Jesus speaking: “‘Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her'” –Luke 10:41-42 (The Voice).
This week, my almost-21-year-old son (his birthday is in a few days!) told me that his friends say I’m their favorite parent of all time because I did not ‘freak out’ over his getting his eyebrow pierced. He’s not my first child to say this to me. I have been the go-to parent for many activities. My kids have never asked me not to attend one of their events (although I have refused many), and my daughter’s friends have suggested me as a designated driver (when they were too young to drive) for late night TP-ing pranks for the cross-country teams or to team events. Since I have never been in the ‘cool kids’ group, it amuses me that the next generation thinks of my middle-aged self as a kindred spirit. What separates me from other adults in their minds? Am I better? Oh, that’s just laughable. Am I wiser? I can bluff a good game, but I know it’s smoke and mirrors. Am I prettier or more fashionable? Yeah, no. There’s a reason I don’t post my photo on my blog. I think it’s that I remember what teen and young adult years were like. I remember that all I really wanted was for someone to believe in me. Someone to say, ‘You’re not crazy for wanting to follow a dream.’ Someone to tell me that the world won’t come to an end if I make a mistake or do something I would regret later. Someone who would love me unconditionally and not let me face my consequences alone. Someone who wouldn’t draw a line in the sand over ‘a million details.’
I wanted freedom with a safety net.
So, when my son told me that many of his friends and their parents think I’m an anomaly–the friends in awe of me, the parents thinking me crazy and too tolerant–I felt the need to offer a glimpse of what I have to offer. In no way do I believe I have parenting figured out, nor do I believe that I’ve done the raising of my children ‘right.’ This post is not meant to shame, judge or condemn anyone. Believe me, I have had many Psycho Mom Moments and have freaked out immaturely. You may have another piece of the puzzle that I haven’t seen. The point is that we stop criticizing each other and start playing on the same team! Let’s work together to equip our children so that they will have a foundation to grow stronger and wiser in equipping their next generations.
So, here are some questions to ask yourself before you ‘freak out’:
- Is it life-threatening? A piercing, a tattoo, a funky hair color or cut will not bring down civilization. If they are 18 or older and don’t need your permission, be careful about withholding your blessing. I tend to *sigh* and roll my eyes. My kids call me on this all the time–as they smile or chuckle. Do you really want your line in the sand to be over something like hair? A young adult will process that thought to mean, If my mom freaked over a piercing, what will happen if I ______. We can squelch communication between us by our reactions to the little things.
- Is it immoral, or just embarrassing for you? This one’s tough. Some denominations have super-strict policies on personal modesty. I cannot tell you what’s right for your household, only that I have researched and read all the Scriptures by myself and with others and have come to my own conclusions. I invite you to do the same–setting aside the church party-line and really process what God is saying through those Scriptures. Often, the choices of our young adults conflict with our own insecurities of what our friends, family and church leaders will think. As a parent, my child should never carry the weight of my insecurity on their shoulders.
- Am I afraid of losing control over their lives? You already have. … (I’ll let that sink in for a moment) … And if you feel that you have to resort to shaming or guilting them into compliance, you may have lost more than control over them–you may have lost them. Recognize they are adults and will make some choices you would never dream of making. You don’t get to live their lives anymore! I would rather have a relationship and an open channel of dialogue with my children, than children who don’t ever want to be around me. If you would rather prove to your children that your way is best, then realize that you may not have enjoyable family times. You have to pick your battles–and every choice they make cannot be a battle.
Every year, my daughter has a Christmas party for the high school girls she mentors and several of her close friends. They come over for a tree-trimming, homemade soup, Christmas movie evening. Last year, a 15 year old opened a soda bottle and it exploded all over my kitchen counter and floor. I looked over, laughed and got out towels to mop it all up. All the girls helped, and the embarrassed girl was able to laugh … eventually. One girl looked over at me like I was an alien. She solemnly said, “My mom would not be laughing at this.” It was soda! Just a mess.
No one should have to live anxiously about making a mess. Lighten up with each other! Lighten up with yourselves!
Have you figured out yet that this post isn’t just about parenting, but about how we treat others? Do you recognize yourself in the parent or child role? If we freak out over the smaller things in life, will we have credibility with the really intense things that come our way? I’ve had hard conversations with teens and adults. People tell me their dark secrets all the time because they say they know I will show them compassion. I will hold them accountable, but I won’t make them confront anything alone. If another person is involved, I offer to go with them to have the conversation. Most of the time, I help them see the situations as a growth curve. It may be life-altering, but no moment has to become your life identity.
If you must have a line in the sand, let it be over abusive ways, integrity issues, ignorance and prejudice. Because we should freak out over character flaws that determine our world’s culture.
Certainly, we all need people to watch our backs and keep us from destroying ourselves and others. I pray that you find your security in God so that you recognize when you or others truly need wise help.
I welcome comments. Please keep them respectful and constructive.