I have the most interesting discussions with my sons…
On the veritable cusp of manliness, we talk more now than we ever have and our discussions range from “Why did you cut your own hair when you were 4?” to “Why don’t bananas turn smoothies yellow?” All deep. All the time.
We have entered into what I have affectionately, and admittedly somewhat counter-culturally labeled ~ The Golden Years.
I have no words for how much I adore my teen boys with their stark realities. All those hard lines jumbled with relative idealism and a worldly naiveté that both frustrates and challenges me. Convicts and inspires. Always refining. They are my heart.
We have a strong relationship, the boy-bots and I. And that isn’t a pretense or wishful thinking. We still hold hands driving down the road. There are daily walk by hugs and kisses rained down upon my curly head. We sit long in the driveway and talk by the light of motion sensors on the corners of the garage, waving hands to keep the lights on and the shadows at bay.
It is my daily prayer to cherish each and EVERY moment of their presence. Even the trying ones.
When they were babies I looked forward to toddlers and I wasn’t disappointed. They made me laugh, cry, cackle maniacally, and pray. Oh, how we have prayed.
But, honestly? More than we prayed? We worked hard. We worked on manners like “Please” and “Thank You”, “Excuse Me”, and “Can I help you?”
We noticed people in the grocery store who needed a door opened, a cart returned, a cascade of falling change returned by eager grubby hands and smile saying, “Are these yours?” We talked about big ideas like love, honor, kindness, grace, gentleness, and compassion.
You see, I have always had an end game in mind for my sons. I know the vision of the men they can become.
If we work hard. Every day.
As they grew, and were welcomed everywhere we went, it wasn’t uncommon to hear, “You are SOO lucky!” Honestly, the words always felt like a slap in the face.
Luck has nothing to do with it.
See, you weren’t there for the fourth dropped cup of milk and the time out or spanking due to rude behavior. No one else oversaw the treasured item boxed up for a month or two so we could relearn how to value the things God had given us stewardship over. We didn’t have help settling rebellious 5,6,7,8 year olds who thought they should be able to go to bed whenever it suited them and not when it was time. You didn’t see the gagging 6 year old who got to drink vinegar for lying and the red faced apology to the neighbor for behaving badly. (Additional Info for clarification: So, vinegar consumption clarified: It was a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Coupled with a lengthy discussion on the “taste” of a lie in the ear of the hearer. There was copious gagging, coughing, hystrionics, and then it was over. He gagged a little.)
No one saw the cumulative hours we spent at dinner encouraging proper manners, kind conversation, or polite responses to new and unappealing foods.
No… When we went out our door, we had practiced and practiced until we were ready. Then we ventured.
And some one would invariably say, “You are sooo lucky.”
Back to the conversation with my boy… We were talking about evalutating a difficult situation and his review of my job performance.
As a person, and especially as a parent, I don’t have many mountains to die on, however, I’ve always strongly adhered to one common theme learned early in our marriage.
Encourage in public. Exhort in private.
Private can mean a group of close and trusted friends with the purpose of bringing light and encouragement. Public could be in front of a single untrustworthy acquaintance.
Wisdom knows the difference.
But mostly? Private means private. At home. With family. Face to face.
That’s where my parenting happens. Not with loud voices, or accusations, name calling, or volatile emotional outbursts that slice and dice tender young hearts until compounded anger, bitterness, resentment, and emotional scars block the sound of my love. No… With clear instruction, waiting for the opportune moment even if it is days away, discussion. Bold parameters when conversation fails us. It is our privilege and our responsibility to be the safe place, the immovable refuge, the unwavering boundary while they struggle.
We pray together.
It is a family mandate that we own our poor behavior and ask for forgiveness from each other.
Behind our closed door. In the safety of upholstered seats and throw pillows we hash out our issues, and we have plenty, until we are ready to walk forward into the light of day.
Because once we are out that door?
The only thing I want my boys to think about is that their reputations, their struggles, their honor is safe. Upheld.
More than encouragement and lofty praise, my soon to be grown men crave respect.
All the best intentions and carefully constructed relational safeguards are gone like a puff of smoke the moment I shred them in public, humiliating them by behavior better suited to an insolent toddler than the man-child towering over me. I have become the enemy and they are blinded to me by the shame of their nakedness, their awkward becoming exposed to an unkind, mocking world.
Our children wear thin cloaks of dignity. Easily shredded. Difficult to repair. Once gone? Very expensive to replace.
So, when a situation raised its ugly head and we huddled to discuss quietly, my son, using his “right of a reasonable and respectful appeal”, offered to share his side of the story and clarity emerged so that the appropriate consequence could be found for the right individual.
I took a deep breath and listened. I evaluated the people I knew in front of me. I listened some more. And then, together, we made a decision to act.
That conversation I’ve alluded to? Well, in the car ride home, my boy said quietly from the back seat, “Mom, thanks for talking to us privately and giving us a chance to talk.” A long-fingered hand reached across from the passenger seat while an ever deepening voice said, “Love ya, Mom.”
They get it.
I’m on their side. They trust me. It’s not luck. It’s hard work. It’s all the things we do at home.
Because if we don’t do it at home?
There is no point in even attempting the facade in public.