I'm not a veteran parent, so excuse me if I come across like I know everything, which clearly I don't. However, I am a parent with four children who take every last ounce of my energy, so I am talking from my experience with being tired. With that said...
Last night at church Dave and I didn't hear a word that was spoken from stage. Unfortunately for us, since the current series is on marriage and we know we can benefit from it. Instead of listening intently, we were completely distracted by the sideshow performance right in front of us. There was a young boy and girl sitting in the row right ahead of us. To be safe, I would say they were maybe 15 or 16 years old. They couldn't keep their hands off each other. They couldn't stop whispering in eachother's ears. They couldn't stop fidgeting and repositioning so they could be as inappropriate in church as possible. Dave and I exchanged looks as if saying, "should we say something to them?" But we didn't. At one point I had to bite my fist to keep my mouth from opening something that would not have been said in love. We were questioning their ages until she revealed her hand and her chubby little girl hands appeared with each nail painted a different shade of pastel and then we knew she was just a little girl.
I am not naive to think that kids are being promiscuous at fifteen. I guess I was naive to think that they would be a little more sneaky then to go as far as possible as they could in a church service. She had two long sleeve shirts on, but her boyfriend kept covering her up with his jacket. It wasn't cold - although my internal thermometer is totally messed up after four kids, I know it wasn't cold.
At one point, a man, sitting two seats down from the couple looked at the girl and sarcastically said, "Are you cold?" She looked at him and said, "ya." He was an older gentleman and we couldn't help but chuckle at the obvious sarcasm. But what shocked us was that before the service was over, the man looked at the young girl and said, "I'm ready. Let's go." He was her dad!!! Which leads me to my point.
I know quite a few parents who after a certain amount of years give up. Whether that be three, eight years or fifteen, they just give up. Parenting is too hard. It's a lost cause. Their kids are too screwed up, too much to handle, too out of control. They have tried as much as they think is possible, nothing has worked, and they have given up. This scenario has greatly frustrated me as long as I have been aware of it, but last night it made me sad. This young teenage couple was on a slippery slope. If they were that nonchalant about behaving that way in church, how are they behaving at home? This girl and this boy are compromising in ways that will affect their futures and the saddest part was that her dad was sitting idly by. Dave was about to fly through the roof in frustration. His mind instantly went to if Emma was behaving that way - the poor boy probably wouldn't have the ability to walk after the church service. This girl's daddy was supposed to protect her and he just ignored it all.
Parenting is hard, and I know I'm in for it when I have four teenagers at the same time. I know that I'm going to be pounding my head against the wall when I have two teenage girls. And I am not delirious enough to imagine that we will be immune to any of it simply because of the effort we put in to parenting while they are little. Already our kids have attitudes and personalities that surprise me. Yesterday at Costco, it was crowded and my usually very polite son looked at some people in front of us and said, "get out of my way people!" That was a proud moment! Embarrassed, Dave and I pulled our cart off to the side and admonished Luke for speaking that way. I have been told that three years is just a little looking glass into what thirteen will be like and I know we have quite the task waiting for us. And that task, with four kids will take every ounce of effort and teamwork between Dave and me as possible. How overwhelming and discouraging those years will be if we just give up?
I know I am an idealist in hoping with all my might the thousand times a day we tell our kids we love them and how beautiful and handsome they are will make them confident and give them the ability to make good choices when it comes to relationships. They may mess up but to the best of our ability we want to protect them from making those choices that will permanently affect them.
I know this post is all over the place, but this really affected me last night. Please don't give up on your kids. Please don't decide that playing the game takes too much effort and just go sit on the sidelines. Play hard. Work hard. Be hands on in the game working till the buzzer goes off. When we decide to be parents we decide to have a job for the rest of our lives. Our kids are our jobs - and any job that you just sit on your duff and don't actually work at will not be a job in which you advance or succeed.
Please for the sake of your kids, run hard to the finish line. Don't give up. Because I'm sure that the prize at the end of this if we run the race set before us with determination and focus will be rewarding.