Self-reliance for decisions proves challenging
When I was 17, an older boy wanted to date me. I thought he was cute and fun, so why not?
Mom stepped in and said no. There was one catch to my cute, fun older boy. He was 23. For me, the age difference wasn’t a big deal. To her, though, this wasn’t a boy — this was a man. And he wasn’t going to make any moves on her high school daughter.
At the time, I was furious with her. I couldn’t believe she would try to control my life in such a way. Surely I could decide who I would date.
On this one, Mom was right, though it was a few years later when I discovered the guy just couldn’t grow up and was still dating girls younger than him. It wasn’t a dirty, old man complex, so much as he couldn’t accept his own age and liked the youth of younger women. Last I’d heard, he’d finally settled down with someone his own age and was helping to raise her kids, rather than being one.
Back then, I had Mom to help me learn — or flat out tell me — right from wrong. She and my grandparents were instrumental in shaping who I am today. I learned please and thank you. Respecting my elders wasn’t even a question. I learned the value of a dollar. But more importantly, I learned skill sets and values that have stuck with me even today.
But that doesn’t mean that everything I necessarily believed back then is something I believe today. As children, we have a certain set of ideals based in fantasy and dream worlds. Santa Claus and tooth fairies are easy ones to disprove. Some myths are a little tougher.
When you’re little, the evil people always look evil. Warts, squinty eyes, maniacal laughs. The whole shebang. And the good people always look decent and respectable. The type that go to church, dress nicely and look both ways before crossing the street.
Lies. Complete and total lies. Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a person by their appearance. Good and bad come in all shapes and sizes.
That’s something I’ve had to figure out for myself over the years. When I was younger, Mom pointed out the good and bad in life, people and situations. Things like “touch a hot stove and you’ll get burned.” I didn’t have to find out for myself.
As the years passed, the power of choice slowly shifted to me. I began relying on Mom less and myself more. I still ask her guidance on things, but ultimately, decisions rested on my shoulders and had to be my own.
Things aren’t as black and white as they used to be. Just as I discovered I couldn’t figure out the bad people who could hurt me by their appearance, I realized nothing was as black or white as I had grown up believing.
Shades of gray were all around me. A white lie wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as it might save someone heartache. A job that pays the bills is better than no job at all. And maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t up to me to judge other people for their actions.
While I might not agree with everything I learned growing up or the way I’m supposed to think — according to some — I’m working on it. I won’t always make the right decision, but they’re my own. I have guidance, but in the end, I’m the only one who can decide what’s best for me. Right or wrong, I claim each and every decision.
Most of the time it’s not easy. I haven’t found many situations where there’s only one right answer, a whole lot of them are simply choosing the better of two evils.
However, I come across one every now and then. A stray animal, sick co-workers and anyone who’s the source of bullying, harassment and intimidation.
We pick our sides, and Mom put me on one side of this proverbial line. Where did your Mom put you?
Amanda Greever is assistant managing editor for print at The Daily Times. She writes a weekly column in the Sunday Life section. She can be reached at 981-1161 or (firstname.lastname@example.org) Follow her on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com _editor.