Thoughts for this post started as a question on Facebook. “In a Christian homeschool group I’m in, a mom asked if others would allow their 14-year-old to see a movie alone with another teen (same gender friend, not a date with the opposite sex). I was surprised by the responses. So I’m curious how you would answer that question. And about your reasoning behind your answer.” Check out Ben & Me Blog Page to see the answers.
I couldn’t believe this was even a question. My boys have gone bowling, to the beach, to community, cultural and sporting events, movies, youth groups – all without me. Almost always with a friend or meeting a friend there. This started when they were about 11.
We started with walks around our cute downtown area of a central Oregon town. After a co-op class they’d cross over 2-3 blocks to go to a candy store or a pizza by the slice place. They wanted the thrill of going with out me. A dozen friendly business establishments between their destination and the school building, where they could use a phone or ask for help along the way. Safe enough.
This was when we bought a shared cell phone for them to carry. Inexpensive, no data, but a nice cellular leash so that I could call them, more than they ever called me. Whoever was away from home or the group would take the device.
We are a volunteer family. My older son had (still has) a much larger passion for it. He and a friend would go and stack wood, load food pantry shelves, work at community events, run sound systems, whatever was needed. I didn’t need to be there. He knows how to communicate and be aware of his surroundings.
As they got older the group events started more and more. Teens playing hide and go seek in the dark. Paintball wars. Hikes. Fishing, surfing, bonfires.
And this is the thought I woke up to this morning, combined with Marcy’s post.
This crazy assumption that group events would be safe,
that my presence would ward off evil, and that guy/girl relationships would be prevented by having more people.
Many of the folks with the strongest ideas admit their kids are still small, ‘But this is what we are going to do to skip any pain whatsoever.” Good luck with that.
I have two boys, whom I often refer to as Ying and Yang. My parenting, worrying, Bible studies, Awana, Youth Group attendance, groups or solo, and bold Facebook Posts have not really protected them from all harm. They have each approached relationships (guy or girl) in opposite ways.
One of my favorite lines, that I can not find the original source for, is “They may be Christian kids from a Christian home, but they were not born with Christian Hormones”. True That. They will be attracted to the opposite gender at an early age. They will be curious and look for ways to seek answers.
Your fear parenting will not stop it.
It will only keep you out of the loop.
Kids in groups develop secret crushes. They even talk to parents about courting. Oh, use a cute word and always have supervision and you won’t be a grandma early. Is that your only goal? Time passes, and they realize they don’t want to ‘court’ and stop? break up? what is the word for not courting? Anyways, they stop and hearts are broken, families that thought they were knit together are now awkward around each other. It feels more like a courting divorce, than two kids who lost a crush.
Kids in groups secretly date. Homeschool, public school and high school. Parents say they aren’t allowed to date, so it isn’t official. The kids know. They all know that Suzie and Billy are an item. The parents can be heard bragging, ‘Not in my house, Susie isn’t allowed to date.” I giggle and think – Good for you! Glad that’s working out for you. I saw Billy buying items at the pharmacy this week. Just sayin’.
Not all kids who do things in pairs are couples. Not all pairs of two boys are meeting up with two girls. Not all boys who are a pair like each other (as suggested on the post). Not every guy who grabs a taco with a girl has a crush on her.
Here’s the deal. Communicate. Put everything on the table. Instead of spending their younger years collecting a list of fear based rules, make it a daily habit to have deep conversations that engage the hearts of your children.
Who are they? What do they like? What level are they on in that game? What friends make them feel special? What did the kid do that made them feel honored? What did their friend do that hurt their feelings? What do they do to make others feel valued? What activities do they enjoy? What are they doing only to be obedient, but they really don’t like?
If you know the heart of your child,
you won’t have to spend time fearing their choices.
Are there bad people everywhere? Well, I don’t think it’s as prevalent as most assume, but yes.
Is it possible for your child to get or become a crush? Yep.
Is it possible that your kid might find himself in shenanigans and poor choices while with friends? I can guarantee it.
But if your home has a habit of sharing, of knowing that they won’t be punished for opening up, they’ll tell you about it. Good and bad.
My older son had a fun evening with an amazing group of kids this weekend. Believers and non believers. Homeschool and –gasp- public schoolers. Free spirited wild and crazy kids with great hearts. Not a whole lot of common sense. . . .sigh, but good fun. He came home and told me all sorts of details I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d share with my parents.
My younger son has found a best friend out of the sporting events, church events, and evening group nights in town. Sounds weird at such a young age, but they feel like soul mates. For right now, they need each other. Who knows what the future will bring, but I can not prayerfully find an answer that says – ‘because I fear what they may are may not do, they can’t be friends until they are 22’.
My plea is to put a stop to fear based parenting decisions. Our lives are a crazy adventure. We’ve experienced opportunities I’ve never dreamed of. We’ve way stepped over the line of conservative Christian homeschoolers with our choices the past few years. I’ve looked a the fear based formulas and they didn’t fit the circumstances that God allowed in our lives.
Retreat – or live crazy forward moving lives. I pick the latter. Every time.
Pray passionately. Live lovingly. Communicate openly. Dig into scripture and pour it out over them. Allow the space for them to test, try, taste, and see that the Lord is in fact good, close, personal, and full of strength.