Tag: parenting

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.

You Know You’re in the South When…

You know you are in the South when a perfect stranger on the elevator asks you, “So, you ready for some Bama football?”

Yep. That happened to me just this week. Welcome to the land of Dixie where football reigns supreme, and you might just get your tail kicked for shooting off your mouth about the wrong team. Football is serious business here in the Deep South.

But it’s all in good fun, right? Of course. I’m not anti football. Really, I’m not. I’m not really a fan either, though. Growing up where football is elevated higher than pretty much anything can simply wear a person out on the whole scene.

My kids weren’t brought up with this phenomenon, so when I moved them back to Birmingham after a twelve year hiatus, the football culture caught them a bit off guard. My youngest came home from his first day in third grade at the elementary school in Trussville, Alabama and asked me, “Who are we for?”

Not really paying close attention, I asked, “What?

He repeated the question. “Who are we for?”

Then it dawned on me. He had probably been asked all day long this most pivotal question… and he had no idea what the right answer was. He didn’t even know what the question really meant. Of everything the kids could have found out about my kid, all they really cared about was who he was for… Alabama or Auburn. Nice.

After an eye roll that would have made any teenager proud, I told him, “Just tell them Alabama. It’ll make your life easier.” He shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Okay.”

I’ve written some lately about parents helping kids find their passion and living that out. Some parents think they really don’t know how to do that. Yet here in the south, here in Bama country, that’s not true. Growing up, if I wanted to eat and sleep inside, I had better root for Alabama. I’m exaggerating a bit, but even now, if I wear blue and orange in the same outfit to my parent’s house, I can expect a snarky comment. As a kid, I learned to yell and cheer with the best of them for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama parents know how to groom passion in their kids. You have doubts? Just start talking college football. Ridicule their favorite team. See what happens. If we can teach our kids to stand up for their favorite college football team, we should be able to teach them to stand up for righteousness in their schools. If we can teach them (and model for them) how to cheer exuberantly for their favorite football team, we can teach them (and model for them) how to worship with that same fervor.

Doesn’t the Savior of the world deserve at least that much enthusiasm?

I’ve seen the same kids who scream, and jump, and clap at a football game, stand stark still at church unable to worship God with that same zeal, unsure of what that even should or could look like. It’s a real shame, really.

In a recent conversation with my youngest son, now in middle school, we were talking about the local football obsession. He wrote off our disinterest in the whole subject by saying that we are “just not a sports-minded family”. It’s true. We aren’t. But I had to tell him that it’s more than that. I told him that while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a fun sporting event, it’s just not something we want to give our lives to. It’s not what we are passionate about, and that we want to give our lives to that which we are passionate about… Those things that will matter for eternity.

It’s all about perspective. As parents, we should be teaching our kids to show at least as much passion or zeal for their God as we show for our favorite ball teams. The best way to do that is to model that for them. Are we, as parents, cheering as loudly for our Savior? Well, are we?

Parents, Working Ourselves Out of a Job

As my kids grow up and out, I have to learn to let them do things on their own. I’m not really so very good at this as my husband fairly regularly points out. I grew up in a home where my mother just did for us. She literally did everything for my brother and me until the day we moved out on our own. Laundry, cooking, cleaning. She did it all. When it comes to her family, my mother has a servant’s heart. It’s a wonder we don’t still live with her.

She did it out of love and out of a desire for things to be done right. It was mostly just easier to do it herself. I understand this completely. At forty-five, I have made it pretty well. I have had to learn lots of things on my own, but I’m a pretty smart cookie sometimes, and I have figured out that being a great cook (among other things) is not really a requirement. We get by. Thank the Lord for frozen, boxed and canned foods… and for a phone to call my mother to ask her how to do this or that.

Still, I am trying to help my kids along, so that when it is time for them to fly from the nest, they will soar rather than plunge. Case in point: Last week I sent my two oldest children to a new dentist on their own. You would have thought I was sending them up a creek without a paddle when I told them I would not be going with them. But they did just fine. No cavities.

I read somewhere once, that as a parent, if we are doing anything for our children-whether at two or twenty- that they can do for themselves, we are doing them a disservice. Ouch.

Some of us love parenting so much we have forgotten that to be successful at it, we are supposed to work ourselves out of a job.

As Christian parents, we are also charged with teaching our children to lean on their Heavenly Father. While our lives here on earth are finite, it is their Heavenly Father that will go one long after we have said our final goodbyes. We have to teach them to depend less and less on us, and more and more on Him.

As kids growing up, my parents never wanted me or my brother to worry about money. I never knew when there was or wasn’t money in my parent’s bank account. They tell me now of times when things were lean and they didn’t know how they would make it, but I had no idea at the time. They didn’t feel that those kinds of things were something to worry a child over. I can appreciate that they wanted to protect us from that stress, but they also kept something else very important from us as a result.

I depended upon my parents to meet my needs. And they did. I never once wondered where my next meal would come from or if I would have a pillow to lay my head upon at night. They were always there to help me solve problems that came along in my life. What I didn’t get to see was what they did when a problem was too big for them. Where did they go when something too great for even them to handle came along?

Matthew and I try to handle those times a little bit differently. We are not trying to stress our children out, but we want them to know that while mom and dad can fix almost anything, we can’t fix everything, and when those times come, we turn to our Heavenly Father and ask Him for help.

Most of the time, when our kids come to us, we can fix what is broken or advise them how they can best handle a situation. I often tell them, “Mom can fix almost anything.” But on the rare occasion that there is no good earthly solution, we must teach our children to go to their Father in heaven for help. The best way to teach them this lesson is for them to see us doing that very same thing. When problems come that overwhelm us as parents, we don’t always need to go behind closed doors with those problems. Sometimes we need to show them that when there seems to be no answer, we trust that God will make a way.

Children need to know that when they leave the protection and provision of their parents one day, they still have the protection and provision of their Heavenly Father to rely upon. And they learn best when they see that modeled for them in us.