When I was young, I always knew who to go to for advice: my dad. I had complete trust that he would understand how to navigate difficult situations, resolve conflicts, or identify when it was time to accept something that was beyond my control.
Sometimes he’d give me clear directions. More often than not, though, he’d put the situation back in my lap with one simple phrase.
Do what you know is right.
This was almost always the best advice because I could almost always determine which option was right, and which option was wrong. That was then. Now, I’m frustrated to admit, things are far less simple.
My dad has long since passed away, so I can no longer go to him for advice. I no longer have that go-to person in whom I can invest my complete trust. Instead, I have to trust a combination of what I’ve learned, and my instincts.
There’s a lot more riding on my ability to figure things out because I have kids who look to me for advice, in the same way that I looked to my dad. Even worse is the fact that my kids routinely deal with things that are far more complicated than anything I had to deal with in my youth. I can’t give them the same advice that worked for me because, most of the time, they’re struggling to pick the best bad option when there is no good one.
When my ex wife and I split up, I moved to Western Canada, and she moved to the Eastern US. We had our own ideas about who our 12 year old son would live with but we felt he was old enough to have a say in things. His options were to either a) to go with Mom, and miss Dad, or b) to go with Dad, and miss Mom.
Option C did not exist. A and B both involved gut-wrenching loss.
His decision, like so many, was not a “head” decision or a “heart” decision. It was a frustrating and painful combination of the two. Both head and heart would face internal conflict, both would battle each other as well.
When he came to me, asking what he should do, I couldn’t advise him. All I could do was acknowledge that some choices are really difficult. When he asked how I handle these situations, I admitted that I look for a grownup to fix everything for me. When he said that I was the grownup, I told him that I don’t always feel like one.
My dad taught me to do what I know to be right. I teach my kids that the right decision is the one you think you can live with.
Listen to the podcast version of this (and other) stories at www.acfischerpod.com