There was a story in the newspaper last week just before I left town that kept going through my mind. It was about a 16-year-old boy who was on the run from his home and from the juvenile authorities and who was upset that — for some strange reason — his girlfriend’s father wouldn’t let them see each other. Therefore he got a gun, went to his girlfriend’s house where the father was alone, confronted the man and put the gun to his own head and threatened to shoot himself if the father wouldn’t let them be together.
Boy, just when you think you’re going to have a problem…
I’m thinking that if it’s me I’d say something like, “Don’t pull that trigger, son! You want to squeeeeze it gently or you might miss.”
Okay, I probably wouldn’t say that. I’d probably think it, but I wouldn’t say it. Maybe. I’m generally a pretty compassionate guy, and I know that this story involves a real kid who obviously has some real problems, and I pray he gets some real help. Who knows, I may even meet him some day, though you can be pretty sure he wouldn’t make it through the first interview if he had any thoughts of achieving “boyfriend” status and hadn’t picked up a clue or two along the way. If someone showed up around here drinking self-pity out of a sippy cup and thinking he had a “right” to see my daughter then his self-esteem is probably the first thing that’s going to be hurt. And don’t tell me that that kind of attitude on his part reflects low self-esteem; it shows that it’s really all about him — and believe me, that’s not someone who thinks too little of himself.
What I’m looking for is a return to “honorable intentions” and the awareness that certain things have to be earned, and a willingness to do so. Would you spend years carefully maintaining your SUV, waxing and washing it, only to have some joker think he can jump in and take it off-roading with barely a “by-your-leave”, let alone a promise to have it back by ten?
Of course, a SUV doesn’t have much of a say in the matter, whereas a daughter might. There’s no question I’ve got a paternalistic outlook, which is another word that has fallen into disfavor these days, but I don’t apologize for it when it comes to my daughters. Look, I’ve changed the diapers, paid for the braces and educations, sat them on my knee and put them across it as necessary and not because they are “mine” but because I know that ultimately they’re Someone else’s, just as I am. They know what loves looks like, so they don’t have to go around trying to find it from others. They know the value I put on them and they know my values; along the way, if I’ve done my job, those values have grown inside them to be better armor than any I can put around them. The high expectations aren’t just mine now.