Not too long ago, my daughter got her iPod Touch taken up at school. It was Electronic Device Day, so it was perfectly legal for her to have and use it. It was not, however, Post Pictures on Instagram Day. That’s where she went wrong. And when you get your electronic device taken up at her middle school, it’ll cost ya’ $15 to get it back. That’s a pretty steep penalty when you make, well, nothing.
At the dinner table that night, when she was telling us about it, my response went something like this: “Abby, if you’re going to break a rule, you should make sure you’re good enough at it that it doesn’t cost $15.” From the look on my son’s face, and his sarcastic reply, “Nice, mom,” I’m guessing this sort of advice will probably never appear in a book called, “Things Good Parents Say to Their Children.”
I’d like to say that was an isolated incident. I can’t. Here’s a brief look at some other really awesome things I may or may not have said in my spectacular career as a parent of teenagers, and that also will be left out of the aforementioned book:
*“Are you dumb?” This is a question I asked Brandon, possibly loud enough for a large group of his friends to hear. At the time, he was about to put his car in drive while 3 girls were sitting on the hood. It was the first thing that came to my mind. Funny, since I was responding to what was obviously the first thing that came to his.
*“Abby, please stop singing. I think you may have lost some hearing with all those ear infections you had as an infant, because you could not be more off-key.” We were in the car. She was listening to music through ear buds. Also, she was 10. Sure, it was harsh, but it makes me feel better to think that her tears that day will prevent her from becoming one of those delusional people who audition for American Idol and are shocked to find out that singing is not their gift. Nope, my kid will never be one who cries, “But my mom always told me I have a beautiful voice!”
*“One point away from beating @ibrandonhopkins in 1-on-1. #waitforit” This was a tweet I posted on Twitter, complete with a mention to my teenage son, who is on his school’s varsity basketball team. What? Doesn’t every high school boy want the world to know that he hoops it up with his mom in the driveway?
It’s hard. We want to be good parents, but we mess up sometimes. And we wonder – will our mess ups mess them up? I read John Eldredge’s, Wild at Heart once, and now I worry what wound I’ve inflicted on my children that they’ll share in the adult small groups they’ll one day attend. I can hear it now: “I can remember the time my mom slammed the car door on my hand. It was just an accident, but to me, it was a metaphor for my life. My mom’s carelessness and neglect is why I am the way I am today.” Fantastic.
It’s true that the way we parent has a profound impact. We need to be diligent in our commitment to reflect Christ as we relate to our children. But it’s also true that it’s not about getting everything right. You’re going to mess up, and that’s okay. No earthly parent has ever been perfect; still, God uses us in spite of our mess ups. In fact, 1 Corinthians 12:9-10 assures us that He actually uses our imperfections to accomplish His purposes: “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul wasn’t a parent, but he knew weakness. He knew imperfection. Because he acknowledged it, he knew God’s power. God’s grace was enough for imperfect Paul. God’s grace is enough for imperfect you. More awesome still, God’s grace is enough for kids who are raised by imperfect parents.
There’s no need to worry; God loves your kids even more than you do. Instead, acknowledge your mess ups and strive to parent your teenager the best you can under God’s wisdom and direction. He’ll take care of the rest.
This is an article Cynthia wrote that appeared in the October 2012 issue of Parenting Teens.