There are many ways to lose a child. One of the most devastating, I think, is losing a Baby to Trouble. Trouble comes when your baby makes a poor choice. The wrath of the universe or legal system is brought down upon them.
Some babies are Trouble almost from the beginning. They seem to need to apply all of life’s most difficult dilemmas directly to themselves – they need to learn about Trouble in the first person. Second person accounts do not seem to hold sway on them. They cannot relate to the horror stories you parade before them about the consequences of their choices.
What is dearly hoped-for is that the Baby who insists on walking with Trouble, grows up. Growing up seems to hold the secret to leaving Trouble behind for many Babies. After a certain age they part ways with Trouble and avoiding it forever more. You hold your breath and wait.
In studying brain development, I have seen some of the roots of trouble decisions and then the decision to leave it. Adolescents seem to have the most temptation to walk with Trouble. The capacity of the adolescent judgment center lags behind the ability of the brain’s novelty and adventure centers. Thus, some crazy ideas that seem brilliant are sent to the brain’s hobbled judgment center where approval for action is given, and you guessed it: Trouble.
So what about when they are no longer adolescent Babies and they still choose Trouble. Unfortunately for some, that judgment center needs perhaps 10, 20, even 30 more years to catch up through the pummeling of all the Trouble that is generated. Using alcohol and certain drugs dampens the ability for the judgment center to catch up. Some drugs damage it profoundly. Certain psychological conditions render a person permanently Troubled – personality disorders, substance use and alcohol addiction. For the parent, it is easy to ask “Why?” or “Where did I go wrong?” Get in line – your numbers are legion.
Trouble is born of free agency. You just hope that in the exercise of free agency, no permanent harm is done. You pray for that. But what if they seem to be determined to engage in all things harmful. While they are still alive and breathing, they are your Baby. Often, when they walk with Trouble, they whittle away at the number of human beings that can show them love. You may even struggle to show them love because, with some kinds of Trouble, comes lying, stealing, cheating and betrayal. Now for a brief tale of codependency.
Co-dependency and Boat Rowing or “What Happened to My Boat?”
Once there was a person who was rowing her own boat up a river – we will call her Mom (you can also call the person Dad, Wife, Husband, Boyfriend – anything that suits your story). It was going to be a long and difficult journey, but by staying on task, the destination would be worth it.
Mom happened to look to the left, and saw another person attempting to row his boat. His arms were not coordinating and the oars barely touched water resulting in little headway. We will call him Trouble (you can also call him… well, you pick it). So, Mom starts giving instructions for effective boat-rowing to Trouble. Trouble nods in agreement, but then just keeps up the uncoordinated attempts and is going nowhere. Mom then rows over to Trouble (she is sure he probably cannot hear her correctly) and proceeds to give even better instructions. Trouble just keeps flailing.
Now, this is where Mom starts to think that Trouble needs a more up-close-and-personal rowing lesson. She pulls her boat alongside, and jumps into Trouble’s boat – issuing rowing directions and demonstrating with arms pumping and voice raising ever higher and louder. Trouble seems to not hear, and now Trouble’s boat is drifting farther away from the correct course.
Mom then grabs the oars and now starts to row, feeling certain that this is the only way to save Trouble’s trip up the river from being a disaster. Trouble now seems to be paying attention and begins to comment – on how Mom is not rowing the boat correctly and who invited her into his boat anyway. Mom is aghast as Trouble suddenly jumps ship, swims to the shore and terminates his trip.
Mom wonders what has happened to her own boat.
Some Babies are determined to stay off course. You, as a parent, cannot lose your own boat to try to avert their purposeful sabotage of progress. You then have nothing left to preserve your own journey – and your example of a purposeful journey is one of the most valuable gifts to offer to a trouble-prone Baby. Your prayers and steadfast adherence to standards and beliefs may be the lighthouse that they eventually use to return to a healthy life.
At times, all that is left is love. You give that Baby love and tell them to get up and try again. You won’t help them walk with Trouble. But you will love them. That is why Trouble Babies have parents. Kick in the rear. Call to accountability – again. You protect yourself from them. You let them fall and fail because they choose to not learn by any other method.
You may be the only one that can see the spark in them that will allow them to leave Trouble forever. So you show them that spark. You ask them to tap into it. Again and again. And you keep rowing your own boat.