I’m not the first person to have a family made of pieces from two sides. Unfortunately, divorce is a commonplace thing and people try to make new lives, but getting children to mesh with new relationships is no easy task. Let’s be fair, the kids have every right to question new circumstances, and trusting a new adult in their world comes at an earned price.
I thought my second marriage would be easier because both our kids were almost grown. I emphasize almost! Too often, adults expect kids to be ready for any and all comers by 18-20 years old. Not so. I would venture to say very few of us were armed for the world at that age. We might have thought we were, but most found out it was just getting started.
My step-daughter caught it rough. Staten Island had always been her home, and we delayed moving to Virginia so she could finish high school, enjoy most of the summer, and prepare to relocate to for college. All seemed well at first, but when students went home for holiday break, home, for her, just wasn’t there anymore. The offer of our open door didn’t matter. Virginia would never be home, and the apartment where she grew up belonged to someone else.
Needless to say, these circumstances cast me in the role of the villain. The destructor of life as she knew it, and there would be a price for that.
They say time heals all wounds, but I question the whole truth of that statement. Time found her transferring to a college in another state where she spent summers living in the spare room at her father’s house. Here, she felt out of place as well since he’d remarried many years earlier and had children of his own. After graduation, she took a local job and rented a room from friends.
Time marched on, but the job left no room for advancement. She would come to visit a couple times a year, so I offered her the room if she felt she could land a better job in Virginia. Ultimately, she accepted, found a job, but the transition was anything but easy.
While we had built a basic relationship, it’s a whole other ball game when you share living space, and we were forced to confront deeper issues. At this point, I knew I was over my head and sought professional help from a counselor. Having a fresh perspective and airing concerns aloud was a great thing, but this woman shared one analogy that has stuck with me. I’ve found it to be applicable in my job and other areas, but she called it, “throwing stones.”
When two people try to build a relationship, it can be like building a bridge. Once the bridge is complete, it may seem like the work is done, but actually the test is just beginning. As one person tries to cross the bridge, the other may not trust them yet, and fear them coming closer. Especially in cases where the effort to cross isn’t mutual, the fear of coming too close can become defensive, and so the quest to prove trust begins.
The one in fear will reach for the bag of stones and begin throwing them. In reality, these stones are tests one must pass to earn trust. You can duck and weave, but occasionally a stone will strike and the pain must be dealt with. Believe it or not, the reaction to that pain is carefully scrutinized.
Can you show empathy? Can you show you understand the pain and fear they feel as you come closer?
Ultimately, one stone will strike hard enough to knock you down, and so comes the most crucial test of all. Will you crawl away? Will you lie there and accept defeat? As crazy as it sounds, the one throwing stones is hoping with all their might you get back up.
Still think this is nuts? Consider how many books we’ve read or movies we’ve seen where the hero gets knocked down, captured, or held at bay. We all hold our breath waiting for the heroic moment they rise with power and resolve to conquer and win the day.
Just like the stone thrower, we want the hero to rise, understand, and still reach out with the same intent they started. If you walk away, the whole process begins again, because the trust they wanted to find turned its back.
In my sales job I have found interacting with customers is a similar venture. I try to build trust and rapport, but those things must be earned. They throw stones to test my knowledge, my humor, my ability to listen, and my willingness to fill their needs. In the end, they will throw the stone to knock me down, and that stone usually has two letters on it…N-O. But in many cases, it’s almost as if they are saying, “You’re not asking the right question.”
This is the moment of truth when I believe they are hoping I get back up. If I ask the right question, give the right answer, or show the right product, then I can become the hero. Then hopefully, we create an ending where everyone is happy,
But only if you GET. BACK. UP!
We can all be Heroes. You don’t need a mask or a super power, just heart and strength of will.
To quote Tony Stark, “If you aren’t a hero without the mask, you don’t deserve to wear the suit.”
Be someone’s hero today. They may already be waiting for you to rise.
-T. August Green