This series I’m writing is based on a simple idea: Each day, I’m going to wake up, pray and read in Proverbs with “parenting eyes.” Then I’m going to blog whatever comes to mind. This could be brilliant or an epic failure. But that’s the plan. Today, I read Proverbs 1: 10-33.
Friend: “She’s late, man.”
Me: “Seriously? No way. Maybe she’s just under a lot of stress or something. I heard stress can cause that.”
Friend: “Yeah. Hopefully. Maybe. She did start a new diet and exercise thing a couple of weeks ago, so we’re hoping that’s the deal. I mean, like, I’m ready to be a DAD?”
That conversation took place when I was in college. We’d been smart enough to jump through the academic hoops to get into that university. We had parents who gave us the “birds-and-the-bees” talk. We’d also gotten lectures on the various methods of birth control in the high school health classes we took. We’d heard pastors of various ranks tell us to “stay pure” until we got married who also mentioned some unseen surprise consequences like guilt or even broken fellowship with God. We were not hurting for information on right vs. wrong in this arena or the possible consequences, but I still had this kind of chat a few times over the years.
Yet, me and this other guy were the only two known virgins among the 80-some fraternity members. But don’t give me any gold stars for that accomplishment, kids. It wasn’t because of any spiritual Superman gifting, but rather a cocktail of inability to “close the deal,” a firm belief that the universe was out to get me which would constitute that I would be some sort of statistical anomaly, and the curse of dating nice girls that conspired to keep me above that particular fray…
…but I had plenty of stupid-head moments of my very own. Among them…
…I’d been taught the traffic laws, but still managed a ticket or two for running a stop sign and speeding.
…I’d been taught how to make a budget and keep a checkbook, but still bounced a check or two or three and had to sell plasma to keep from making it four.
…I’d been taught to show respect and compliment girls, but still managed to be insensitive enough to make them mad and/or cry with surprising regularity.
…I’d been taught all the time-management techniques and study skills (my university even offered a for-credit class on it to freshmen, which I took) stuff, but managed to make sub-par grades because I’d procrastinate and give the lackadaisical effort only pulling an all-nighter can garner.
…I’d been taught to drink in moderation and stay sober, but still managed to spend a night or two on tile near porcelain and/or with a hangover strong enough that I believed I could hear the sunlight hitting the ground.
…I’d been taught to keep secrets, but still was confronted by the person whose secret I sold out.
…I’d been taught to eat right and exercise for all sorts of health benefits, but a steady diet of late-night pizza and soda caused me to tip the scales at 50 pounds heavier than I’d been in my entire life.
That’s the short list. It’s also the “undergrad-only” list. It’s easier to talk about stupid-head two decades or so old than it is to bring up what went on in my house this morning or the last hour.
So, what does this all have to do with parenting?
Well, we teach our kids…and often the lessons are a reaction to our own stupid-head moments. We’ve been there. We’ve learned difficult lessons. We want our kids to avoid the pain and/or the consequences we experienced. We tell them that if people who are going to try to bring you into stupid-head, don’t let them talk you into it. If they’re going to have stupid-head, don’t follow them. We tell them that stupid-head takes the joy out of life, or certainly keeps it from being all it could be…even if it might have a lot of laughs along the way or some fun memories. We tell them that the way of stupid-head could kill them, or make them very sick, or guilty. We tell them that stupid-head can kill their bright futures.
We practically beg them to LISTEN.
We’ve BEEN THERE.
We’re TRYING TO SAVE YOU.
We’re HERE TO HELP YOU.
We want you to TRUST us.
We LOVE YOU AND WANT THE BEST FOR YOU.
Like my dad used to say, “You shouldn’t get hit by a train you SEE comin.'”
Our parents said the same things to us.
We were naive. We were simple. We were foolish. We got hit by plenty of “trains we saw comin.'” We held our own when it came to stupid-head. And it’s easier to put that in the past tense, too.
And the incredible temptation it must’ve been for our parents and pastors and coaches and teachers and whoever else was dispensing wisdom to us to just look at their toes and shake their heads in disbelief as we exhibited stupid-head even if we didn’t see them do it. They probably mocked us a bit, even if we didn’t hear it. They had to bite their tongues as we ate from the fruit bowls of our own consequences. They held their hands out to keep us from stepping on the tracks as we pulled away from their grasp and got smacked by the trains we knew were due at the station. At least I hope that’s the general tone of verse 26. Otherwise, that’s just Schadenfreude. It makes me happier to think that’s more like God is…because I tend to have a lot of compassion and emotion for my own kids when they exhibit stupid-head. As an aside, I can often have Schadenfreude when the black-hat bad-kids get what’s coming to them. Again, I like to think God is better than me.
Nobody wants their kids to hurt, especially when you feel like you could’ve stopped it or lessened the collateral damage. We try to protect them. We try to keep them from the inherent consequences. Often, we’ll even blame ourselves for their stupid-head and do everything we can to cover their tracks, clean up their messes and/or fight their battles.
But here’s the rules as they relate to parenting:
Our kids will have moments of stupid-head. We may as well go ahead and adjust our expectations right here, right now. The stupid-head will vary from kid to kid and family to family. It could be forgetting to put their homework in their backpack to using a dirty needle for heroin and anything and everything smaller and in-between and bigger. Yes. There can be bigger than heroin.
We should teach our kids how to stand behind the yellow lines at the train station. We should speak boldly and with authority where God’s Word speaks boldly and with authority (we should also shut our fat yappers where His Word is silent). We should teach them about Him and His statutes when we wake up and when we go to sleep and all the various points in between. We need to make sure all the software is loaded on their brain’s hard-drive so they’ll learn that God loves them and wants the best for them. And we should remember that God loves them more than we do. And wants better for them than we do.
So, we should be faithful to teach them and pray for them and serve our children.
And then do the hardest thing of all: Entrust them to God. Did I say that He loves them more than we do? Did I say that He wants better for them than we do? Truth be told, conflict is what moves their story along. It helps them grow. It helps them become who they’re supposed to be in Him. We don’t wish it on them, but when it does, they’ll have to learn to depend on Him. Not you. So don’t you want them to get in that habit while they live under your roof? To show you how they rebound and get it together just like you rebounded and got it together from your own stupid-head.
Yes. It will get messy sometimes. I don’t want to minimize that. It will. And sometimes their entire lives will get altered. They’ll get stupid-head and take flying leaps in front of that yellow line and the trains will hit them. Expect it…in varying degrees…
…so you’ll be able to help them grow just like we did from our stupid-head by showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control…
…when every fiber of our being is filled with Schadenfreude.
So, your thoughts, patrons?