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January 25, 2009

Family to the rescue - like it or not...

Dianaspechler I try to give the adults in my life the benefit of the doubt. Even if I don't agree with - let alone understand - some of their choices, I have rarely been in a situation where I felt it was my responsibility to change their minds or stop them. On the other hand, if you're a child, particularly if you're my child, there will be times when I do know better than you do, and it's part of my job to intervene. But here's where it gets sticky - my child will always be my child, but eventually my child will be an adult. (Actually, my child is an adult - he'll be 25 in July.)  At that point, am I supposed to give him the same benefit of the doubt I'd give to any other adult, or do I step in if I really think he's screwing up? And what happens if he disagrees that he's made a bad decision?

In Diana Spechler's novel Who By Fire, mother Ellie Kellerman lost her youngest child before she got anywhere near adulthood, and that loss colors her struggle with letting her two older children become adults. The fact that Ellie isn't happy with the way they've entered adulthood doesn't help either.

Daughter Bits has been running wild since she was barely in her teens, and son Ash has effectively gone in the other direction, seeking answers and comfort in religion. He comes to believe the best place for him to find them is an Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem, and leaves his mother and sister behind. Ellie feels that she has lost her son to a cult, and the fear behind that belief justifies her launching a rescue plan, with Bits as the point person to carry it out. Ash, on the other hand, doesn't feel the slightest need to be rescued from religion - in some ways, it's how he's rescuing himself from his family. He's not asking them to rescue him from anything.

I understand the need to feel in control of a situation, but unlike Ellie Kellerman, I don't believe that when that situation is someone else's life, it's my place to be in control of it. My disagreement with your choice doesn't mean that your choice is automatically wrong - if it is, you'll figure it out on your own eventually, and maybe you'll learn something along the way. After all, aren't you supposedly an adult now, and isn't that how adulthood is supposed to work? I'm not going to save you from your choice unless you ask me to. And if you don't think you've made the wrong choice, why would you ask me to?

Then again, maybe I've been lucky - I haven't been in the position where I've had to make that call. And maybe I'm really lucky that I didn't have to make that sort of decision when my son was younger - it wouldn't have been a decision then. There would have been no question - intervention, and even rescue, was just part of my job.

This is an original post for the Los Angeles Moms Blog. Bloggers across the Silicon Valley Moms Group are participating in a Book Club today, discussing themes of rescue and relationships in connection with the novel Who by Fire by Diana Spechler.

Florinda Pendley Vasquez blogs about books and other things at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness, and was glad to combine her book-blogging and mom-blogging as a Book Club participant.

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