Monday, September 11, 2006

What would you do?

“Umm…can I ask you a question?” We were on the first evening walk we’d taken in several weeks because of the heat. My thirteen-year-old daughter was walking beside me while I pushed the little one in the stroller.

“Sure.” What is on the mind of a teenager, I wondered. Hair color, bangs style, a clothing expedition?

“What would you do if I told you I had kissed a boy?”

My hand gripped the stroller a bit harder. I struggled to remain non-chalant as I looked into my daughter‘s eyes. Deep breath. Long pause. Walk a little longer.

“Well, I suppose I’d be disappointed,” I measured my words carefully. “You know, after all we’ve talked about with Passport to Purity and everything.”


We walked along in silence for a few moments. I felt myself panicking a bit. Remain calm, remain calm. “Do you have anything you’d like to share with me?”

“No. I was just wondering.”

A short conversation followed. I told my daughter again how precious she was, and what a blessing it is to wait for just the right man. We went over some of the finer points of our purity conversations from the past. I’m sure my lecture droned on longer than it should have.

For the rest of the walk and on into the next week, I wondered, Yikes! Is there someone on her horizon she is planning on kissing any time soon?

A few days ago I found out the reason for the conversation. It was not my daughter, but a friend of hers, just one year older, who’d kissed a boy.

“Yeah,” my daughter said, “When I was asking about how you’d respond if I kissed a boy, it’s because I was thinking of my friend. She called me crying last week. That‘s why I just needed to know.”

I know this is such small thing compared to what some parents have to face with their kids. I almost feel silly writing it. But after all the emphasis we've placed on purity around here, this situation has obviously made a huge impact on our daughter.

She needed to know what we’d do if she did something that disappointed us greatly.

Would we get all bent out of shape? Yell at her? Let down the hammer? Ground her for eternity? Never let her live it down?

All of these are my automatic, knee-jerk reactions I feel like imposing when I see my kids heading in the wrong direction. I overreact to the smallest of offenses.

But are these responses going to reach her heart?

I see this situation as a gift. God has provided a teachable moment in our daughter’s life - a chance to reaffirm our love for her, no matter what. Yes, we want for our children to live a life of purity - we are setting the standard high. There are consequences of sin. But we also want them to know that we are there, and ultimately, that God is there, with gracious and open arms, even when we “miss the mark.”

It's also a teachable moment for me. Now - more than ever - I desperately need God's help as I ask myself these questions:
  • Am I parenting my children with grace and forgiveness, even with their daily, small failures?
  • Am I showing them a picture of a God who doesn’t wait for us to ‘get it together’ before He loves us?
  • Is my relationship with them one that encourages them to turn toward me, and not hide their failures from me?

  • Lord, when my children fail, let me be as the father of the Prodigal Son:

    But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

    Luke 15:20


MicheleinNZ said...

Thanks, Katherine. My oldest is only three and when I think about the future and all of these things that are going to come up, I practically tremble. Scarier than even potty training. It's good to hear from another mom who's living it already. Be strong and courageous.

Laura said...

i second what michele said. lou is creeping up on turning two and just reading your post made me cringe. you'll have to remind me of all this in ten or so years when my teenager starts asking tough questions (and it may seem petty or small - something like a kiss - but we all know where it starts and where it leads - to something big!)

so glad she's talking to you about the smaller stuff now and giving you a chance to respond with grace and love before the bigger stuff comes along.

MrsMama said...

Thank you for the reminder and the wonderful example of godly, gracious parenting.

Susanne said...

The first one to hit teenagerhood seems so hard. There are definitely moments I'd love to take back with the knee jerk reactions you talked about. But God is so good, and His grace and mercy are so much bigger than I can fathom even when it comes to making mistakes as a parent. Good for you for the way you reacted!

Kristina at Learn2Luv2Run said...

These are the parenting things that really scare me.....

Beck said...

Oh, I'm going to pretend right now that the teenage years are a myth because I so cannot handle it! But thank you so much for being a good example.

Andrea said...

Oh, thank you, thank you, for this post!!! A great reminder!

Anonymous said...

Amen to all the comments above!
I am examining my parenting skills now with the questions you asked at the end. And my oldest is only 3. I just worry so much about overreacting and giving my kids a bad example of God's love and mercy. Let's all say a prayer for one another's mothering skills right now......

Jenn @ Knee-Deep in Munchkin Land said...

My parents started from the get-go on how important even kissing was and to save it for the right person. It worked, I knew that it was important to wait to give my first kiss. I was 17 years old and it was with my first serious boyfriend. I have no regrets for waiting that long to "give" it away. Kudos to you Mama!!

Tammy said...

I love this, Katherine. It can be a hard balance at times, between showing God's grace and yet not being too lenient. We can't do it without a lot of prayer, that is for sure.
Great post!

Shawna said...

Oh, Katherine, I know how you feel. I have a 13 year old boy who is growing into a man before my very eyes. It scares me so much, so I tend to overreact even on the little things. I needed this to remind me to calm down and parent with love and gentleness. Thank you.

Unknown said...

It's so hard to do it "right." It's hard for them, but it's hard for us. I struggle now, and she's only eight! I will continue to rely on others, like you, who have walked that path before me.

Girl Raised in the South said...

As a parent looking back, we set high standards. They didn't always hit the mark, but at least they were set high to aim for. Sounds like youre doing a mighty fine job. I've read that lack of boundaries is terrifying for kids - they like to know they are safe within the limits you set for them.

Code Yellow Mom said...

"Am I showing them a picture of a God who doesn't wait for us to 'get it together' before He loves us?" - That question is a much better articulation of one of my touchstones as I try to parent. I really feel strongly that the way we love and teach or discipline our kids is ultimately how they grow up viewing the commandments (guidelines for purity), mercy and love of God.

Also, being the daughter of a teen-age mom, I can say that I am eternally grateful to my grandparents for throwing their arms around my mom and in turn loving me without reservation - that love is one of the major things that motivated me as a teenager to maintain purity and perspective.

I pray as my kids grow that I'll have the strength to resist my knee-jerk reactions to disappointments so that my kids will turn toward me - and God - in their moments of indecision or failure.

Thanks for continuing to share your experiences and insights. (And what a sweet daughter you have.)

Julie said...

Excellent thoughts - all of them. While I was raised the same way and thankfully did save myself for marriage (not all my similarly-raised friends did), I knew that if I had done something my parents would have still loved me and accepted me. I never feared that. The fear of disappointing them was great enough to help keep me on the straight and narrow :-)