A funny game that has come out of all this craziness is what I call the "Would You Still Love Me" game. It goes something like this: Libby-10 is flaring her nostrils so wide that an elephant could crawl up inside. She says to me, "Mom, what would you do if my nostrils were stuck like this all the time?"
My answer (she knows it's coming), "I'd love you just the same."
"What if I talked like this [insert hiccuping noises] all the time."
"I'd love you just the same."
When Allie-15 has had hair issues, she's asked me (while highlighting or un-highlighting her hair), "Mom, what would you do if all my hair broke off 1/2" from my head?"
"Well, keep processing your hair so much, and that's a distinct possibility. But I'd love you just the same. Maybe I'd buy you a hat to keep your head warm, though."
"What if I was just really not very smart?"
"I'd love you just the same."
When the whole thing about Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy came out, though, the game took on a more serious tone: "What would you do if I told you I was pregnant?"
Allie, Libby and I had all been standing around, joking in the kitchen. Now, suddenly, there was a palpable silence in the room. Sheesh, I should have known this would be coming. And as much as I knew this was supposed to be a rhetorical question, there was just enough questioning in Allie's eyes for me to be caught off-guard. I looked at my beautiful girls - one already a teenager - and felt the pang of reality hit me.
Allie stammered, finally, "I...I think you'd be mad at me."
Oh. My. Gracious. How come this one is not in all the parenting books? How on earth do I answer? No, I don't condone the behavior, but once it's a fact, what do you do?
Now, granted, I have no doubts as to Allie's commitment to purity. We have talked ad nauseum over the years. (Remember this conversation - over two years ago - where she asked me what I would do if she kissed a boy?). But this year - finally - I see that it has truly become her own conviction, not just mine.
And although Libby hasn't been on her Passport to Purity weekend with me (we'll do it this spring), she is watching Allie carefully. I see her convictions becoming cemented in, even though she doesn't really understand it all yet. And wouldn't you know, she has a friend whose college-age sister just had a baby. She's already watched this whole scene played out in real life.
"Mad? No, I don't think I'd be mad." The girls' eyes were glued on me. Now look who's stammering! Ack!
"I think when something like that happens, you'd be so disappointed and upset at yourself, that my being mad at you isn't going to help things. I'm sure I'd have a lot of mixed feelings."
There was noticeably less tension in the air as the conversation went on. Was it the relief knowing that Mom wouldn't bring down the hammer? We talked a lot about how much responsibility a baby is, about God's intention is for people to be married before they have babies [I wanted to keep it simple because Libby was in on the conversation].
"But we also know that He forgives all sins, not just the little ones. He always gives second chances. So would we. Besides, it's not the baby's fault. Babies are a gift from God, no matter what. It would be hard, but I know we'd get through it."
Then, because I knew exactly what words they wanted to hear most from me, I kept going: "And I'd love you just the same."
These are the questions I asked myself in that post two years ago. They are worth reviewing today, maybe even more so now.
And my prayer has not changed:
- 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.
*********Resources that are giving us courage to talk through these TOUGH issues:
Passport to Purity (my experience), Family Life (sorry the links are all bad - here is where to find it on the Family Life website. Search on "purity"):
Passport to Purity
True Love Waits
Parenting Today's Adolescent and Interviewing Your Daughter's Date, by Dennis & Barbara Rainey
Pure Excitement by Dr. Joe White - Dennis is reading this out loud to Neal-13, and I'm reading it to Allie. Be prepared - it's direct! Better from us than from someone else, though, right?