I was so surprised to hear the not guilty verdict yesterday. Maybe because I live in Orlando I’ve been thinking a lot about Casey Anthony’s parents lately. No one knows the truth about what happened except Casey and God (and maybe her dad) but it sounds like her parents have had a long road of dealing with disappointment, shock, denial, anger, resentment, heartache, guilt, shame, worry, fear and grief. I can only imagine they have spent a lot of effort trying to change her, trying to fix her, trying to help her . . . many of us can relate to that. Bottom line, we are powerless to change anyone. It hurts so bad. We want to so desperately. We would be willing to do anything, but our children make their own choices just like we do.
So what now? I don’t know how the Anthony’s will move ahead with their lives and cope with all they’ve been through. What about you? How do you cope? The Serenity Prayer has helped me. “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” We need to move toward acceptance and the realization that we can’t change anyone but ourselves (and that’s not very easy).
We need to accept that we were not the perfect parent. We may have contributed in some way to our child’s problems. Maybe we now realize we owe them an apology for some things we’ve done or neglected to do, but ultimately they make their own decisions. No matter how good of a parent we were it didn’t prevent our child’s rebellion or the problems they have had that we were never aware of.
We can drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out “why?” Did we show them and tell them enough that we loved them? Did we give them enough attention? Did we have reasonable boundaries with appropriate consequences? Were we too lenient? Too harsh? Did they get enough time, attention, disciple and prayer? Of course not! No parent does it all perfectly! Impossible! But we did our best and our imperfections did not cause our child to do what they are doing. We must refuse to accept responsibility for their choices.
We need to accept our child as they are today – what if they never change or what if it takes years? Accept that we are powerless to change them. Work on having realistic expectations of them in our relationship. Keep as a priority preserving a loving relationship with them. Above all else we want them to know we will always be there for them (but we will not enable) and we will always love them, even if we cannot give our approval of their choices if they violate our values and beliefs.
We need hope. It’s so easy to lose it. The Bible has something to say to parents in pain who need hope:
“Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears: for your work will be rewarded, says the Lord;
and they (your children) will come again from the land of the enemy. So there is hope in the end for you, says the Lord,
that your children will come again to their own border.” (Jeremiah 31:16-17)
That’s what we all need to hear. There is hope for you and for your child! There IS hope!