December 27, 2016
Each year, during the week between Christmas and New Years Day, I highlight the top 6 From The Deacon’s Desk posts of the year.
Here is #5 in the countdown, posted in March, titled: Parenting: Navigating the Land Mines
Being a parent today takes courage, vigilance, and prayer.
Carol and I had it easier than parents do today. I don’t think kids are any better or worse, but the world has so many more pitfalls and land mines to navigate than in the past.
I think back to when I was young. We would play outside with neighborhood kids for hours. I would leave my house first thing in the morning on a Saturday and not return home until after dark that evening, usually when I heard Dad’s whistle indicating it was time for dinner.
My parents were not negligent; there was simply very little to fear. They were confident that wherever I was, I was safe. Doors were left unlocked. We went in and out of friends’ homes. We ate lunch in one house, worked on a tree fort one street over, and then grabbed our bikes and rode over to the next neighborhood to play baseball with about thirty kids, half of whom I didn’t even know.
Throughout the day, I never called home to check in, or to let Mom know that I was leaving one location and going to another. I know I grew up BC (before cellphones), but there was no need to call home. It would have never crossed my mind to do it, or my Mom’s mind to expect it. She knew I would be fine.
I grow nostalgic when I think about it. I am not saying that the “good old days” were perfect, or that everything modern is bad. However, I believe that the days of feeling confident that our children are safe are over. There’s too much out there to ignore.
Which brings me back to my opening thought: Being a parent today takes courage, vigilance, and prayer.
It takes courage because we need to say, “No” to our kids more than we’d like. We love them and want them to be happy. Saying “No” to them is difficult.
- Saying “No” to going on an unsupervised spring break
- Saying “No” to going over to a friend’s house whose parents are not home
- Saying “No” to a 1:00 a.m. curfew (as a general rule)
- Saying “No” to allowing kids to drink in your home
- Saying “No” to male-female group sleepovers
- Saying “No” to having computer / phone access at night in their bedrooms.
It can be so exhausting! Their faces drop each time you say “No” and you feel like the worst parent. Then your child informs you that you are the worst parent because “everyone else’s parents are OK with it!” (Note: Everyone else’s parents are not OK with it. They may be waiting to see how you respond.)
Learn to add alternatives to your “No.” No, you can’t go over and hang out at Joe’s house because his parents aren’t home, but your friends could come here…or I am happy to take you guys bowling or __________________ (insert alternative activity here).
It takes vigilance because modern society poses more threats than ever. Internet porn, child predators, date rape drugs, synthetic drugs, and easier access than ever to…well, everything. There are no limits to what people will do and invite others to do.
What is vigilance? It is what your children might call “being nosy” or “invasion of privacy.” It means knowing where your children are and whom they are with at all times. That may mean making phone calls to the parents of your children’s friends, and taking the time to get to know the people with whom your kids are spending their time.
It means gaining and maintaining full access to whatever electronic devices your kids have (even if they bought it with their own money). It means knowing who they are communicating with, what they are communicating, and what they are gaining access to on the Internet.
My goal is not to frighten you, or maybe it is. However, my primary goal is to encourage you in your efforts to fight the good fight. Think as your child’s parent, not as his or her friend.
Pray daily for courage. It is not an “I don’t trust my child” issue; it is an “I care enough to do this” issue.
Warning: Showing courage and vigilance are likely to make you ineligible for the title of “The Fun Parent.” In addition, you should know that there is very little extrinsic reward for your efforts.
The only immediate payback is that your children are safe – and isn’t that enough to make it worthwhile?