What Is This Thing Called Denial?

When my children were small, the phrase "Not MY child!" could be heard from even the most effective and devoted parents. I must confess, I can be included in the list of those parents.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

For those of you who have read my many blogs, I'm sure that you know I have been a parent, grandparent and teacher for many years. When my children were small, the phrase "Not MY child!" could be heard from even the most effective and devoted parents. I must confess, I can be included in the list of those parents. When we have children, we are convinced as parents that because our offspring are so beautiful, and because they will be just like the very best parts of us, that they are perfect. I have been a victim of this fallacy.

When my firstborn, my son, was about ten months old, we took him out for his first trip to IHOP for pancakes. He looked so handsome in his new winter parka, and I was so proud. No sooner had we placed our order when I saw him pouring a pitcher of syrup over his head and parka. I have never been pleased with public displays of drama, but in this case, the terrible screams coming from him sounded as if he had been possessed. I scooped him up to take him to the restroom while my husband sat there criticizing me for having allowed this! It was at that moment that I realized for the very first time, that perhaps I did not have as much control as I had initially hoped! In retrospect, there was some humor to it!

On a more serious note, I must share an experience that happened to me during my first year of teaching. It was a third grade class in Westminster, California, and I was twenty-three years old. I had a little boy by the name of Kirk in my class who appeared to be having difficulty seeing the print in books and the words on the board. I called his parents in for a conference with the hopes that they would have him tested for glasses. The mother was a demure woman who said very little, but his father had plenty to say! He told me that there was nothing wrong with his son, and perhaps I should write larger letters on the board. They left without any plan to help Kirk. The principal and I had gone through much paper work to get books for him in larger print (They were issued for the partially-sighted). Kirk's father saw the books and insisted that they not be used. I was confused that this man could be in such denial regarding his son! Kirk's mother came to me by herself one day, and said that he was like this about everything when it came to his son, and that she was unable to talk to her husband about it. The sad resolution came in fourth grade, when Kirk's father passed away suddenly due to a heart attack. Kirk arrived at school shortly after the tragedy, and he was wearing a thick pair of glasses!

When my daughter was in high school I was concerned when she called me from a party to pick her up. We had an agreement that if she ever felt unsafe or uncomfortable in any setting that she could call me without having to be questioned as to why. I got there quickly, and she shared with me that not only were some of the kids drinking beer, but their parents were having a party in the next room where there were adults drinking and smoking marijuana. I was so grateful that she called, but I was so sure that since I always knew where she was going, that I would never have to get a call like that. I was wrong again.

I have learned that we cannot really control anyone's behavior but our own, but I urge parents to be consistently vigilant. Our children will make mistakes, and we will too. Sometimes the decisions made when we parent will be painful and difficult, but if we do not make them, we are hurting the very children that we love so much. As my husband always reminds me: "If your children are not upset with you a good part of the time, you are probably doing something wrong!"