Many of us have heard our child’s grandparents knowingly chuckle as they speak of payback. How it is our turn now . . . 

Recently, my husband and I got together with three other couples for dinner. The guys all went to high school together. The wives were around in high school or shortly after so the stories told were not new to them. I’d heard some of the glory day takes before too, but not as the mother of a tween; the stories sounded different this time around. A small knot formed in my stomach as I sat there listening to them reminisce.

I couldn’t help but think, “Heaven help me if we’re about to get payback for my husband’s youthful indiscretions.”

Nearly every story made me cringe. You see, my husband and his buddies pretty much did everything I hope my son won’t. They:

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Skipped school
Drove too fast
Totaled a car
Drank too much
Purchased illegal substances from a shady looking house in the bad part of town
Got up-close and personal with girls
Stayed out all night
Got kicked out of college

And many combinations of the above. 

When I met my husband, he had gotten his act together. He had more life experience than I had for sure, but he wasn’t what I’d describe as a bad boy. He was wilder than I was, but he was a gentleman. By then, he had a full-time job and goals for the future.

Growing up, his parents were fairly strict—not as strict as they had been with his sisters,  but strict. They lived in a nice neighborhood and went to a Catholic church. Certainly, they’d raised him to know right from wrong.

But he had rebelled. By the time I met him though, he had already begun to regret some of those choices. It wasn’t long before he was back to college full-time while working part-time. We graduated college, bought a house, got married, had a child, and became about as boring of homebodies as ever there was. From the safety of our middle-aged perspective, we can look back and laugh on his younger days.

All of that rebellious behavior didn’t deter him from becoming a responsible adult. He grew into a respectful partner. A provider. A loving father.

That bad teen became a good man.

He is lucky, or some would say blessed, to have escaped those years without injury or criminal record.

After our night out with those couples, I asked my husband about the parents of the other guys. I was curious to know what parenting styles they’d grown up with, hoping to glean some parenting wisdom of my own. Turns out the most innocent, rule-abiding among the four had the most lenient rules, the latest curfew, and the most open relationship. Interesting.

As tempting as it may be to keep our own son on house arrest, I don’t think it’s the answer. Surely, there will be rules. But I think the key to keeping him out of harm’s way may be giving him boundaries and letting him explore them. A lifeguard doesn’t swim alongside you; he doesn’t adjust your floatie and bring you water to make sure you’re staying hydrated. Lifeguards post the rules, keep watch, and take action only when needed.

If my husband’s teen years are an indicator of what’s ahead, this mama is in for a lot of long, worry-filled nights. My hope is that we’re laying the groundwork now, establishing the boundaries early, and loving him well.

He’ll mess up; we all do. But with a good dose of prayer and luck, he will become a good man.

Michelle Koch

Michelle truly believes that our lives are meant to be amazing adventures and that those adventures can keep us close to home or take us around the world. She dreams of living in the country, but within close proximity to a Target. She is married to a guy she has loved for more than 25 years and doesn’t feel old enough for that to be possible. Her son has her wrapped around his dirty little fingers. Michelle writes about seeking grace, celebrating beauty, and living with gratitude at One Grateful Girl. You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.