A Weekly Column

By Joseph Walker




Andrea is our third child. We think of her as God's way of apologizing for the first two.

Please don't misunderstand. We love her older brother and sister every bit as much as we love her, and we wouldn't trade them for anything (besides, I'm not sure how much we could get for them, now that they're both adults with families of their own). But they would be the first to admit that as teenagers, they were both recalcitrant, strong-willed and more than a little challenging on occasion. Andrea, on the other hand, has been a model child: obedient, congenial, accomplished and fun. We'd love to take credit for how well she is turning out, but to be perfectly honest, I can't see that we've done anything different with her than we did with Amy and Joe. It's Andrea who is different, not us. And I don't mind saying that we are enjoying the difference.

As Amy and Joe were struggling through their teenage years, they sort of tuned their parents out. So we had to trust that life would teach them the hard lessons they desperately needed to learn -- which it did. Andrea, on the other hand, has been willing to listen to our counsel and advice. She has even sought it on occasion, believe it or not. We have hoped that life would reward her for her good choices and positive attitude. And for the most part, it has.

Until last week.

I won't go into a lot of detail -- she's going to kill me when she reads this as it is (next time your kids try to convince you that their life is hard, tell them it could be worse: they could have a parent who writes about their problems in the newspaper -- and names names!). Let's just say that something didn't turn out the way I promised her it would.

When she started high school, I told her that if she worked hard, paid her dues, sacrificed and waited her turn, The Thing She Wants Most would happen. She believed me. She trusted me. So she did everything I said. For the next two years she worked hard, paid her dues and sacrificed, and finally it was her turn. At the start of her senior year, she was poised to collect on my promise. Then last week we found out that The Thing She Wants Most isn't going to happen.

At least, not for her.

Now, I know that life is like that sometimes. Sure, we'd all like to think of it in mathematical terms. Just as two plus two always equals four, we want to believe that talent plus hard work will always equal success. But life isn't a simple equation. Sometimes things work out the way we think they should, and sometimes they don't -- no matter how good and worthy and wonderful we are. It's a hard lesson, one that only comes painfully. And right now, Andrea is feeling the pain of learning.

As her father, I wish more than anything I could just wave a magic wand and make the pain stop. But after 21-plus years of parenting, I still haven't figured out how to do that. And it's probably just as well. Andrea will make it through this just fine, and she'll be better and stronger as a result.

She'll be more understanding of others she encounters throughout her life who are suffering emotional pain, because she will have experienced it herself. That will make her a better friend, a better wife, a better mother and a better person.

Unfortunately, knowing that will happen eventually doesn't take away the pain of right now. I wish it could. But the pain will subside -- for Andrea and for her Dad. New dreams will take root. New opportunities will beckon. And some new Thing She Wants Most will finally happen.

With no apologies necessary -- from God or anyone else.

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--- (c) 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 and