How will you know how far you can fly if you never spread your wings.

How will you know how far you can fly if you never spread your wings.

“We are all born caterpillars; it is not till we leave the cocoon that we discover our wings. It is then we can learn to fly.”
– Rachel Folkman

As parents, we want to see our children succeed.

We want them to discover the greatness within themselves; the greatness we see so clearly. The parts of life where we each experience falling, and learning how to pick ourselves back up again, are an entirely different type of pain when it is our child we must watch fall. Acknowledging there is nothing we can do, other than love them, as they struggle to find the strength to pick themselves back up again, is even more painful.

“I tried everything I could to escape the painful road of change ahead of me. I wrote letters and called my parents any chance I could, each time demonizing the program and staff in hopes that my parents would ‘rescue me.’ I saw it work for another student so why wouldn’t it work for me? I guess in the end, my parents were much stronger than I thought.”

When I was a young and rebellious adolescent, my parents, at the end of their loving rope of ideas on how to help me, placed me in a Wilderness Therapy Program, and Residential Treatment following that.

Surrendering to the idea that success may require a setting where intensive coaching, assistance, and high expectations are held is difficult.

I remember the frustration I felt at being “in treatment.” I used every method of manipulation I could think of to get out of the program, to get home. I was uncomfortable, daily. I was being asked to take responsibility for things no one had ever confronted me on, in my entire life. I was expected to figure out solutions to my struggles on my own, to utilize my innate abilities of reasoning, of planning, of asking when I did not know the answer. All the while knowing that in asking, others would walk with me, but no one was going to do it for me. Of course, I wanted to leave. Who wants to really look in the mirror and have to do the work needed to change?

Sitting in the fire is never fun, is never easy, yet if we stick it out, is always rewarding. I would wager that the vast majority of not only adolescents and young adults, but individuals of any age, who have not yet made peace with owning their decisions, would struggle with taking an honest look at themselves in their “mirror”.

I recall how uncomfortable I was with staff members, therapists, peers, my parents, anyone who held up a mirror when I was victimizing and blaming, and asking me to look directly at myself. Whether literally or theoretically, taking an honest look in our mirror at what we need to change is rarely comfortable.

Every time we point one finger at someone else, there are always three pointing back at ourselves.

I tried everything I could to escape the painful road of change ahead of me. I wrote letters and called my parents any chance I could, each time demonizing the program and staff in hopes that my parents would ‘rescue me.’ I saw it work for another student so why wouldn’t it work for me? I guess in the end, my parents were much stronger than I thought. I pushed those away who were there for me, manipulating the situation as best I could. At the time, I thought it was the most awful thing my parents could have done – to leave me in that place! I had peers doing the same, and while my parents decided not to pull me from the program regardless of my pushing, many of my friends were brought home early. They had the “easy road out,” or so I thought at the time. As the years have rolled by since those days of my adolescent rebellion, I have stayed in contact with many of the friends I met in treatment. Unequivocally, without a doubt, those peers whose parents pulled them had a much longer path toward sustainable self-reliance, if they got there at all. In fact, from my best informal statistic’s, about 80% of the students who got pulled by their parents are still struggling to this day. And, by my best guess, about 80 to 90% of those who stuck in the program are doing great. The skills I acquired through sticking out an uncomfortable situation, being expected to “figure it out,” committing to and experiencing something entirely, and learning that if anyone was going to “rescue” me, it was going to be myself, are invaluable.

Not only did I get the therapeutic help I needed, but I also learned life skills, grit, resiliency, found my personal power and self-efficacy. My friends who were pulled early were shown that when life gets hard, complaining and expecting others to rescue you is the way out. I see them as adults now, and many of them still struggle with independence and problem solving on their own. Of course, I am not saying that every student who was expected to stay is now successful and living as whole-heartedly as they can.

We each have the individual choice and autonomy to make what we will of life. However, the expectation my parents set for me at such a young age, that I stick to commitments, regardless of the level of difficulty, set me on the path to choose what I wanted for my life. I wanted independence.

I chose confidence. I chose continued education and a Master Degree. I chose to travel around the world. I chose to heal relationships within my own family.

“Not only did I get the therapeutic help I needed, but I also learned life skills, grit, resiliency, found my personal power and self-efficacy. I chose to attend college, get my Master degree, travel the world, and help others who are struggling like I once was”. In my years of experience in this industry since being a young and rebellious youth, I have seen over and over again the same pattern repeated. In every program I have been affiliated with in this field, the students who push parents to pull them early, and are given into, have a much greater chance of staying stuck in their self-defeating behavior patterns.

In no way do I mean to minimize or diminish how difficult it is to have your child call you crying, begging to come home, promising you they’ve changed, and if “you’ll only bring them home, they’ll be able to prove it there”.

Echoing the start of this article, watching our children struggle is by far more painful than any personal experience we may have. By that same token, just as we have learned through our difficult experiences, they can as well.

Give them the opportunity to learn, to stick to something, and to find strength within themselves to “figure it out.” Old habits die hard, and sustainable self-reliance is not an easy ride. At the same time, the rewards of learning to trust and rely on oneself are incomparable to any easy road of rescuing.

 Be Brave Pacia Life
“We are all born caterpillars; it is not till we leave the cocoon that we discover our wings. It is then we can learn to fly.”
– Rachel Folkman