Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sticking to What We Know Is Right

Everyday, I learn new lessons in parenting and I pray for the strength and guidance to make the right decisions in the loving and leading of my children.

Last night, we were sitting out by the pool (yes, it's already swimming weather here in 97 degree Fresno!) and Eric (son #1, and the one who'd make a great lawyer) said, "Mom, I have three questions for you".

"OK, bring them on!"

Question Number One - "Can I still go the dance at Sacred Heart on Friday night?" (Background - Sacred Heart is a local Catholic school who has invited other junior high students to their end of the year dance. I initially thought it was a great idea, but it is now scheduled for the night before the Catholic high school's big Math test to determine placement in honors classes for next year.)

Mom's Silent Gut Instinct - No way, you're going to be taking a test in the morning that could determine your academic path for the next four years. I want you tucked into bed by 9:00 pm, dreaming of algebraic equations.

Mom's Response - "OK, Eric, you can go but I'm going to be picking you up early, by 9:15 so that you get a good night's sleep before your test."

Question Number Two - "The guys are going to the movies after school on Friday. Can I go?"

Mom's Initial Response - "OK sweetie. Adam's got fencing so I need to work out ride stuff, but it should be ok."

Mom's Secondary Query - "What are you seeing?" (I know, this should have been the very first question, but I was dazed by the heat and temporarily off my game.)

Son's Sheepish Response - "XYZ" (Insert name of controversial blockbuster film opening at theaters this weekend and the source of great public outcry)

Mom's Final Word on Question #2 - "Nope, you're not seeing "XYZ" on Friday. Thanks for asking, and I will consider other movie options, but you're not seeing that movie." (Thankfully we have a long standing rule about seeing PG13 movies that haven't been pre-screened by a parent).

Question #3 - "Are you sure I still can't go see the XYZ (insert name of outrageous punk band) concert in August?" (Apparently, he's in the mood to debate!).

Mom's (Repeated) Response - "Yes, I'm sure you won't be going to that concert." (Delivered calmly, despite the fact that this particularly topic has been discussed numerous times in the past month.) "But thanks for asking again."

Son's Response - "Why?"

Mom's Comeback - "For the same reasons Dad and I gave you last week when we discussed this topic."

Son's Response - "OK. Do we have any bacon?"

Mom's Response - "Yes, I bought some today!!!" (Finally, a question I can answer affirmatively!)

I've come to accept that parenting this particularly child involves a little give and take, and much negotiation. He will follow rules set for him, but feels better about the following when he's participated in a discussion about the thinking behind them and had his say about the fairness of the rule.

This particular child, owing to his temperament, will question his limits. He will test the waters, wanting to tread out into the deeper ones without supervision. He is, by nature, an adventurer. He is on the verge of new horizons, and anxious to run out and explore them. He wants to live life to its fullest, to try new things, and to be the best he can be.

At times like last night's poolside chat, I think about how much easier it would be to be like "everybody else's parents". The ones who drop the kids off at the multiplex theater on the weekend, unsupervised, and pick them up three hours later. The ones who don't have a "bedtime" and allow their kids to talk on the phone or IM as late as they want. The ones who accompany their kids to punk rock concerts because they think it's cool.

The funny thing is, I think most of my son's friends parents are more like me. Who is "everybody else"? Most of my son's peers have the same limits placed on them by parents who share our same moral framework for parenting. I think "everybody else" is a fictional group of kids, used to pressure parents into going against what they know in their heart and soul is right.

I'm pretty sure that my teenage son is convinced that if he just asks me enough times, the water-torture method of wearing me down will result in the response he desires. His problem is that I can be so bull-headed about some things.

I know he's going to keep asking, and keep pushing those limits. I'm still learning about parenting in this new phase of life, still praying every day for the strength and wisdom to help him along life's path.

Current strategy: pray lots, keep making time for our chats, and keep lots of bacon in the house.


Mom Nancy said...

I think it's amazing that you can stay calm when pushed. Those are the kinds of things that drive me crazy. I guess I need to pray more!

Lisa M. Hendey said...

Nancy, "Calm" is a relative word, isn't it? I think he can sense my moods, and I do better in my discussions like this with him when I remain as unemotional as possible. I'm also sort of catching onto his game - he kind of likes the debate, the give and take, so he will keep asking when he knows the answer is unlikely to change. He's done that since he was little. When I get into trouble is when I start to backpeddle on stuff. I'm never sure what I'm doing is the right thing - this is my first experience with parenting a teen, and it does require prayer and a great deal of humility. I'm also learning to not judge others, because I never know for sure what my own little sweeties might do when faced with temptation. I'll pray for you, and you pray for me!

KMW said...

Lisa, I feel like we are running in parallel paths... 8th graders pushing the limits. Thank you for posting this recent "chat" I need to read stuff like that to support me in my parenting. I too am a "strict" mom according to my daughter as her schoolmates seem to have unlimited freedoms. Ohhh well, we will have a whole new set of friends to hear about in the fall.

Pray for the calm reaction... Pray for calm.. Pray for calm. That is my constant prayer.

Thanks again.

Lisa M. Hendey said...

K, Good to know we're not in it alone, huh?! L.

Sue said...

This was a great post. I have been enjoying your blog for some time. As the mom of three teens (19yob, 17yob, 14yog) as well as a 10yog and 4yob, I know just what you mean - keep praying and talking. I find this stage challenging, but praying gets me through - sometimes even in the middle of a "chat", I will whisper a Hail Mary so I don't throttle my teen! Knitting helps to calm my nerves too :). Stick to what you know is right - God gives us wisdom for parenting. Too much is at stake at this stage of our kids' lives.

Lisa M. Hendey said...

Sue, Wow - maybe that's why I took up knitting this year! I love it too!