Thursday, August 28, 2008

Parenting & Living our values

Last night I was awake for a very long time, trying to think about what the best approach is to this new era of parenting. I'm frightened.

Deciding to homeschool was not in any way a decision to "protect" my children from the world; on the contrary, they are very aware of current events, and real issues in the world. However, they are not very worldly in other ways, I guess.

I mentioned the other day that my oldest, 12.5, is making some new friends through her cheerleading, and they are all school kids, and from what I can tell, low-income, broken homes (kind of like ours, but without the access to the education we've had). I consider myself a liberal parent; I give a lot choices, I challenge my kids to think outside the box, I'm comfortable with them expressing themselves in a variety of ways...that is very different from the lack of direction and parenting I see happening with these kids.

My daughter is dismayed by the serious lack of self-image in all of the girls, and the negative body talk that is constant. I am dismayed by the talk of multiple boyfriends, stealing beer, doing drugs, etc. in kids that are 12-13. I think some of these kids are kids who don't have direction, and are exposed to older kids, or adults who make poor decisions. She feels young compared to these girls - but she is so much older in some ways.

I grew up in a very screwed up environment, and I was doing these things - but at 15 - not at 11 or 12. These kids are still babies - they have no life experience. They are in all kinds of danger - legal, physical, sexual, etc. I was a baby too, and thought I was cool enough to handle it. But a 15 yo is different from an 11 yo. And I cried last night, thinking of how these kids must be feeling inside to be exhibiting such negative outward behavior. I wouldn't wish those feelings on any kid.

I don't want to be controlling about friendships, but I'm very concerned about how to balance providing a different model for these kids by inviting them here to hang out where I can provide supervision and a different viewpoint against my kids being exposed to ideas about sneaking out at night, stealing alcohol, being in love at 12, being suspended from school in 6th grade, the negative connotations of school as a prison, not a place to learn; racist comments about the black kids at school. The girl that visited yesterday also told multiple lies - ridiculous ones. Unnecessary ones.

I can always keep the door open for my daughter to talk to me - I hope she never feels that she has to sneak around or steal from me; but up till now, I don't think the idea has ever crossed her mind!

As a parent, how do you put your own values on the line by potentially putting your children in situations where there is risk?

As someone on a path to ministry, these are questions I struggle with - personal sacrifice, family sacrifice, how to provide safe space without judgment for others' choices; to give and care with humility and love, and how to be smart about it. I'd love to hear people's thoughts.

It's really hard not to be judgmental about what I see as lack of values, and to feel superior in some mean, small part of myself.

But, for the grace of God, there go I.


goodwolve said...

We talked. A lot. My daughter just left for college and I have to tell you that she was lonely a lot in High School because we were strict about having to know where she was, who her friends were, who the parents were, etc.

But we talked about WHY. She knew the risks and why we were still protecting her. I have to tell you that she is now a very balanced girl who shares her fears, her ideas, her opinions with us.

In the end the importance of family is what mattered to us. Friends come and go and we stay around forever.

Good luck to you... this is hard stuff.

Kelly KH said...

Thankfully, we do talk a lot. We talked today about my concerns, and it led to a broader conversation about ministry, systems breakdown, and what leads to some global cultural issues, as well as nature vs. nurture, original sin, etc.

She's a sensitive kid, and smart. That doesn't mean she won't get led around by her nose at some point, but I hope that our involvement will help keep her safe (and give her an out if she finds herself in an uncomfortable situation).