Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It May Take A Village, But Only Two Are Permant Residents

originally published in the bluffton packet:

The more parents I meet, the more convinced I am that parenting is the most challenging and unappreciated job in the world. If there are any teens reading this, stop rolling your eyes or they’re going to get stuck that way. Mark my words, someday you’ll thank mom and dad not just for keeping you fed and clothed but also for the rules and the “no’s” and the lectures about “life lessons”. But note that I said you will thank them someday, not now. Only very precocious teens realize what’s best for them now. The rest of you are not going to like what follows so save your angst for your micro-blogging and skip this; it’s a pep-talk for mom and dad.

“Parents: the anti-drug.” There’s a reason that millions of dollars are being invested in this advertising campaign. Studies have shown that teachers, coaches, friends, and even, ahem, youth ministers having a really good hair day are not as influential as are parents in the lives of their teenagers. A speaker I heard said it best when she reminded youth ministers that “Parents are the heroes… you are just a tool in their tool belt.” The best classes, programs, and ministries in the world cannot replace parents in the lives of teens. In the end, parents spend the most time with their kids, set the rules, and enforce consequences. It may take a village, but only two people have established residency. The rest of us are tourists that provide some seasonal support and will eventually move on. Like good tourists, we should do all we can to ensure that the locals are receiving their proper due.

I don’t know when the media began their vendetta against parents, but it’s clearly present and affecting us all. Consider this: as a child, my favorite thing to watch was “The Cosby Show.” Remember how Dr. and Mrs. Huxtable were portrayed as involved parents who dealt with real-world issues but always had the respect of their kids and the final say? They were pretty cool. I would’ve loved to have been BFF’s with Rudy for a chance to hang out with her mom and dad. Contrast this with the popular T.V. show “Family Guy” which portrays parents Peter and Lois as inattentive, self-absorbed, and often modeling immoral and illegal activities. This is a glaring example but not the only one. Network television, MTV, advertisers and even Nickelodeon and Disney are on a mission to make mom and dad look really lame and completely undeserving of honor. This parody, coupled with disrespect from their kids must make parents wonder if all this
grief is really worth it.

As the season of proms, graduations, summer camps and teen nights approach, I encourage parents who know that the aforementioned activities mean not just fun for their children but also a lot of heated conversations about curfews, rules, and standards. I took an informal poll of my peers and we all agreed that we gave our parents the most grief for rules that kept us happy, healthy, and holy. As teenagers, we were mortified when our parents called to check if our friends’ parents would be home when we spent the night, dropped us off at youth group and came in to meet the adults in charge, and made us change when we tried to leave the house wearing a skirt only slightly longer than the belt holding it up (and then the skirt would mysteriously get lost at the dry cleaners… what was up with that?). We all can remember the tearful accusations of, “I can’t believe you don’t trust me to make good choices when I’m out, alone, with a boy four
years older than me who likes me for my mind and wants to show me what a full moon looks like on a deserted beach.” Ten years later we look back and are so grateful that our parents were parents when we needed them to be, despite our declarations that we hated them for ruining our lives.

So as this season of warmer weather, later nights and teens pushing the limits comes round, remember that even Jesus gave Mary and Joseph a few sleepless nights. When Christ reached the age of twelve He disappeared for three days, causing Mary to exclaim, “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety!” (Luke 2:48)- surely words that all moms and dads can relate to. Know that Christ “grew in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52) and while it might not always seem that poetic, it’s parenting, and someday, you will be thanked. It will be later than and never as much as you deserve, but you will be thanked.

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