Way of the Parenting Warrior

A few of of the boys with Nali, one of our canine Trek staff.

A few of of the boys with Nali, one of our canine Trek staff.

I disappointed my daughter today – her birthday, of all days. I’d promised her a dog after she tearfully approached me saying she missed our old dog that mysteriously disappeared in October. So I showed up early at preschool and took her to the local shelter. I’d secretly been doing recon on one certain dog for weeks and was confident he was still available three days since my last visit. Needless to say he wasn’t. I’d blown it. Someone saw him the day before and his sign read “I’m Adopted!!” I was crushed.

I can’t tell you how firmly my heart was set on that beautiful red chow mix. But Grace’s wasn’t – she had never met him. In her joyous, five-year-old exuberance, any old dog would do as long as we took one home then. I halfheartedly took a pretty, white, husky mix out to the dog run to play. Grace had a blast chasing him, while throwing the ball and Frisbee. He played along a little, but was more interested in menacing the puppy in the run next door and twice snapped his head around, annoyed at my daughter for interrupting that mission. Obviously, he didn’t come home with us and Grace was NOT happy. She stomped, cried, and generally made my life miserable all the way home as I attempted to explain we would try again another day. She wasn’t having it.

Upon reflection that evening, I recognized the mistakes I had made and how to fix them next time. First, I failed to set the boundaries of our visit – that we were looking for a dog, but might not take one home that day. Next visit I will remember to define the parameters ahead of time and come out the shining mom I know I am.

Second, I neglected to be consistent in my words and action. I told her she could have a dog for her birthday. That, to a five-year-old, means “dog on birthday,” so I broke my implied promise. Walking the talk is something I’m usually pretty good at when it comes to following up with consequences. I learned I need to be cognizant of saying what I mean and meaning what I say ALL the time.

Third, I forgot to conduct due diligence to see if the dog I picked as the perfect match for our family was still available. A disciplined check on the internet could have helped me avoid the whole situation. I’ve resolved that being busy isn’t an excuse for important information gathering!

This learning path I traveled falls nicely into our new quarter: The Warrior Leadership skills ask us to align our words with actions, be responsible and disciplined, and to respect limits and boundaries. When we disregard doing so, we fail ourselves and others, unintentionally or otherwise.

Not to worry, Gracie will get her dog, I will get over my disappointment, and the Husky may get another chance without distractions. Who knows? I may name him Warrior.

posted by Shaler Black Cooper in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (2)

Touch Down! – Me, Mom & Boundaries

Matt Carla Ben

Therapist Carla Shorts with recent alumni Ben

On a Monday, many years ago, I was instructed to complete the task of cleaning my room or I would not be allowed to go to a football game with my friends that Friday night. Like most 15 year olds, I thought the request was outrageous and that surely my mother would forget about it by the time Friday actually rolled around. Boy, did I misjudge the woman. As I hair sprayed my “mall bangs” (don’t judge, it was the 90’s), my mother came into my room to inspect my progress with the assigned task. She took one look around my discombobulated living space (which I’m fairly sure resembled Calcutta at that point) and proclaimed that I would be staying in for the evening. “Was she actually serious about cleaning my room?!” I wondered.

As fate would have it she was, indeed, very serious and wasn’t being swayed by my feeble attempts to bargain with her. “I swear I’ll do it as soon as I get home!” No dice. My mother made it very clear she would not be transporting me via minivan to my high school football game. There I stood in my carefully picked out outfit and perfectly teased bangs with all the hurt and anger an adolescent girl could muster. Deep in my own crisis, I threw out the biggest weapon in my arsenal, “You are the worst mother in the world and I hate you!” My mother proceeded to tell me she regretted the decision I had made and left me to deal with my sorrow and disappointment.

In the book Boundaries With Kids, Dr. John Townsend states that, “Basically, we change when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.” That day, I learned that it was going to be more painful to miss the football game than to clean my room. I also learned that my mother was a woman who was going to follow through on her word. By setting that boundary, my mother taught me she wasn’t going to be a woman who made idle threats or tolerated disrespect.

Many years later, when I was an adult, my mother confessed she had locked herself in her bathroom that day and cried over my hurtful words. Looking back, it would have been so much easier for my mother to throw her hands in the air and allow me to go to the football game with my friends. It would have been an infinitely more simple task for her to clean my room herself rather than endure our nasty confrontation. Fortunately for me, my mother wasn’t one to take the easy way out when making difficult parenting decisions. Because I had a mother who didn’t immediately jump in to save me from my pain as a child, I’ve grown to be an individual who can navigate the waters of adulthood in a healthy, independent manner with a sense of knowing that I am responsible for my actions. Because my mother set this seemingly small boundary with me, I learned that I, too, should be a woman who keeps my word and does not tolerate disrespect from others. And for that I am thankful.

posted by Shaler Black Cooper in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (8)

Don’t Feed the Bears!

Thirty miles from our destination and fifty miles from our starting point, our backpacking trip had ground to a halt.

 “Who’s in charge here?” she asked. I quickly indicated to her that I was the trip leader and handed over our permit. We were 35 miles from the nearest trailhead and I was a little surprised to see such a young, petite backcountry ranger this far in without a horse nearby.

 “Get your group to empty their packs and before I let you in to this Wilderness Area I need to see that all of your food, trash, and toothpaste is packed in bear-proof containers. We have a real problem here with…”  She glanced at something behind me, “s’cuze me just a second.” The ranger quickly walked over to her pack as I turned around to see where she was looking. It was a bear…A BIG BLACK BEAR… headed straight for the contents of our backpacks. The pixie-like ranger strode right by me, straight at the bear, but now she was carrying a shotgun! She marched right up to the bear, lowered the muzzle, and WHAM!, shot the bear right between the eyes from point-blank range.

 I was stunned at what had just happened! The bear squealed and whirled around, disoriented for an instant, then sprinted off into the woods. The whole event took less than 5 seconds and our whole group was staring, with our mouths open, not really able to absorb what had just happened!

 “Um, excuse me, would you mind explaining to us what just happened?” I asked very politely.

 She faced us and said, “People have been too sloppy with their food here…they even feed the bears.  Now all the bears in the area associate people and backpacks with food.” Continuing her matter-of-fact answer, “My job is to show the bears that people and backpacks do not equal food. I just shot that bear with a rubber slug, so hopefully he’ll get the message.” She paused and then said, “If he doesn’t…well…let’s finish checking your bear cans.”

Until then bear-proofing every night was a real chore – usually done begrudgingly with groaning and eye-rolling. But, that rubber bullet impacted each one of us. Our laziness, carelessness or ignorance was putting this great creature in real danger.  After witnessing the consequence of thoughtless actions, it no longer felt like a chore – now it was a compassionate duty for the safety and well-being of the bears.Dont Feed the Bears

 A “Real and True” lesson about actions and consequences was revealed to us at point-blank range. We are surrounded by “bears” all the time. As parents, teachers, mentors or leaders, we influence others by our willingness to “bear-proof” our life – to follow the rules and hold appropriate boundaries for everyone’s safety.

 My challenge to you: Go to your backpack and check to see if everything is “bear proofed”. It just might save the life of a bear!

David LePere is the executive director for Cherokee Creek Boys School, a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys ages 11-15, located in beautiful upstate South Carolina.

posted by Shaler Black Cooper in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comment (1)