Friends came over for dinner last week, and we sat around the table and told war stories from this past school year. Most of them involved middle school, some of them involved the authorities. I threw in a few high school/”community in crisis” stories for good measure. According to my friends, experts use our town as an example of what NOT to do when raising kids in the information and digital age. It was that kind of year. If you can imagine it, it probably happened here in our affluent, suburban, academically stellar town.
I spent most of the year scared. I have no idea how to parent in the face of this madness, in the face of heroin and alcohol and theft and cheating and kids dying and boys stirring up violence and girls selling naked photos of themselves. There is nothing new under the sun, I tell myself. I repeat it like a mantra, and I remember the days of old, the days of Sodom, of Gomorrah, the wickedness of Nero, of Rome. We are essentially unchanged as humans. We are Adam’s children, born to sin and depravity. This is an unpopular thing to say today, but it is true. I see it with my own eyes every day.
The first day of summer, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. We made it. No more calls from the vice-principal, no more seeing our school pop up on the news, no more attending funerals for young men dead from an accidental overdose. I spent most of the year scared, but I also spent most of the year on my knees. How do I parent in the face of this madness?
I make mistakes.
I will never get this parenting thing right. I won’t even come close. I will yell and ignore and set a bad example. I will fail them, repeatedly. But, I will pick myself up and begin again tomorrow. I will bend, but not break. I will never give up.
I quit judging other parents.
The stories I could tell you about the misbehavior of some of the kids I know, including my own, would curl your toes. If you heard these stories apart from real names and faces, you might feel tempted to say the words I’ve said a thousand times, “They’re learning that at home. Where are those parents? If those were my kids…” Guess what? Those were my kids, they’re not learning it at home. Where am I? I’m at their games, I’m reading their texts, I’m tucking them in, I’m on my knees. So are the other moms and dads. Let’s cut each other some slack. Let’s extend grace to all the parents who are doing the best they can with the best they’ve got. Let’s link arms, let’s surround the mothers burying their sons, let’s be a safe place for another parent to share their war stories. Let’s humbly share our own.
In the morning, during the wash cycle, at the drop off, at the pick up, at the table, in the shower, during the run, at the foot of their bed, in the quiet comfort of my own. When I feel angry, sad, elated, afraid, when I remember, when I forget, when I teach them right and they choose wrong, when I fail, when they fail too.
You are not doing this parenting thing alone, friends. There is nothing new under the sun. How can I pray for you and your kids today?