Youth Zone Corner: Are you a pilgrim or tourist?
I am reading a book written by Matthew Kelly, and he raises that question — not about parenting, but about how we as people approach our lives. I think this question should be asked as a parent as well: Do we think our job as parents is to create the perfect vacation for our kids and our family? Do we plan the itinerary, check on times and schedules and make sure entertainment is readily available? If something in our plan goes awry, do we immediately reach for the phone and expect the travel agent to fix it and then react with disappointment or anger if our carefully orchestrated vacation is not going as planned?
A pilgrim parent has a bit of a different starting point. The pilgrim parent would say, “Well, let’s see what today will bring for my kids and for myself. We are in this for the long haul; parenting this child of mine will take time, patience, a longing for understanding and an openness to what cannot be planned.”
A pilgrim parent wonders how character will be developed in his or her children today, and whether they will have the opportunity to learn about themselves and the world they live in. How will they support their child and approach a plan gone awry with a curious mind instead of an angry heart?
You get where I am going with this, I am sure. Parenting at its best is a combination of incredible love built on memories and experiences we could never have planned on. Great memories are important in laying a solid foundation of trust, and the painful ones are when our kids actually grow into extraordinary people.
I want to be clear that our children need intense loving. We all do. I also want to be clear that when they have that love, they can deal with the pain that will cross their path and grow into responsible and wonderful adults. Our job, as parents, is to create the loving foundation and then trust life and our kids to pass through painful times with the mind of a pilgrim.
One of the greatest tragedies that our children experience is when adults take away, rescue and deny them the opportunity to take on a challenge and find success.
We see it every day at YouthZone: youth who are treated with kid gloves, the adults in their lives not believing in them to problem solve and to feel such pride when they overcome a great challenge. We snatch the learning right out from underneath them because we are a tourist parent, trying desperately to plan their vacation instead of standing by them in their pilgrimage. Life is a pilgrimage many of our youth have no idea how to handle because they have been prepared only for a vacation.
YouthZone cares for families every day — families that may be walking through a painful time. We hope that we approach our time together with a pilgrim hat on. We will walk alongside them; we won’t fix it or take away the pain. We will steady them and set before them the hope that this journey will be better than any vacation they could have planned.
If you are a parent who would like to know how to embrace this pilgrimage and throw away your itinerary, please give us a call at 970-945-9300.
Lori Mueller is executive director at YouthZone, an organization dedicated to providing opportunities for youth to be responsible, contributing members of their families and society. A Colorado nonprofit organization, YouthZone strives to enhance the quality of life in communities from Aspen to Parachute through prevention, support, parent education and direct services.
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