Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who Will Hear...I Love You from You?

Last night, my 17 year old son was especially restless and he decided at about 8PM that he wanted to trim his hair. I thought he would do a small clipping and said nothing. He came back about 10 minutes later sporting a shorter look in the front. He pointed out that he had shaved it partially on one side and asked me to cut the back. Not wishing to add to the "special look," I declined the offer.

He then used his shaver to add a few more distinctive circles to the top of his head. He arrived back in my room to show me his handiwork. Somehow, I was successful in keeping my composure....amazing to myself as he was truly looking "unique." While I did not like his crazy hair cut, I decided to relax, to calm myself with a hot bubble bath and to affirm his right to his unique style.

As I soaked, I let go of my anger and my need for control. I got over my frustration and my own embarrassment and decided that I would not diminish him for his harmless exploration of a new look. I decided that I would not ask him why he had decided to do this now and in this way. I decided that his actions were not worth ranting about and I decided that his actions did not reflect badly on me as a parent. Instead, his actions, revealed his own creativity. Asking him why would not serve a purpose. Instead, I simply got out of the tub, put on my pajamas and watched a favorite TV show and waited for his return.

He came back into my room with a cap on, reluctant to reveal what was underneath. As it turned out, he did not like the look either and he decided to shave it all off. Unfortunately, he did not have the right equipment, and it was clearly evident that his hair cut was done by an amateur. He told me, “Mom, I am bald and I do not know what the kids and teachers will say. I will wear a cap to school.” Knowing that caps and hats were not allowed, I told him to be prepared to go into the school without it. I kept my fears to myself, knowing that he would have to live with the consequences of his creativity.

Before, he went to bed, I said, "Robert, with or without hair you are still Robert and I love you." Much to my surprise, he said very clearly in his deep 17 year old voice, "I love you too!" This is not a comment that I hear very often from him and was a big improvement over his typical response of "Whatever!"

It occurred to me later in the evening that the “hair challenge” had brought us closer together and that our relationship had become stronger as a result of this trial. I had made a conscious decision to approach his actions with unconditional love, to applaud his daring action, to appreciate his sense of adventure and to reaffirm his right to claim his unique style and it had paid off.

I was nonetheless worried about the upcoming day. How would his "new look" be received at his school, by his teachers and his peers? I quickly wrote a note to his teacher and to his counselor to prepare them for the sight of the "new" Robert and I prayed for the best.

Much to my delight, Robert had a great day. According to the teacher report, it was one of his best! He participated fully, was engaged and walked around without a cap. He was bald, confident, had fun, laughed at the “Grandpa” jokes and connected with others in positive ways. Looking back, I believe that his positive day was an outgrowth of our positive interaction the night before.

I am reminded that our words are powerful and that we are given opportunities every day to positively impact the lives of others. Today, I am grateful; I was able to keep my composure and to express unconditional love in a challenging situation. I thank my father for teaching me to love unconditionally and for weathering the challenges of my youth when I also made some questionable decisions.

I came across a quote by Ben Stein that seems especially relevant, “Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows.”

What relationship will you nurture today? What challenge will you face and how will you respond? Who will you hug? Who will hear....I love you from you?

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