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Parents Sometimes Love by Complaining

Some years ago, when a serial killer known as the Hillside Strangler was attacking and killing young women in our La Cañada neighborhood, our teenage daughter did not come home at the time we expected her. She was supposed to baby-sit that evening, and though the parents came to pick her up, she wasn't home yet.

As the hours stretched on, John and I became upset, and I became frantic. After hours of searching, the police said, "We're doing everything we can do. You just need to go somewhere." The hidden message was, "Quit bothering us and let us do our job."

John and I went home to wait. Just minutes after we got there, she showed up. She was baby-sitting for another couple, and they came home hours later than they told her they would. What a relief! We were so glad to see her.

But guess what we did next? Just what many parents do when they are concerned about or afraid for their children. Once the relief sets in, you have a very different conversation: "Where were you? Why didn't you call us? Why didn't you let us know? We were worried sick. How could you be so thoughtless?" Love sometimes comes out as complaint.

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