Monday, June 9, 2014

Sometimes Life Goes Upside Down: Using Your Kids Painful Life Experiences as Opportunities to Grow into Everyday Heroes

Goodness gracious....sometimes parenting can be as tough as a noodle-knocker. {Yep, made up word} Are we getting this thing right? Are we leading in the way they should go? The recent shooting events at Seattle Pacific University, SPU, in Seattle, WA stirred these thoughts in me once again. This story hits close to our home for two reasons - 1} My Aunt attended this school, 2} It is about an hour and a half from our home. If you haven't heard about this tragedy yet it is worth reading up on. I am not suggesting this for the fear factor to increase in each of us- but because of the FAITH story you will find within it. Yes, there was a horrible event full of sad news. It was horrifying and scary. It was unforeseen and unavoidable in the moment. Yet, in the midst of the terribly awful situation we find a story of a young man who rose up in the midst of the storm to save others from the impact of more destruction. A young man who didn't believe he was born to stand out in a crowd but indeed he did just that. I know I had an eye-opening "Ah-ha" moment when reading the personal response of Jon Meis  to all of the attention and praise he has received for his bravery.

 "I know that I am being hailed as a hero, and as many people have suggested I find this hard to accept. I am indeed a quiet and private individual; while I have imagined what it would be like to save a life I never believed I would be put in such a situation. It touches me truly and deeply to read online that parents are telling their children about me and telling them that real heroes do exist. 
However, what I find most difficult about this situation is the devastating reality that a hero cannot come without tragedy." -Jon Meis
(click to read his entire response) , you won't be disappointed.

After watching the news and reading the stories surrounding this atrocity it left me with some questions... When the going gets rough will my kiddos handle the challenges they face well? Will they take risks? Will they cower in fear? Will they care for others or just look out for themselves? Will they be willing to protect at any cost?

One thing I am pretty certain of, a lot of their reactions are birthed out of how we are teaching our CHILDREN to handle the little things that in turn lead them in their auto-response in the bigger challenges they will face. They are also watchers - so even though they aren't necessarily speaking, they are paying close attention to how we are responding to whatever life throws at us. 

Situations roll continually into our lives like incoming waves with unpredictable patterns and outcomes. Some life events roll in and out smoothly, some like crashing waves disrupt everything in their way. Some bring splashes of joy with screeches of laughter, while others hit us with such unforeseen strength it knocks our feet right out from under us. It is these silent feet sweepers  that can cause us, as parents, the most fear.  Typically they hit in the middle of calm or distracted, swoosh - we are off our feet before we know it. Unexpected,  this is the place where we have a tendency to be plunged deep, quickly, tossed & turned, left feeling as if we are being pulled down forcefully by the undertow. I am guessing this is right where the College students found themselves when the gunman approached. They were focused on their end of year finals when all of a sudden...CRASH...incoming chaos, panic and fear. Where would they turn, where would they dive, what should they do,  how did they get to this place? I am certain the family and friends of the victims can relate deeply to this. 

As good parents wouldn't we all want to help our children avoid this scenario? Of course! No parent would wish this on their child, ever. But there a way we could actually help them prepare for it? What does that look like in the building blocks process? Don't you wonder what this young man who's actions saved many more lives experienced in his life that prepared him to respond in such a way? 

It took me back to a situation a couple of months ago that our son was in. He was in a "safe" group setting - a place where he would go on a regular basis. There were the appropriate number of people supervising and engaged with the kids. Still, a new boy approached my Son in a very serious manner. He began muttering VERY inappropriate things to him. Now, when I say VERY inappropriate, I mean he was saying things no child that age should even know the words to or descriptions for. For some reason this boy targeted our boy as his onslaught of verbal attack. 

Whenever our little guy would see an opportunity to get to a leader for safety this other boy would make a bee-line to present a false case against our Son. By the end of the hour or little guy was SO upset he wanted to just get out of the building. When he got to the car he burst into tears, he couldn't even talk about it to his Dad. I happened to be out of town for the weekend and got back that same evening. When I got home the first thing he did was break down and burst out the story.  As much as one side of me wanted to delve into how wrong and horrible this little boy was, God had reminded me of my own story line. Ugh. GRACE.

Before I realized what I was saying I was leading Nate in a reminder that this little boy is not the enemy. He must have something that has gone on in his life that has lead him to this place. It was this very moment that Nate replied "Mom, that is exactly what I was thinking when this boy kept talking to me. I felt like he was being used. I don't hate him Mom."  Which lead to us praying for the boy and his family. 

{Parent Note: I did notify the program leaders to inform them of the circumstances and we worked through the process they would go through to come along side this family and this boy in order to protect the boy and others from a repeat situation - BUT it was not done in anger - or questioning their abilities or integrity as leaders}

Our little guy hasn't walked away totally unscathed, he hasn't received an apology from the boy & he didn't get justice. We also did not rally a team of haters to take a stance against the program. We did, however, develop some stronger spiritual muscles in the process. We used the hard and scary situation to be reminded that we are never alone and God equips us for every.single.moment we will face. We were reminded that we do not have to be afraid. It was a HUGE reminder that scary situations will approach us but we know the ONE who is ALL-KNOWING and has gained the VICTORY. So we approach Him for the answers in how to respond. When we look to Him, and respond in the power of His Holy Spirit, in a way that typically won't make sense to those watching (like pummeling a gunman instead of running) That is when we become Everyday Heroes. 

As much as we want to keep our kids from harm, it is the one thing we can be pretty certain will face in some way, at some time in their future. So how do we train them in the way they should go when relating to fearful situations? I imagine it looks a little different in every situation. Perhaps our leading needs to take a deep breath so we can get some God perspective before we dive in with our rescue ideas.  I do pray and hope the common thread of grace and love is woven throughout every response. Undeserved love is a spectacularly BEAUTIFUL and POWERFUL thing when used in response to chaos, fear, anger and loss. It shines brightly in dark places.

Earlier today I took the opportunity to share the story and response of Jon Meis with Nate. As we chatted through his bravery and his process of thoughts towards the shooter I reminded Nate of his own interaction with a bully, just a few months ago. I know, the two situations are hard to compare as one has such a tragic ending with the death and injury of people. Yet, for my little, this bully felt very BIG -and it could possibly be one of the very situations that will prepare him to stand tall in a more extreme circumstance he just may face in his future.

I would encourage you to keep your eyes open and look for opportunities to share real life stories of faith and courage with your kiddos. Help your kids to think of situations in their own lives where they can put others first, pray for others or respond to tough situations with undeserved kindness and love. AND as always.... as parents -we need to be leading by example.

I would LOVE to hear stories of your kiddos and situations where they were Everyday Heroes!

-Simply Sublime

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