hard it is to deal with a kid like that?
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book, "How
Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.