This is what my 15-year old son said to me. Something happened and I joked that he would need therapy for it. That's when he said it. And he meant it. He would never need therapy because he wasn't weak.
I was struck. I didn't know what to say. His 21-year old sister did. She turned to him and said, "Do you have any idea how rude what you just said was? Especially to someone who goes to therapy?"
He didn't. They argued about it for a bit. I just left the room, trying to sort out my emotions. Not really upset but definitely unsettled. Not because his statement implied that he thought I was weak, although that didn't thrill me. I was unsettled because his statement showed a real lack of understanding and empathy.
After thinking about it for a week or so, I'm trying to chalk it up to immaturity. He's a 15-year old boy. He really isn't expected to have much empathy at this point.
But I am doing everything I can to raise him to be a good man. A considerate husband. A caring father. Including going to therapy.
That's one of the biggest reasons I'm in therapy, to know better how to raise my kids. To know how to help them be good people who are happy.
Because this is something most of us aren't taught growing up -- how to parent. We learn through modeling, through what we see around us, primarily in our own home. And when we learn abusive parenting at home, it's tough to know any other way.
Growing up, my heart told me that the way I was treated wasn't right. Honestly, that it wasn't how God wanted me to be treated. I deserved better. Everyone deserves better.
But I didn't know how to do any differently. Early in my marriage a lot of my behavior with my husband and children was so much like how I grew up. I had the mentality that it was important for a child to submit to his parents. That if a child balked at what he was told, he was to be put in his place. That I had to break their will if I wanted them to be good people.
Even though I was a lot more gentle and involved than my parents generally, when there were behavior problems I still reverted to what I'd experienced. Way too often. Partly because I wanted my parents to see how well behaved my children were. Because I thought having children who always do what they're told was a sign of good parenting.
Luckily I found a better way. I spent less time listening to my parents' tapes playing in my head and more time listening to my heart. I spent a lot more time on my knees, asking God to help me do better. And I went to therapy.
Therapy has changed me. It's made me a stronger person. It's helped me trust my heart. And it's taught me so many truths about how to have healthy relationships.
And it's made me a better parent.
I talked to my son about this a few days later. I told him he'd hurt my feelings; he was genuinely sorry about that. I told him I was doing everything I could to help him not experience what I experienced. I told him going to therapy was one of those things.
I told him he needs to work on thinking before he speaks. I told him that as he grows I think he'll find I'm one of the strongest people he knows. And I told him I hope he never needs therapy.
Because then I'll know all my therapy paid off.