“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
I just read an article that connects helicopter parenting to binge drinking. It was sad and tragic and an awful indicator of where the next generation could be headed. The article divided parents into 2 categories: Good Parents and Get-Real Parents. Good Parents teach abstinence and consequence while Get-Real Parents accept the inevitability of teenage drinking and opt to keep their kids safe instead of sober. Often times, the Get-Real Parents might host parties and collect keys in an attempt to control consumption and limit any resulting damage.
As I read the article, I was proud to fall into the Good Parent category, but it also brought up some anger in me. I have three kids and my two sons are a junior and freshman in high school. From the start, my husband and I have established high expectations for them in terms of life choices. Not academics, not vocation, not athletics. Life values. The stuff that counts. The stuff that can define who you are and what your path is.
Don’t drink before you’re 21. Period. And once you can drink, don’t drink to excess. It only brings regret. Don’t smoke. Don’t even try it. It will turn your lungs to black slime. Don’t do drugs. Any of them. Don’t smoke pot even if your best friend is. Furthermore, remove yourself from any situation where any of these activities are happening. Blame us, blame teachers and homework, blame your coach, blame the dog. Just get out. And don’t have sex before marriage. The idea of sexual compatibility is a lie the world has fed a hungry generation. Find your soulmate and be true to them. To only them.
There are obviously lots of other things we try and instill. Love. Honesty. Kindness. Wisdom. Forgiveness. Compassion. It’s a long list and nearly all of it can be found in the pages between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22. But those aren’t as controversial. After all, doesn’t every parent want their kid to be loving and kind? Don’t we all want our kids to tell the truth?
But the other stuff. The drinking, drugs and sex. That’s a little more contentious and debated. And that’s where I take some heat. I don’t have conversations about it very much anymore, mostly because of the reaction it can illicit, but when I do, it’s usually a nearly scripted response.
“Every kid drinks.”
“They’re kids. They’ll try stuff.”
“They need to experience life.”
“It’s just a stage. Just be supportive.”
And I call bull. Not every kid drinks. Not every kid needs to try destructive or damaging experiences in order to feel joy. They do need to experience life but why does that have to include alcohol or drugs or sex? I will be supportive. I will be supportive of the goal to make wise choices.
Perhaps my favorite argument is the one I hear the most. “That’s just unrealistic.” And again, I call bull. It is absolutely realistic. I know. Because it was my reality. Call it a miracle, call it luck or call it what it actually was – awareness, perspective, determination. I was a good kid who didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs or have sex. I studied hard but also had a ton of friends and went to lots of parties. Somehow I realized early on that fun could be had all on its own without any help. And while I don’t have stories about wild nights or crazy weekends, I also don’t have regrets.
All that said, when I tell other parents even just a glimpse of my story, I get another classic response. “Well, you were the exception.” Exactly! I was the exception and I’m asking my children to be exceptions as well. What I find ironic is that every parent I know is asking their children to be the exception, but not in these areas.
“Study hard. Take honors and AP classes. Be an exceptional student.”
“Go to practice. Work your butt off. Be an exceptional athlete.”
“Show up on time. Respect your boss. Be an exceptional employee.”
“Be selfless. Be an exceptional community servant.”
“Be an exceptional friend.”
“Be an exceptional person.”
Why do we so badly want our children to be exceptions in every area but this one? Why do we encourage and expect them to rise above and stand apart from the crowd when it comes to academics, athletics and vocation but we give them a pass when it comes to life choices that are just as, if not more important? We expect them to handle academic and athletic pressures with adult maturity but we chalk up their poor choices to immaturity and let them slide. More to the point we give them permission to slide. We drill them on grades and performance but then assure them we will look the other way when they make decisions that could cause permanent and irreversible damage.
Let me add one more thing. My children know the bar is set high. They know what we expect and they know that poor choices will bring disappointment and most likely, punishment. However, they also know they will be loved. They are confident in their forgiveness. As many times as we tell them to make wise choices, we follow it up with hammered-in truth of forgiveness and grace. If they fall, if they fail, we will always catch them. We will love them through the consequences and we will never stop believing or wanting the best for them.
I want my children to be better than the world tells them they can be. I want them to rise above the mire our society wants to tether them to. I want them to resist the lies that seek to reduce and define them. I want them to be exceptional.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”