When I stop to think about it, and I often do, it’s incredible the amount of stuff teenagers today have to take in, process, deal with, be responsible for, face, learn, un-learn, do, or not do. They have instant access to more information, opinions, ideas, music, and images than I could’ve even fathomed during my own teen years – more than I can fathom now. As a parent it’s like steering them down a slick and winding road in a stock car approaching full speed with a death grip on the steering wheel while barely breathing. It’s hard sometimes to know when to relax and let off the brake a little, and when to buckle up and slam the brake to the floor.
I’m the first to admit that it takes an act of sheer will to “Mother” my daughter rather than “Smother” her. I have to verbally remind myself repeatedly, “Yes, she is my baby girl – but she is no longer a baby.” I worry about bullying. I worry about drugs. I worry about teen sex. I worry about alcohol. I worry that she’ll have her first kiss too soon, then I worry that she won’t have one until she’s 30. I worry about broken hearts, then I worry she’ll never have a boyfriend. I worry about… EVERYTHING.
Often, I think it’s easy to give in to our fears about all these things and to almost allow those fears to guide us in our parenting. We think, if I don’t talk about these things, if I don’t tell my child that this exists - my child won’t know it and will be spared. We convince ourselves, if I don’t let my child talk to anyone outside of a certain group, if I don’t let my child know anyone who doesn’t fit a certain mold – my child will be spared. In church circles, we feel security in finding a “Holy Huddle” for our children. It’s a false sense of security. Allowing our fears to drive our parenting is surely a failure on our part. I can’t think of a more sure or quick method of crippling and smothering a child on almost every level.
When we are driven by our fears we respond to our teens asking point blank about sex by telling them “Mom and Dad go to sleep and wake up pregnant.” Or we have conversations with teens asking them to consider whether “Justin Bieber is a “real” Christian or has he begun to embrace the dark side”. (I couldn’t make this stuff up folks. Has the Beibs even claimed Christianity for himself?) Newsflash: They know we’re lying about sex. They think we’re crazy - not the fun kind of crazy, but the “Um, her eyes look like Manson’s” crazy - when we ponder a 15 year old pop sensation’s ties to the Devil. When they know we’re lying, and they think we’re crazy – they then begin to dismiss and doubt everything else we tell them also. Think about it, do we respect, trust and believe people we know lie to us, or those who come off as a tad too much panicky (i.e. “crazy”) about some passing trend? No. We don’t. And we don’t hold any stock in anything they tell us. Well, our kids aren’t stupid either.
Please know that I do understand there are BAD things in this world. There are things we should protect our children, ourselves and anyone we care about from. I’m just saying that if you’re kid has read the “Harry Potter” books (mine hasn’t), or the “Twilight” books (mine has – and I did too – and they’re GOOD) – you’re kid isn’t about to become a Wizard or a Vampire. With any luck, they’ll decide to be a good student who cares about his friends like Harry, or they’ll decide to wait until marriage to have sex like Bella. (Can we as Christian parents ask for more than virginal brides and grooms? I meant this to be funny, but it’s so what I’m hoping for. Seriously.) I’m not saying there’s no badness, no darkness in the world – I’m just saying we shouldn’t be creating evil where it doesn’t necessarily exist, we should be celebrating the stage of life they’re in and pointing to a vision for their road ahead. Fear has caused a great many of us to usher into our teens a deep sense of apathy and shattered innocence long before Justin Bieber, J.K. Rowling, or Stephenie Meyer did. Instead of creating evil where only imagination has existed, why don’t we focus more on the real evils they face? The scariest of which is that deep apathy that seems to be swallowing an entire generation (or two).
Apathy is like hard rain on the windshield – one can’t see through it to the truth and certainly not to a bright future. I’m saying that when we allow our parenting to be fear driven, we parent in a panicked frenzy, holding our breath the entire time. When we allow our parenting to be fear-driven we make it hard for our teens to breath – we truly smother them. We make it hard for them to see - instead of giving them a vision to hold on to, we give them a picture of ourselves as liars and crazies. We should enjoy some of the teen angst with them – assure them they’re normal and “OK”, remind them that these years don’t last forever and give them a vision for their future.
If we want our teens to come to us with their burdens, thoughts, cares – we have to be able to really listen (instead of mentally preparing
As for me, I’m buckled up – and trying my hardest to stay in the passenger seat (No really, I mean it!). I’ve got the windows down. I’m breathing in big gulps of fresh air and I’m trying to enjoy the ride.