Over the last couple of weeks we’ve tried to have the kids’ friends over to our house as much as possible before we moved. During two of these occasions I learned a couple of hard, but good, lessons that I would like to share with you.
After the kid’s going away party Tucker had a friend spend the night and I allowed the two boys to teepee (toilet paper, roll, etc.) a friend’s house up the street. Tucker is big time into doing this lately. I have always felt like it was harmless fun, and in some odd way, our family has always considered it an honor when our house is teepeed.
Well, on this particular night, this particular father did not concur. He came home, caught the boys in the act, and proceeded to grab Tucker’s friend, throw him on the ground and make him lie there with his hands behind his neck while he interrogated Tucker. (Did I mention that the dad was in the military police?)
Tucker knew the man’s son and wife, but the father did not know him. The father was pretty surprised when he had Tucker call me and I was completely aware of where the boys were and what they were doing. I apologized for any disturbance, explained that I was not aware that their actions were illegal and assured him that the boys would clean things up and come straight home.
The next morning I called the police department to find out the laws regarding rolling somebody’s house. The young officer explained that technically it was illegal although he had never personally seen the law enforced and he had engaged in quite a bit of the fun himself as a kid. Nonetheless, the two boys and I wrote letters of apology and left them on the family’s doorstep the next morning.
With this new information I had a dilemma, could I still allow Tucker to engage in this activity and break the law? Was I a bad parent for thinking this was okay in the first place? Would Tucker’s friend’s parents think I was irresponsible for allowing their son to get into a situation where he was thrown on the ground by a policeman?
After all was said and done we decided to take a break from teepeeing for a while. In the future, we will make sure that the benefactor of Tucker’s strange display of affection will feel the same way we do about the junior high ritual. That way, it is no longer illegal because it won’t be considered trespassing if BOTH parents are cool about it.
I don’t have room to go into as much detail about the second lesson I learned, but suffice to say, my parenting choices were called into question again later in the week. I allowed Tucker and another friend a bit more freedom than perhaps I should have and they found themselves in a situation that was new for them involving girls.
I was well aware of what was happening and I allowed it to continue because I thought the boys were handling it admirably and I felt it was important for them to have the freedom to practice making some choices when the consequences weren’t huge if they didn’t make the right ones. Well, not everyone agreed with my decision or my analysis of how the boy’s handled the situation.
My first reaction was guilt and shame. I felt like I was doing a terrible job learning how to parent a teenager. But then, in the middle of my self-flagellation the Lord reminded me of three important lessons in quick succession.
The first thing he reminded me of was the truth that ultimately the only One I have to answer to for my choices is Him. I cannot decide how I should parent based on anybody else’s views. If I do that I will be tossed around by the waves of opinion. One minute I will be perceived as too lenient and the next, overly protective.
I must stay true to raising each of my kids “in the way they should go.” And the truth is, because every child is different, the way one kid should go is not necessarily the way another one should. I didn’t say the direction they should go is up for discussion, simply the way they should get there will be according to each individual.
The second thing I learned was that I don’t have to be completely wrong to still learn how to do something “righter.” I could waste my time defending my decisions or I could ask myself, “What can I learn from this person’s point of view? Should I re-think my position?” In both cases this week I made adjustments to my parenting choices after being confronted with new information and a different perspective. Rather than focus on what a bad parent I felt like, I decided to swallow my pride and take it as a chance to learn how to be a better parent.
And lastly, and most importantly, this week I was slapped in the face again with how critical it is that we don’t judge each other as parents. For the most part, we are truly all doing the best we can. We are going to make some mistakes. And sometimes we are just going to look like we are making mistakes when, in reality, we are just making different choices according to the way our children should go. Only God knows the difference.
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