Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Teens and time

Early last week, about the time we found out Allie (14) had pneumonia, a friend offered Dennis two tickets to hear Kelly Clarkson in concert the Friday after Thanksgiving. Never one to turn down anything free, Dennis called me and asked if he thought Allie would like to go. In a few split seconds, my mind rummaged through the questions: (1) Do I take one child to a concert and leave her dejected siblings to mope at home during a “family” holiday? (2) Do I take my child to a concert by a secular artist? We loved following Kelly Clarkson’s story on American Idol, and her voice is beautiful, but some of her songs are rather dark and angry. (3) Do I want to have my child influenced by (and possibly to idolize) an angry person?

Uh…

There probably hasn’t been a decision regarding media that I haven’t second-guessed myself since having tweens and teens. Ack. But we’re cheap, the tickets were free, and we know that for all our good intentions, we are not very proactive when it comes to carving time out individually with our kids. We figured we could at least think about it, so we took the tickets.

I had almost talked myself out of going (“What message is this sending to her?”), when it dawned on me this could be a good opportunity for Allie and me to spend time together. As the week progressed, Dennis and I got excited about turning this into something really special.

Friday night, I told Allie I was taking her out somewhere, but I did not tell her where. Dennis wrote her a card telling her how proud we are of the good choices she is making and what beautiful character we are seeing in her, and he put the concert tickets inside. I gave her the card when we were well down the road. “NO WAY!” she screamed. “Are we really going to this??”

Then there was a pause. “But Mom, you don’t even like her music!”

Yes, in times past, I have reamed just about every song in her second album. But in my heart I already determined I was going to say nothing derogatory about the music or lyrics tonight. “We’re going to have a great time anyway, Allie,” I assured her. And I meant it.

The drive to the theater took almost an hour. Normally I don’t let Allie text message when she’s with me (or any other adult) but she was so anxious to tell her friends that her mom was taking her to this concert, I let it slide this time. By the time we got something to eat, found our seats and took pictures (and why do teens always look good in self-portraits and not moms, pray tell?), her phone was buzzing every few seconds and she had to turn it off! “This is so fun, Mom. We need to do this more often,” she said over and over.

As expected, the concert had quite a few of Kelly’s trademark “angsty” songs. Before she sang Never Again, she said, “This is the most bitter song I’ve ever written. I love it!” Allie and I just looked at each other. She had to know I was biting my tongue, but she didn't let on. But then in the middle of the concert Kelly sang a breathtakingly beautiful gospel hymn, the second half was not quite so edgy, and the concert ended with her could-be-sort-of-uplifting song Breakaway. At least the tune is upbeat, so it ended on a light note.

When we walked out of the theater arm in arm, Allie did not ask to buy an album or a t-shirt. Made me think that perhaps after a whole concert, she realized maybe this music isn’t what she would choose for herself, after all. Hmmm.

On the way home we stopped for Wendy’s frosties, and Allie just kept saying, “Thanks for being such a great Mom. This was SO fun.”

It WAS fun. I enjoyed being with my daughter – a teen who is becoming responsible to make some of her own choices. We have ongoing conversations about music all the time. I realize the power it has. But along with instruction, we’ve given her some freedoms in this area. Some of her music choices have not been all that great. Some have been pretty bad.

When we got home, however, I watched as Allie reenacted her laughing version of Kelly’s “this is the most bitter song” intro for the family, complete with a screeched couple of lines of Never Again. We’ve talked about that song before. It’s pretty much the polar opposite of a Christian’s view of life. But I’m quite certain that a hundred hours of my preaching could not have driven home that point as well as seeing it live and in person.

Anyway, there was no particular redeeming value in the evening, other than the fact that we were together. I find myself tending to rate all activities based on a scale of eternal significance. This was definitely not up there, not by a long shot. But even though it wasn’t my first choice of entertainment, it was another memory made. I think this is the hard lesson (for me) of having a teen: not all time needs to be teaching or instructing (although there is a place for it, and we are constantly reinforcing).

Allie needs me to “be” with her. Can we ever drive that "message" home enough?

We spent the past 13 years teaching. When I do it now, the eyes tend to glaze over and it translates into One Big Lecture. Now she is filtering her new experiences through the lens of what she has already been taught. Is it real? Is it phony? Does it hold up to scrutiny? What is principle and what is preference? Is it so legalistic that I’m going to disregard it all?

Instead of being frightening, I see this time as very exciting. I’m enjoying the questioning, but I want to make sure I’m the one she feels comfortable asking the questions of. Which means I have to cultivate my ability to bite my tongue. I got a good lesson in that the other night. It was worth every moment of pain.

Mostly I’m enjoying Allie's company, just for the sake of being together. No other reason is necessary. She is growing into a delightful young lady and I want to get to know her. I hope she wants to get to know me and all that I stand for. I don’t think we’ll always have to go to a concert to do that, but it was a start.

29 comments:

Michelle NWA said...

I so enjoy reading your posts. You offer such great insight to being a Mom that loves the Lord and wants to share that with her Children. Even though we've never met or even talked for that matter, I truly consider you a wonderful role model. Thank You!!
Michelle
Arkansas

Marian said...

Good for you, Katherine! Thank you for the example in tongue-biting, something I am terrible at.

Jen said...

What a cool mom you are....I'm so proud of you....

Susanne said...

I could have wrote this post 2 years ago when I took my girl's to see Kalan Porter (Canada's most successful so far, Canadain Idol). I was very torn too, but the young man got us when on the final night of competition he sang "I can only imagine" as his song choice against the wishes of all the judges. Why I said all that I'm not sure, I just wanted to say that in the end it was worth it to connect with my girls.

Susanne said...

How's that for a good Canadian. I didn't even spell Canadian correctly. oops.

Victoria said...

Enjoyed reading about your outing. As one of 6 kids I can tell you I really wish my Mom had done something/anything one-on-one with me so I'm glad you took her and had a good time!

Katie B. said...

Great post! I never comment here- just read, but I had to pipe in and say- there is a "lesson" in taking your daughter to a concert for a performer you don't particularly like. You are showing your daughter that you care about her, and that caring about others sometimes means doing things that they like, but you that don't. This is a wonderful lesson for a child! Kids need to know that parents love them and they need to experience that love in different ways, which means for some- an evening at a Kelly Clarkson concert with mom!

You are a great mother!

Andrea said...

Wow, those tickets were indeed...priceless. :)

I love the look on Allie's face: pure and genuine happiness.

Thanks for this post, Katherine.

Lisa@Take90West said...

Bravo!
It sounds like it didn't matter who you went and saw, she was just so happy to be with you. I need to do that with my girls more often. Thanks for the reminder that it is indeed, time well spent!

Ange said...

oh... that is so great! Doing those special memory making things with our kids, even if it's not something you yourself would choose to do, is so important. I did something a little similar a couple of weeks ago - I took a whole day to take my DD (13) to the Galleria (our huge Mall in town), which is something I hate to do. I hate shopping especially at the Galleria. But I felt God wanted this and we made way in our budget to let her 'shop till she dropped'. I felt God smile that day as I just got to be with her, have lunch, have Starbucks and shop. She loved it so much.
Your post was just a confirmation I did the right thing - thanks!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Oh Katherine - what sweet memory for both of you. I imagine it is hard at times to watch their choices, but good for you for a night of biting your tongue. I love this post and think I need to print it for my mommy journal.

Rebecca said...

Who says that there was no "eternal value" in your evening? I'd say that building your relationship with your daughter has eternal value! Good parenting, Mom!

BTW, thanks for the comment about self-portraits -- even though yours looks fabulous. I think I'm just in denial...a "false self-image" thing! :^)

Etta said...

I loved this story. It sounds weird, but I'm proud of you. Is that okay? I don't really feel like that makes sense or that I even have the right, but for some reason that's what I'm feeling. Sounds like you guys had a blast. :)

Jenn @ Munchkin Land said...

You are such an inspiration. And I know you don't do everything perfectly, but you do a lot that I admire and hope to emulate with my own children someday. It sounds like a wonderful mother-daughter date to me!

Jill said...

Way to go Katherine! I struggle so much with the biting my tounge part. I somehow feel the need to beat a point into the ground.

I too weigh every opportunity with eternal significance...I think God sometimes just wants us to live in this moment.

Deidre said...

She will never ever forget that night. Not because of the music, but because you were there one-on-one with her. She had you all to herself (and you ended with Wendy's frosties - what more could you ask for? ;)

Terry said...

You are a very caring and sensitive mother. Your daughter is very fortunate to have you.

Dimple Queen said...

You did such a wonderful thing, putting your intrests aside and letting yourself have a good time with your daughter. That night is a night she will remember for the rest of her life! You have probably just earned about a bazillion cool points with her! :)

Angela

Dini said...

You are one fantastic mom who "gets it". Your daughter will always remember that night. And it will be about the time spent with you...not just the concert. Kids need to feel loved and to know they are important. You are doing just that. Loved this post!

Beck said...

Katherine, you truly are my role model for how to parent a young teenager. Wonderful, wonderful post.

txmommy said...

sounds like a great evening, and like you have a great daughter!

Tammy said...

What a great post. My first is only 11, but I can already catch myself talking more than necessary and needing to simply bite my tongue. Thanks for this great reminder!

Goodlikeamedicine said...

Katherine, I so appreciate your blog and heart for the Lord!

I just listened to this program last night on my computer and almost wept especially at the last segment where a mom describes how she slid down into a slope of compromise and watched her daughter's desires for sex as a teenager run her life... not a Christian program at all, but it really got me thinking. I'm not even close to this stage yet.

Then, after reading this, just in so many little ways my heart smiled (proverbs 31:25) and thought of how it will be exciting as my daughters reach this age of discovering how their faith is or is not what they had always thought it was.... and how I want to be there and walk beside and with them all the way.

Tell me this, when your daughters were 4/5 year olds and toddlers (mine are that now), did you ever worry that focusing on teaching them the number one lesson (authority) was going to rob them of that closeness later and shove them into rebellion. I have people I love even who warn me that "first-time obedience" and consistent discipline for "minor offenses" (they're not minor to my husband and I if we have set a rule and there is blatant defiance or disobedience) are going to be the very ways that turn our children into people who hate us later. If you struggled earlier with this, how did you deal with it? When did you start seeing that your children saw you as more than just a disciplinarian and someone with a huge heart for a relationship with them?

ivegot5 said...

As the mother of a thirteen year old who is struggling with those choices, I really appreciate your sharing this with us. I'll suffice it to say, "It's a challenge". Thanks for the reminder that sometimes we just need to "be."

Laura said...

Wow - this post is amazing. I can see that the parental navigating just gets more and more interesting. I think your evening sounds like it was brimming with eternal significance too, even if it had a lot of cringing and tongue biting!

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Way to go. Undoubtedly the biggest thrill for her was that you did something a little out of character. You're so right - all they really want is our time. Great reminder.
PS - May I add you to my blogroll?

Org Junkie said...

I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this post.

You have an amazing way with your writing that is so encouraging to others.

Thank you!

Elise said...

I'm just so thankful for you, Katherine, and the way you share these things so transparently.

I think you are right - Allie, once she realized she could listen in peace and not get a lecture, probably could see the whole thing a little clearer, and put those wheels in motion for making her own decision about that music...

So proud of you. So glad you're crawling through the trenches before me, and willing to share about it. :)
Love to you.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

This is great. I think you made the right choice, but I'm with you on playing on the safe side of all things media related.

As far as the self-portrait goes--I think it's a cool factor that teens posess, and some hip adults too. You are way hipper than me, but you gotta have a certain something to make the self-portrait fly. I can spot who can do it and who can't, and I've been pretty accurate.