A few weeks back I got together with one of my mom friends. We don’t get together as often as we’d like and are forced to cover a wide variety of topics in a short amount of time. However, this time her oldest son dominated our conversation. My friend who unlike me isn’t a crier, spoke with tears in her eyes. Our conversation has nagged at me ever since.
Her teenage son is rebelling as teenagers are known to do. In more ways than she’d like he has turned into someone she feels she doesn’t know and it breaks her heart. She shared the struggles they’ve been going through lately and I was at a loss for words. I wanted desperately to offer some wise advice or at least comfort, but I had nothing to offer. You see my friend has more experience at this mom thing than I do. She has older kids and more kids than I do. She has a college degree in child development. Her kids are active in sports. Her family goes to church more often than ours. She has a Christian heart and is a good mother. I know this.
Yet her son is experimenting with vaping and marijuana. Challenging things for parents today as these things are portrayed as safe and legal. Worse than that, he is telling lie upon lie to cover up the rules he has broken. The bad choices could be understandable, but the lying hurts. He is to some extent doing what teenagers do. But he is also going against everything he has been raised to do and be. She is afraid he is on the edge of a very slippery slope.
She gave me an education in administering home drug tests. Something I’d never even thought of. There are already too many days when I feel like childhood goes by far too quickly and this fast-forwarded to a place I’m not ready for. Trust no longer exists in their relationship. What a sad day that is. It seems unnatural to have a child who not so long ago loved you and depended on you turn against you.
The only thing I could offer her was prayer. I prayed that God would give her the wisdom I didn’t have to offer. I prayed that her son would know at his core that he was so immensely loved despite his indiscretions. I prayed that their family could find a unity and for trust to be restored. I selfishly prayed that my own son would not put me through this agony in the years ahead.
Another friend and I got together for lunch and were talking about our kids as moms do. I shared with her some of the challenges our mutual friend was going through to see if she had any advice to offer. All of the things that we do in hopes of sending our kids down a safe path—be involved, go to church, pray, spend time together, make school a priority, etc. were all being done. All of the things and still, there was this breakdown. That’s when my friend said, “So is it all just a crap shoot?”
We raise them to leave us, but quietly hope they won’t. We encourage them to try things, but not all things. We want them to be brave, but not reckless.
The gift of those early sleepless nights is that much of our baby’s life in under our control. We always know where they are, what they’ve eaten, all of their bodily functions, and how they’ve slept or not slept. Then little by little, they venture out further and further from our reach. They get too far for our watchful eyes to see. We can no longer protect them in the same way we desperately want to.
If there was a checklist for properly raising kids my friend could confidently check the boxes and yet it may not be enough. She has tried to explain to her son that he can either just get through the next few years or he can make the most of them. Whichever he chooses will likely shape his future. He is young and rebellious so he likely doesn’t see it so clearly. He sees the confines of a straight and narrow path and wants to go his own f-ing way—his words not mine.
So there are no guarantees. We love them with all we’ve got. We provide opportunities and a soft place to land. We encourage them. We cry with them. We hope for the best. And we pray for them over and over again.