I’m apologizing in advanced for this analogy, but it’s the first thing that came to mind when I was thinking about this topic. Extra apologies to any male that is reading this post (especially if it’s my dad that is reading this). If you are a guy, maybe skip past the analogy for the point.
When my mom presented me with my first training bra, I remember feeling mortified and annoyed. I also couldn’t understand why it was necessary. As I grew older, I still struggled understanding what the purpose of a bra was (but I wore one daily). I was a relatively flat chested teen and young adult. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Princess Pea that I learned the importance of a good bra.
My back was hurting, a lot. I walked into the only maternity store in town and told them what my issue was. I was hoping it would be a back brace or something, but instead the lady measured me and handed me a stack of bras to try on. After finding the one that fit the best I bought it. I was doubtful, but sure enough, the next day my back was better. It was crazy that having the right support changed everything.
It’s funny how the right support can be a game changer. We often think that support should be what we want. Support should be comfy and cozy. Support should be what makes our life easier. Unlike a bra, support should be none of those things. Support should be what makes our life better, not easier.
Growing up, my parents were known as the “Nazi Parents”, Ok maybe not that bad, but they were very strict. My friends would often flinch when I said “Let me ask my parents” before I went along with things. Often they would say “never mind” rather than deal with me saying “I can’t, my parents say no.” It seemed totally unfair. It was frustrating that all the other kids got to go play with blowtorches and my parents said no (ok that example never happened). Then something crazy happened.
My parents had a strict “no dances, no boy/girl parties until fourteen” policy. A month before my birthday, my friend was having his fourteenth birthday part. It was going to be a big bash with movies, activities, and a sleep over for the boys. As I heard who was going, I began to feel really uncomfortable with going to it. I told my friend I was going to ask my parents, but the rule of “no dances or parties” would probably mean no.
I remember nervously handing my dad the invitation and looking anxiously at the ground as he read over it. I remember my shock when instead of saying “you’re not fourteen, no party”, he said, “sounds fun, do you want to go?” I was ready and hoping for that no, but this was new territory. I remember telling him my concerns about going, my fears, and my hesitation. My dad smiled and said “It’s a good thing you have such strict parents. You can use me as an excuse to not go. Just say your dad said no.”
I was elated. Not only did my dad say I could go, but he also was the perfect support. He made it so I had this awesome safety net, a scapegoat, a get out of jail card. The best support works like this. Support is not this unconditional “you do you!” or a constant embracing of choices, it is giving you the help and boundaries needed to become the best you possible.
Too often we fearfully smile and nod as people tells us about their choices that could be taking them down the wrong path. Too often we stay silent while our children, friends, family, and loved ones make choices that hurt us, others, and even themselves.
When did support mean we become bobble heads that when prompted bob up and down with silent agreement? Somehow, we have been bullied into being silent in our statements, our true support.
The other day, Princess Pea made a sad choice. I firmly told her that she needed to stop or a serious consequence would follow. She didn’t, so the consequence came. Tearfully, my child came to me and said “You hurt my feelings, you need to apologize to me.” As a mom, it hurts when your child hurts, but yet, if I apologized for giving my child a just and correct consequence, I would only be teaching her that feelings were more important that good choices. I sat her down and said “you feel sad right now because you made a sad choice that led to this consequence. I do not need to apologize and I will not apologize. You need to feel bad so that you can learn to make better choices next time.”
We do everyone a huge disservice when our support and love comes in the package of blind acceptance and ego petting. When we show our loved ones that we care enough to go down the harder path, the path of support and change, we become more than just “that bobble headed one”, we become more.
I love this quote by Bonnie L. Oscarson from October 2016 “I worry that we live in such an atmosphere of avoiding offense that we sometimes altogether avoid teaching correct principles… we need to use sensitivity, but let us also use our common sense and our understanding of the plan of salvation to be bold and straightforward when it comes to teaching” and supporting as well.
We should not shy away from being a rock of values. Yes, this kind of support may lead to hostility from the other party, but if we let them know that we love them too much to allow this to continue, we love them enough that we will risk our relationship of sunshine and rainbows for a deeper more meaningful one filled with more than empty head nods.
How do you support others?