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 8 & 9.
(A first-thing-in-the-office phone call, around 8AM)
Concerned Mom: “Can you meet with my daughter? The sooner the better, because we’re having, well, some serious issues we just found out about this morning. Is there any way you could meet with her this afternoon after school?”
Me: “That works for me. But before that happens, is there any way you can drop in so we can chat before she shows up? I’d like to get some background before I meet with her.”
(A fourth-thing-in-the-office impromptu meeting, around 10:30AM)
Concerned Mom: “We found out this morning she’s having sex with her boyfriend. She accidentally sent a text message to my cell phone, and well, let’s say that there is little doubt what’s going on between those two.”
Play-by-play of the household drama commenced. Mom & Dad handled the initial confrontation pretty well from what they told me…they’re pretty solid folks so I didn’t have any reason to doubt their account. Mom reminded me of how proud of their daughter they are. They grocery-listed her impressive resume. Mom reminded me of what a great kid she is and how much they love her and enjoy her company. Mom reminded me that she is “Daddy’s Little Girl” and her husband went to work with a hurt heart that morning even though he kept it together over breakfast. Mom reminded me that even though there were plenty of tears that hugs were plentiful and ILY’s communicated before the kid went off to school. Again, my guess was that her account of the morning was likely the way it went down.
Concerned Mom: “That’s when I called you…
(Her voice softened. Single tears rolled down her cheek & she was taking advantage of the Kleenex box on my desk. She looked down at her feet and continued)
…I don’t know where we went wrong. We did everything by-the-book. Her dad read Bible stories to her every single night when she was little. We volunteered in Children’s Sunday School and AWANA so we’d be near her. We’ve prayed for her since we knew about her. Been in church with her since she was six weeks old. Got her plugged into youth group. Did the True Love Waits program with her that freshman year. Stayed involved in her activities. And now THIS. We don’t know what else to do or where else to turn, so we called you.”
I need to make it clear that, at that point, I spent significant amount of time with Concerned Mom and how I could serve her specifically in that moment. I can’t stress this enough as I don’t want to come across as a callous to Concerned Mom, but I’m going to touch more on that in a minute. Again, for the record, your honor, I spent significant amount of time serving Concerned Mom.
Eventually, I asked Concerned Mom, “So, when (insert name of Kid-I-Really-Like-And-Have-A-Good-Repore-With here) show’s up this afternoon and we chat, what is it you’d like for me to make sure cover? Maybe we meet only this afternoon or maybe we meet a few times over the next month or so. At the end of that time, how do we know we are successful?”
Concerned Mom: “We’re successful if we get her to stop having sex with her boyfriend.” She was sure of this. Emphatic.
Me: “I want to help you think through that for a second, CM. Let’s assume that’s our goal. I’d imagine we could achieve that if we had a double-sided lock on her door, made sure she only left that room to go to and from school and soccer and youth group and yearbook, and when she was at those events you had a trusted & paid hulking female bodyguard to keep her away from that boy or any boy until she was safely back in her room. If that’s our measure of success, we’d be winners. She’s not having sex with her boyfriend anymore.”
Concerned Mom started stifling a small laugh as she let the scenario play out and began to think about what I said. “No,” she said. “That’s not at all what I really want, is it? I want a lot more than kid just following the rules and being outwardly good, don’t I? I want my kid to make wise choices because she’s truly walking with Him.”
(that’s not verbatim, but that’s the gist of it)
So, we sat down and devised a plan to help her daughter apply what she already knew to the specifics of her situation. In other words, she wasn’t fuzzy on the whole good/bad right/wrong thing. She had somehow determined that she knew better than God and her parents and what she’d had reinforced by pastors, youth pastors, small group leaders, and coaches and some of her friends and such all because of one game-changer: She was in love with a boy.
See, in Proverbs 8 & 9, we get a contrast. We see that wisdom yells from the rooftops to the naive. Wisdom speaks excellent things. It’s lips tell us what is right. It tells us the truth. It reminds us that since it tells truth, it would never lie to us. Righteous words with no crookedness in them. It’s more valuable than cold, hard cash. It’s a way of looking at the world that actually makes you stronger. Kings and commoners benefit from using it. The disciplined instruction can’t even be compared to big bank accounts or even a big inheritance. This is stuff that has been around since before the beginning of time. They give life and keep you safe. Yep. Wisdom sets the table for a feast and invites you to attend.
But you don’t have to accept. You can keep on walking. You can buy the lies. You can keep your mouth shut and let them keep talking. You can choose to keep being naive. You can live in ignorance. You can be restless and rootless…no moral compass. You can look at the shiny temporary trinkets and try to take shortcuts. You don’t read the fine print, and eventually, it’ll cost you, no matter how good it feels or right it seems or how enjoyable the moment might be.
It’s that simple. There are two siren-songs.
And we desperately want our kids to hear Wisdom singing and belly-up to that banquet table…don’t we? If we’re being honest, sometimes we want it more for our children than ourselves…don’t we?
So, as we parent, how do we help our kids hear that music?
A few things…
…first, we make sure we’re teaching them these things when we rise up, when we lie down and be all Deuteronomy 6: 5-7 with them. And, folks, this is hard work. This might look like playing “spot the lie” when standing in line at Wal-Mart and there are some magazine headlines in the line of sight or a commercial comes on TV. This might look like rearranging an extracurricular activity (or yes, even a CURRICULAR activity taking a lower priority) to make sure they’re in places to hear truth, like getting to youth group on Sunday, or small group on Wednesday or church attendance. The time between when they rise up and lie down is a lot of time, so be ready to dig in your heels and be strong with how you want to use your 168 hours a week. You’ll get resistance from them…but you’re in the right. Teach with diligence, confidence, and discipline.
…second, be a student of your child. Get to know them. Their strengths. Their weaknesses. What sets them off. What they laugh about. What they’re sensitive to. This might look like setting aside one hour a week with no cell phones and such so you have their undivided attention and they have yours. This might look like observing them as they interact with their friends and taking mental notes. This might mean admitting that your kid isn’t the smartest, fastest, most amazing human that ever existed and taking honest stock of what makes them tick. The reason I said this is because knowing these things will allow you to know when to teach, when to back off, what buttons to push (or keep from pushing) and how to communicate most effectively and lovingly. Every kids is different and you gotta pay attention.
Once I suggested a dad take his daughter to ice cream once a week to get to know her. He was scared to death. Said he wasn’t ever good with talking to her and now that she was a teenage girl he let his wife handle a lot of that. He said he wouldn’t even know what to say. I told him to tell her that stuff, but add that she was important to him and he wanted to get to know her…we even had a list of questions we wrote on an index card. He asked her the question each week…nothing big…just highs and lows of the week, music and movies she’d seen, what she liked about her friends. Later, they both said it started awkwardly, but they both got to where they looked forward to it every Thursday. The dad used the same index card for the next kid, too.
…finally, drop your pride and remember that your kid’s choices are NOT ABOUT YOU. If your kid makes an unwise choice, or even a series of them, it doesn’t mean that you blew it as a parent (unless, of course, they come in the house bragging about the wrong thing, like, “Mom and Dad, I just discovered heroin tonight and it was everything I thought it could be!” Then, maybe, you might want to examine your teaching in that area.). Kids will blow it. They all do. With varying degrees and consequences. So, be prepared to love and teach through the varying degrees and consequences. It’s good if they blow it while under your roof, too. You have close-quarters to continue teaching. I’m glad I got to remind Concerned Mom that she’s a great parent who loves her kid and did the right things. Because she was/is. It was never about the Mom past how she could love and serve her daughter in that moment.
Don’t be afraid to be open & honest with your friends who can pray for you, either. Concerned Mom had come to my office that morning from a small group where they prayed and she said she could NEVER bring that up. Well, isn’t it high time we moved past that as parents? Sure, you don’t have to say your kid is (insert unwise choice here), but couldn’t you bring it up as, “Hey, could you all pray that I might have the ability to love & serve my kid? She’s making some unwise choices right now and my husband and I are broken up about it and unsure of what to do.” Again, when we stop pretending, we expose the pretentiousness of others. Our walks will all be better.
But, as we parent, let’s make sure that we’re about the heart of the matter. Behavior management is comparatively easy and gets measurable results where our friends will all think we’re great. But that really will only make the invitation to foolishness’s banquet table more appealing and they’ll tap & snap even though there’s no music playing.
Let’s put our kids in a position to respond to the siren song of wisdom’s invitation because their heart’s in the right place and they’re walking in the Spirit. And they’ll dance. And we’ll watch them long after they’re out from under our roofs.