In my teens I was dating a guy that did not fit the picture of the man my father thought I should be dating.
Here’s the story:
In the early 90’s (ok really early, like 1990), I was dating my first love. He was everything I could ask for in a boyfriend. He loved me for exactly who I was and wanted to be with me always.
I was over at his house on a typical Friday night watching a movie. I was truly exhausted from going to school and working all day. We started the movie and we both fell asleep.
I didn’t have a curfew, technically. I would just tell my father what I was doing and ask him what time he wanted me home. If I didn’t agree with him, I would state my case, and often he would meet me somewhere in the middle. So on this day in particular my father expected me home at 12:30am.
Well, as you can probably guess, I over-slept. When I woke up, I looked at the clock and it was 3:30 am! As a quick reminder, there were no cell phones (at least for the average teenager) at this time and my boyfriend could not afford a phone in his apartment. So, the dilemma in my mind was, “Do I rush home and deal with it then or do I stop at a payphone (remember those?) at 3:30am?” I opted for the plan to rush home and deal with the consequences. The only thought in my head the whole way home was, “I am in soooo much trouble!”
I run up the stairs to our apartment, I swing the door open and see my dad with the yellow pages in his lap, on the phone, crying. He drops the phone, looks at me and starts crying harder. This is so not what I expected! I had only seen my father cry one other time, when my parents decided to divorce.
I look at him and instantly feel his pain. I know that he was so scared that something had happened to me. He adored the ground I walked on and could not imagine life without me.
I started to explain. “Dad, I am so, so, so sorry! I was over at John’s house and we were watching a movie and I fell asleep! You know he doesn’t have a phone and I knew you would be worried so I drove home as fast as I could!”
The Wisdom of Alan Robie (my father):
His response: “I knew that you would never do that to me, so I figured you were in the hospital. I am just so glad you are ok. You know how much I love you and I can’t imagine my life without you in it!”
I cried and told my dad I was so sorry to worry him and I would make sure it didn’t happen again. And from that point on, I set my boyfriend’s alarm clock, just in case.
So here’s the million-dollar question….
Did I learn my lesson without punishment??
My father knew in his heart that I would never intentionally make him worry about me. He held me in a space of greatness. He believed in me and came to the conclusion that I had to be in the hospital. It was the only reason he could see why I didn’t keep my word about my curfew.
This situation opened a door for understanding – an understanding that my father was not my authority. He was someone who loved me beyond words. After seeing the truth of my father, his tears, his fears, and his concerns for my well being, I made a decision to make sure my actions reflected the respect and love I had for him. I was offered the gift of seeing my father as a human who loved me so much that he never gave into the idea that I would purposely do this “to” him.
I learned from the experience, not a punishment.
This was one of the most defining and inspirational moments in my life. It taught me that if you hold the ones you love in greatness, they will rise to the occasion and be great.