Tuesday, September 6, 2011

To act or react, that is the question.

Lately I've been feeling convicted about my parenting. Not convicted like "My-children-are-going-to-unable-to-love-and-will-have-to-spend-years-in-therapy-to-break-the-cycle-of-dysfunction-that-I-have-scarred-them-with. On-the-other-hand-I-hear-prisons-are-nicer-now-more-like-a-boarding-school-than-a-correctional-facility-so-it-it-all-bad?", but a conviction about how I react.

My mom used to say "Act, don't react", to which I would roll my eyes and stomp off, because she clearly did not "get it". Ten years later I finding myself muttering "act, don't react". A perfect example happened as I sat down to work on this entry. Alex was starting on his homework with a pen in his hand.
"Alex, you have to use a pencil. You may not use a pen for your homework."
"That's okay. I'll use my pen."
"Alex, I said you need a pencil."
"I said a pen is fine."

Don't react. Don't react I whisper to myself.

Situations like these pop up every day. Sometimes he just doesn't understand what I want from him, and other times he's trying to find out where the boundaries are. But everytime, I get to make the decision to act or react, and however I decide to act will shape the way he will act later.

On the way home today, we witnessed a hit-and-run at a stop light blocks from our house. A motorcyclist was having issues with his motorcycle, as he was wheeling it off the road, the driver behind him decided to shoulder past. We watched as the sedan hit the motorcycle and then sped off.*
I couldn't help but wonder if the driver's parents exhibited signs of road rage. Did they inadvertently teach their son impatience? I am in no way blaming this man's actions on his parents. I fully believe that as an adult, he is responsible for his own actions. Did he act on his own or did he react to his impatience?
My parents are cautious drivers. I can't recall them exhibiting road rage. But, sometimes I struggle with road rage. A fact I didn't even realize until someone in the backseat piped up one day and said "Dude, it's green!!"
While I am grateful he wasn't calling out obsenities and flipping other drivers off, I am embarrassed that my lack of regard for other people has started to rub off on him.

*We were able to get the license plate number and reported the incident. Sweet husband stayed with the motorcyclist until after the police and paramedics came. He was taken to the hospital for some injuries to his knee and back.

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