It's the middle of the night my phone rings. Reaching over sleepily, I fumble for it on my bedside table. I hear my daughter's voice. I'm now wide awake.
Her voice is shaky.
'I've been arrested,' she blurts.
'What have you been arrested for?' I ask, my sleep-addled brain still trying to catch up.
'....distributing,' I hear my daughter mumble.
My mind reels!
'You've been dealing drugs?!!' I say, shocked.
'No! Highway racing', she says, exasperated.
'Oh!' I almost laugh with relief.
'I'll be right there,' I say, mama bear now in overdrive.
I got to the police station, and 8 hours later, I see my daughter; she is in pieces. She has been lectured and shamed for what she had done. They had convinced her at the station that she was heading down the path of crime and corruption.
We get in the car, and instead of getting angry with her, I look at her straight in the eye and say, 'You are not wrong.'
'You are not mad at me?' she exclaimed.
'I'm not mad at you, no. However, you did break the law, and now you are in the system. This act now means that you have a record, and you have to function from their reality. You are no longer a free person,' I informed her.
I didn't get angry or lecture my daughter for a couple of reasons. Number one, I knew the parenting style of shaming my daughter into better behavior wouldn't work. At least not in the long term.
In fact, from the tender age of two, I knew that parenting style wouldn't work for her. Whenever I tried to tell her what to do, she would out and out refuse. And there was no way I could guilt her or control her into doing as I asked. My daughter was always unapologetically her. So I learned I had to ask her questions instead of telling her what to do.
Secondly, I knew that this whole event would become a family secret that would dog her for years if I chose shame and anger.
She would always be worried about somebody finding out, whereas talking about it in matter-of-fact terms gave her the information about her choice and allowed her to make a different choice in the future.
It took us several conversations, though, for her to get over the idea that she was wrong and a terrible person for what she did.
However, I kept telling her: 'I'm not mad at you, and I have your back whatever happens. You are not wrong. And you made a choice, and now you are going to see what that choice created.
Sometimes we make choices that are maybe not our brightest. We may be told that we are failures or unsuccessful, which doesn't mean we are wrong'.
We all have those places of shame where we did something and were made wrong for it and then made it secret. If you make it secret those areas of your life you were shamed for, it eliminates choice because you cannot follow what you know. You are never wrong.