I am continuing my thoughts on the balancing act we as parents often have between fear and trust. I just spent the weekend talking with my 11-year-old son Sean about purity and puberty (you know…the TALK). I think we both learned a lot about each other during this process.
For example, I learned more about the girl that he has a crush on, his first crush. He told me that she is very cute to him, but he is embarrassed to even think about being alone with her. He is afraid that she will know what to do, since he knows he doesn’t. He also told me that he does not believe he is mature enough to actually go on a date with this girl, or anyone else for that matter….We agreed.
He learned a bit about my dating history, or rather my relative lack of dating history. He learned that I am serious about helping him to honor God with his sexuality, and that I still remember the pressures that come with being a pre-teen and teenager in this dark world. We had some challenging conversations, and I am not primarily talking about the topics, though the description I gave him of the actual act of intercourse was overwhelmingly embarrassing for him. He challenged me heartily on some of the boundaries I put around his dating in the present and future. Sometimes he got angry with me; sometimes he acted like he wasn’t angry when he was; sometimes he acted impatient when he was uncomfortable. At one point, we both raised our voices with each other. Oh, the joys of raising adolescents, right?
It was really good for us to have this weekend though, for a few reasons. First and foremost, I was rededicating myself to my son as he grows into a young man. Though it has been years, I still remember feeling abandoned by my parents when I was his age, and feeling like nobody could possibly understand what I was experiencing. This weekend then was a stark reminder to him that I do love him, I am for him, I am interested in what’s happening in his life, and I will not fade into the background of his life. It was also a time for us to simply reconnect. There are very few things that allow a father and son to reestablish their kinship like a 3 hour hike, even if we are both only partially sure of where we are going.
Coming back to the issue of fear and trust, this event brought to my mind a whole new array of fears about his son’ and his seemingly quick ascent into manhood. My prayer is that he is able to make wise choices, sexually and otherwise. When he does make foolish choices, I pray that the results are reversible. He is getting to the age where his choices can have far-reaching impact, and the results are much more meaningful than paint on the carpet. I had to consciously make a choice to pull away from fear as we ended our weekend, and choose trust.
Adolescence scares me more as a parent than it ever did when I experienced it. Nevertheless, I will trust my son to make the right choices. I will trust that he will talk to me when he come up against a situation that he is unsure how to handle. I will trust that my wife and I have laid a good moral and spiritual foundation for him to be able to make good choices. I will trust that I remain accessible to him, rather than distant. Alongside these trusts, I will work hard to be available, to continue coaching, to ask the tough questions, to recognize when he is struggling, to not let him live an unexamined life. But above all these, I will trust my God to be present with Sean, to guide him by the Holy Spirit, to bring good positive encouraging friends and mentors into his life.
Despite all this trusting, the fear lingers. I have to make a choice many times a day to move through the fear. I am finally starting to understand that fear and trust are not antonyms, but companions on this journey of life.
Today’s question is going to be a broad one – any thoughts you would like to share on how to survive parenting an adolescent, while guiding them toward a godly adulthood?