QUESTION: I resent my parents. They've never abused me or anything like that, but they do such stupid things. My dad's work has been the only thing he's cared about. How can I respect people like that?
DR. DOBSON: Let's assume that your complaints against your parents are valid -- that they didn't do a very good job of raising you. Nevertheless, I urge you to cut them some slack. You'll learn someday just how hard it is to be a good parent.
Children are infinitely complex. In fact, I believe it is more difficult to raise children now than ever before. Be assured that you will not do the job perfectly, either. Someday, if you are blessed with children, one or more of them will blame you for your failures, just as you have criticized your parents.
Let me share one more suggestion with you and others who have been angry at their parents. Given the brevity of life and the temporary nature of all human relationships, can you find it within your hearts to forgive them? My mother closed her eyes for the last time on June 26, 1988. She had been so vibrant, so important to each member of our family. I couldn't imagine life without her just a few years earlier. But time passed so quickly, and before we knew it, she had grown old and sick and incompetent. The human experience is like that.
As I sat at her memorial service, I was flooded with memories and a profound sense of loss. But there was not the slightest hint of regret, remorse or guilt. There were no hurtful words I wished I could have taken back. There were no prolonged conflicts that remained unresolved between my parents and me.
Why not? Was I a perfect son born to flawless parents? Of course not. But when Shirley, my wife, and I had been married only two years, I remember saying to her, "Our parents will not always be with us. We must keep that in mind as we live out our daily lives. I want to respond to both sets of parents in such a way that we will have no regrets after they are gone."
Again, I urge you not to throw away these good, healthy times. Please be careful not to create bitter memories that will hang above you when the record is in the books. No conflict is worth letting that happen.
QUESTION: You obviously have a great empathy for kids who are in the junior-high years -- especially those who are rejected and ridiculed by their peers. Have you always felt that way about that age group?
DR. DOBSON: My concern for early adolescents dates back to the years I spent teaching in junior high school. I was only 25 years old at the time, and I fell in love with 250 science and math students. The day I left to accept other responsibilities I fought back the tears. Some of the kids were hurting badly, and I developed a keen sensitivity to their plight. Let me illustrate how I saw them.
Years later, I was sitting in my car at a fast-food restaurant. I happened to look in the rearview mirror and saw the most pitiful, scrawny, dirty little kitten on a ledge behind my car. I was so touched by how hungry she looked that I got out, tore off a piece of my hamburger and tossed it to her. But before this kitten could reach it, a huge gray tomcat sprang out of the bushes, grabbed the morsel and gobbled it down. I felt sorry for the kitten, who turned and ran back into the shadows, still hungry and frightened.
I was immediately reminded of those kids I used to teach. They were just as needy, just as deprived, just as lost as that little kitten. It wasn't food that they required; it was love and attention and respect that they needed, and they were desperate for it. And just when they opened up and revealed the pain inside, one of the more popular kids would abuse and ridicule them, sending them scurrying back into the shadows.
We, as adults, must never forget the pain of trying to grow up and of the competitive world in which many adolescents live today. Taking a moment to listen, to care and to direct such a youngster may be the best investment of a lifetime.