We have some old friends staying with us right now with their granddaughter, who is almost one year old. We’ll call our friends the Sullivans, their daughter Hannah, and their granddaughter Beth. Here is the startling story of the Beth’s birth:

Hannah was 18, and a senior in high school. The Sullivans thought she might be sexually active, and offered to provide her with birth control, but she declined saying she was not having sex with her boyfriend.

And then Hannah started…gaining weight…most prominently in her tummy area. The Sullivans started wondering between themselves whether Hannah was pregnant or not. They dropped hints, tried to bring up the possibility obliquely. But Hannah did not seem to pick up on their hints, and never showed any sign of being pregnant. Except that her tummy grew a bit more every month.

Finally Mrs. Sullivan asked Hannah point-blank if she was pregnant. Hannah looked her mother in the eye and said no. Now, Mrs. Sullivan knew that Hannah had a tendency to lie. But she just didn’t think that Hannah could lie about something so big so completely. So she took her word for it.

Hannah was in a car accident, and the police officer asked her if she was pregnant, saying that if she was, he had to take her directly to the hospital. Hannah told the police officer no, she was not pregnant.

Hannah’s friends asked if she was pregnant, and she told every friend who asked, that no she was not pregnant.

You probably get the gist of where this story is going.

So the Sullivans went on vacation.  They drove three days to visit extended family, and on the day they arrived they got a phone call from Hannah in the hospital: “Mom, I had  baby.”  It had been Hannah’s plan that she would have the baby during the Sullivans’ well-timed trip, and that she would give it up for adoption before they came back.  But after the birth, she changed her mind.

The moral of this story: What incredible fortitude!  What strength and will!  Hannah is an amazing, powerful young woman.  When her determination is pointed in a supportive, meaningful direction, watch out world!

Many children and teenagers have this kind of willpower.  But adults, for whatever reason, aren’t able to see it in that light very often.  Far more commonly, adults label these children and teenagers as rebellious or deviant or liars.  Young people in these places are rarely praised for this gift and power they have of determination and strength – and so they are far more likely to see it as a negative personal trait that they should try and rid themselves of, rather than a gift and a responsibility that they can train and use.

Next time a child or a teenager you know does something that you are tempted to label as “rebellious” or “deviant” or even “bad,” stop for a minute.  How can you change your perception of this action, so that you can see where something good inside the child or teenager was misled or poorly utilized to get to this point.  Then speak to the good rather than the bad, and suggest how that positive quality could be used differently next time.

And remember Hannah and the will behind her decision and her ability to stay behind that decision through incredible difficulties over many months.