Category: parenting

“Never, Ever, Tell her to Calm Down”

Sometimes Matthew and I get questioned about our parenting… skills. I figure it’s either so that parent can do what we have done, or it’s so they will be certain not to do what we have done. Sometimes we don’t know which. The former often humbles me, and I can completely understand the latter. Despite our best efforts, our children are not perfect. It’s not their fault. I blame them, but it’s not their fault. Sometimes, even with our best efforts, we parents fail… and kids fail, too.

Still, with many failures, come some shining successes. I praise God for the successes. Sometimes our kids succeed in spite of us as much as because of us. I thank God for that, too. Many nights I have gone to bed praying for the God of heaven and earth to fix what I messed up in the hearts and minds of my children that day. I thank Him for the mending.

I’ve decided to share a tiny bit of almost twenty years of parenting lessons learned, sometimes the hard way. These few things have been on my mind today, and I think I need to share them. As our kids get older and begin to look more and more like adults and less and less like children, we have tried hard to prepare them for what lies ahead. Hopefully, what lies ahead finds them not living in my basement as full-fledged adults.

For our boys, we have tried to teach them to never… ever… tell her to “Calm down.” Never. Ever. Not heeding this advise will most surely show them that they were indeed mistaken in thinking she was not calm before. She will surely show them just how un-calm she will be now. Seriously though, teaching boys how to be in proper relationship with a female is a challenge in today’s society. I’d like to think that we have matured as a society, and that males look at females with more respect and that they treasure them in these enlightened times. It’s not true. Twenty-one million (mostly) women, (mostly girls) sold into the sex trafficking presently tell me we have not come very far.

Boys have to be taught to treasure girls. We tell our boys, “To hold a girl’s hand is for more than making her heart flutter. To take her hand means she is in your care. When you are in the company of a girl, her safety is your responsibility. Respecting her boundaries is your responsibility, too. If she doesn’t have proper boundaries, she’s not the girl for you. Take her home…. Quickly.”

We teach our boys that when they find themselves interested in getting to know a girl, it is as important that they get to know her family, too. We tell them, “If you like the girl, but can’t stand her family, that will be a problem.” We also tell them, “She needs to be around your family, too. A lot. She needs to fit in with your family. We’re not going anywhere.”

And what about our girl? She is a carefully guarded commodity. It’s a double standard and we know that. We don’t care. At fifteen, she’s never been on a date, to a dance, had a boyfriend. And guess what? She’s still alive and well, and all the better for it. She doesn’t spend hours on end pining away for some boy. And if there is a boy out there who thinks he’s good enough to take her out, he’s wrong. The boy who thinks he is not good enough… that’s the one who’ll have a chance with her… one day. Why? It’s not because we think she’s perfect, we know she’s not—remember? But the one who treasures her enough to think he is not worthy, just might be.

Parenting our kids when they were little was a challenge. Yet truly, it was child’s play compared to parenting them as young adults. The decisions they make now are for keeps. I know I haven’t shared much in this piece, but these are the things on my heart to share right now. Perhaps I can share more another time. Again, I don’t put these things out there because I think Matthew and I have a lock on parenting. I share these things because as parents, we need to be in this thing together. Our kids matter, and we need to try to get it right.

Follow Up to the Dating Lie: It’s About Focus

So you are the parent of a preteen, and the thought of your child soon exploring the world of dating sends chills down your spine. Or your child is a teenager, and you have watched them move from one dating relationship to another only to see their hearts break again and again. What can a parent do? This is the way of things for kids these days, right? We just have to wade through it as best we can and hope our kids come through on the other end without too many relationship scars. Don’t we? Do we?

Dating is a modern day phenomenon. It’s only been in fashion for the last century or so. When I was a teenager and dating it had only been around for about seventy years. No one told me this. I thought, like everyone else, that it was how things had always been. I, like all my girlfriends, was obsessed with boys. I believed that if I wasn’t doodling some boy’s name on my notebooks, or planning what I was going to wear out on a date by the time I was twelve or thirteen, there must be something wrong with me. There was, my focus was off.

I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was a sophomore in high school. By all accounts, I was a late bloomer. Consequently, inside, I just knew I was completely flawed. I had never even kissed a boy! By the time I had graduated high school, I had been in a couple of serious dating relationships and several not so serious ones. I might have been a late bloomer, but I spent a lot of time making up for lost time. I also spent countless hours sitting by the phone waiting for that promised phone call. (I’d really like to have all that time back now.) Again, poor focus.

The world says to teens, “If you’re not dating you are a loser”, but God’s word says,

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5

Ironically, a hymn I knew growing up taught this…

Yet I didn’t listen. Thankfully, my kids are listening. Thankfully, they have decided to go a different way.

Yes, my sons still like girls, and my daughter is attracted to boys. As our pastor has said, those feelings are right, but they are coming at the wrong time. “Right feelings, wrong season.” (Chris Hodges) It’s a matter of proper focus. It’s okay to acknowledge the right feelings; we just have to instruct them to hold those in check until the right season.

When they look back upon their teen years, my kids won’t wish to have hours and hours of wasted time back, like I do. They are standing in opposition to what the world is telling them about relationships.

My oldest son is in a stable relationship. He’s nineteen. Still quite young. He admired his girlfriend from afar for quite a while. They were both in an internship program at church that discouraged dating. It encouraged participants to focus on Jesus, and becoming the “right person” themselves, rather than the focus being on looking for the right person.

When they completed the internship, they started slowly. Very slowly. Coffee. Lunch. Then finally my son went to her dad and asked permission to date her. Most kids would have sped through three or four relationships in the time it took them to make it to their first official date.

We have tried to encourage that they spend lots of time with either our family or hers. We have tried to provide a great deal of accountability. In a way, she is dating our family, and he is dating hers. So far, so good.

Some might call this courting. It is, in a way. It’s more like modified dating. Of course, as they have grown a bit older, and have shown maturity in their relationship, both sets of parents have loosened the reigns a good bit, but we still enjoy spending regular time with my son and his girlfriend. We talk with our son a lot about their relationship and how things are going. He allows us to speak into it, even if he doesn’t always like what we have to say.

I say all of this to encourage parents as they walk this road with their kids. Don’t buy into the lie the world wants to sell you. There are other ways of doing things. Godly ways. Be fairly warned though, your kids will be different, and different for teens isn’t always looked upon in a positive way.

If you have a son, teach him to treasure females. When the time is right for him to pursue one, send him to her father. Have him ask permission to spend time with his daughter. After the father picks himself up off the ground, he will respect your son and be pleased that such a fine young man is showing an interest in his daughter.

If you have a daughter, guard her heart. Teach her how to guard her heart. Girls give that, and other things, away far too soon these days. She needs to first give her heart to Jesus. Then, in the right season, He will lead her to give it to the right young man. Her standards will be high, and they should be. She is a treasure.

Parents, Let’s Not Fall for the Dating Lie

Maybe it’s true that wisdom comes with age. I’m almost forty-six, so it’s about time I gained some wisdom, I guess. I’ve learned a few things about my enemy here in the last little while. I’ve heard it’s wise to be wise to the ways of your adversary. Until recently, I didn’t give him his just due. I didn’t recognize just how surly and evil he is.

I have learned that his best and most brilliant talent is tampering with the truth. His expertise is taking a truth, and carefully, patiently whittling it into something untrue. Yet the metamorphosis of the truth into an untruth is so subtle, that unless we are diligently paying attention, we come to accept his version of the truth as actual truth. At this point I think I need to cut to my point, or I may lose you altogether, if I haven’t already.

Let’s talk dating. The way young people enter into social and romantic relationships has changed drastically over the last fifty years or so. What used to be admiration from afar has quickly become up close and personal. When my parents were teenagers, their parents were the keepers of all things relational for their teens. If a young man showed interest in my mother, he had a tough road to get to her. He had to go through my grandfather first. Good luck with that. My grandfather was my mother’s shield of protection, and he took that job seriously. He remained that shield until my mother married. Then both spiritually and literally, my grandfather gave my mother to my father, and he then became her shield of protection.

Fast-forwarding to today, just a mere fifty or so years later, my own children are teenagers. Things have changed so much. Many parents have let go of the responsibility they have to be that covering for their children, both male and female. Dating is encouraged even in middle school. Elementary aged children have boyfriends and girlfriends. Really?

We are putting our children into social and relational situations they are not nearly mature enough to handle. We step aside, too busy with our own lives, and allow them to make decisions regarding with whom they will spend time, and invest in emotionally, without setting limits that will allow them to proceed with success. So when their hearts are broken, all we can do is be there with a ready shoulder for them to cry on. We allow them to bounce from dating relationship to dating relationship, and all the while they get really good at ending relationships, but never quite so good at keeping them.

The enemy is destroying our kid’s ability to invest in healthy relationships because he has convinced us that parents having control over how and when our kids enter into social and emotional relationships is just too old school.

Gone are the days when a young man had to get through the father before he got to date the daughter. Gone are the boundaries that set younger relationships up for success.

One of my sons recently announced that he was going to meet up with a girl at the movie theater. He said it wasn’t a date, although he was considering the possibility of dating her. Okay, but things change quickly, and what might have started out as a platonic situation during the previews, could very easily end up something quite different by the credits.

When my husband questioned the wisdom of this endeavor, and asked what this young lady’s parents thought of their daughter going to a movie with a young man they had never met, our son told us that her parents were not as strict on those things as we were.

My husband was quick to tell him, that even though this girl’s parents had differing ideas, she would still be treated the same way that our daughter would be treated in the same situation. As it turned out, they didn’t see a movie. Instead, they went to lunch, and had a conversation. Out in the open. Not in a dark movie theater. Who talks in a dark movie theater anyway? A lunch date was a much better way for our son to determine if there was enough of an interest in this girl to then approach her parents about a dating relationship. So far, there isn’t.

It’s true that if you tell a lie long enough, you can believe it is true. That’s what our enemy is counting on. He has told us a lie about teens and dating for long enough that parents are just throwing up their hands in surrender and saying, “What are we supposed to do?”

We are supposed to be parents. We are supposed to be that spiritual covering that keeps our kids from venturing into relationships they cannot possibly be ready for. We can’t fall for the lies. Our kids need us too much.

Leave Them a Legacy

I was going through some old boxes yesterday as we were cleaning out our attic, and  it ended up being quite a stroll down memory lane. I have a box of baby clothes that I have saved from when my kids were tiny. I have a box of pictures they painted, or colored when they were little. We had fun going through the boxes of things that my husband and I kept from our childhood. My kids grabbed some of our “vintage” t-shirts. I thought it was funny that they called t-shirts from when we were their ages “vintage”. Whatever.

As I was going through one box, I was surprised by what was in one. Inside an envelope was a newspaper clipping my grandmother had sent to me years ago. In the picture, she is seated in a chair, wearing a long, flowing red dress and gold slippers. She is surrounded on every side by little kids. There was a whole article about her beneath the photo that talked about how she was a weekly “Reading Fairy” for the local elementary school kindergarten class. She was in her mid-eighties when the picture was taken. No dust ever collected on that lady. She has long since gone to be with the Lord, but seeing her in that photo reminded me of the legacy she left behind for me and for so many others.

My pastor is preaching a sermon series on leaving a legacy. Have you ever thought what your legacy would be after you are gone? What are you doing now that will last long after you are gone from this world? It is something we should consider for multiple reasons. It’s a true fact that your great grandchildren won’t really know anything about you. Think about it, what do you really know about your great grandparents? Our fame, whatever that is, will die within two generations. My kids hardly remember my grandmother. They never even knew my other grandparents at all. So how do you leave a legacy behind that will have an effect on future generations if they won’t even know who you were?

The answer is simple. We have to leave a legacy that matters for eternity. My grandmother will see her great grandchildren in heaven because of the seeds of Christ’s love she sowed in me. She never had the opportunity to talk to them about Jesus, but she talked to me about Him. Many times. She warned me about the lure of this world, and how the devil would try to woo me away from Christ with the shiny things this world has to offer.  She never missed an opportunity to point me to Jesus. She taught me many things, but she never left out Jesus, and I have tried to do the same with my own kids.

My pastor said that we can do many things to help the poor, feed the hungry, console the broken hearted, but if we don’t also point them to Jesus while we are helping, feeding, and consoling, the end result will not matter. If we feed someone, but do nothing to point them to Jesus, they may die with a full belly, but they will die without Jesus, and that’s a real tragedy.

We can leave a legacy of love, or generosity, or sacrifice, but if that legacy does nothing to affect someone’s eternity, it is wasted. What kind of legacy will you leave? Are you leaving? You will leave one, will it matter for eternity or just for a generation or so?