|My nephew a traffic engineer and designs traffic circles. He thinks they are the quickest and most efficient way to keep cars moving. I am not a fan of traffic circles because I have visions of myself going around and around and never being able to get off at my exit. My nephew assures me that with a little practice I can handle a traffic circle like a pro.
When you have a child who leaves the church, it’s sort of like that traffic circle. You enter the circle when you find out that for one reason or another, your child has decided that they don’t want to be a part of the church anymore. You approach that first exit when you try to do everything in your power to CHANGE their decision. I’ve flown cross country to talk sense into a child, I’ve sent the Relief Society to visit, and I’ve prayed and prayed. This exit was frustrating and I felt irritated that my children weren’t able to see that changing back to the way things were, was the best choice for me. The CHANGE THEM exit didn’t end up going where I wanted to go.
The next exit was the ADAPT & ACCEPT exit. This happens when you realize that the CHANGE THEM exit is a dead end. At the ADAPT exit you go from being frustrated, irritated or angry – to sad because you realize that you can’t go back and force a child to choose what’s good for you. You learn to ACCEPT the new normal. You have a child who has chosen a different path than the one you had in mind. This exit opens up all kinds of roads for you to travel on. They may not be the familiar roads you know, but there is so much to learn and all kinds of new places to explore.
There is one more exit that I am also familiar with. This is the ATTACK exit. This is that nightmare exit where you do get stuck going around and around in the traffic circle. I found that I mostly attacked myself, with a little blaming of the church – bishops, youth leaders and members who could have been nicer. The person that I didn’t attack was my child because I was afraid of damaging our relationship. I never made any progress at this exit either. I felt drained and exhausted when I kept getting stuck in this ATTACK exit. That was yet another dead end…
The nice thing about traffic circles is, if you miss your exist you just go around and try again to exit where you want to get off. My nephew is right about just needing a little practice to handle traffic circles like a pro. In this metaphor, once I found out that most exists were dead ends, and the ADAPT & ACCEPT exit is really the only reasonable choice, my feelings and relationships with my children were both much better.
If you are stuck in a “traffic circle” and can’t get off at your exit I would love to talk with you about it, no judgement, just a listening ear. Hit reply and we will find some time that works for both of us. This week, Tina Gosney (Tina Gosney Coaching) and I again talk about what it’s like to navigate your child’s faith transition from a place of true love, and we expand on this traffic circle analogy. Here is a link to our video series “A Whole-Hearted Conversation“.
P.S. My friend Andee Martineau was very kind to share this traffic circle analogy with me. Thank-you Andee! For the record, my nephew is actually a Traffic Engineer and loves traffic circles. The automobile kind!