I recently deleted the Facebook app on my phone in an attempt to get a life.
Seriously. When I am bored/unmotivated/uninspired/procrastinating, I could easily allow myself to be sucked into the vortex of wasted time, only to be spit out a hour and a half later, having accomplished nothing but a worn-out fingertip from all the scrolling. Plus my brain started to spin from All The Words. Oh my. So many words.
Last year, I laid down Facebook as my Lenten sacrifice—except when I sat in one particular space. That worked well, and it opened my eyes to the gross amount of wasted time and energy. (Plus, I made sure I stayed well-hydrated for those six weeks.)
But this year, even before Lent, I deleted my app. I’ll still use my Safari app to take a quick peek, but it’s not nearly as user-friendly, so I don’t stay on for very long. Which is good. Because really. Ninety-eight-point-two percent of FB content is just dumb. (Your posts, of course, fall into the 1.8% that is clever and inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable.)
So you would think with all this freed-up mental energy, I would be racking up my lost IQ points and expending some serious creative energy. Instead, I download Monopoly. Which is equally as dumb and time-wasting.
Except when I’m kicking some serious Monopoly tail. It’s quite a rush when the computer player lands on Boardwalk with a hotel and pays me $2000, forcing him to mortgage all his properties in order to stay alive. Boo to the Yah.
But when I’m on the other end, it kinda sucks. I was making my way around the board yesterday, $22 in my account, all my properties mortgaged, while the other three computer players had 4- and 5-digit accounts and hotels coming out their ears. Or race car wheels. Whatever. Not fair! screamed my inner eight-year old. I felt like I was back in middle school…or high school…or college…or playgroup…or PTA: left behind, out of the loop, excluded from the cool kids, not able to keep up, not able to stay in the game, always on the outside. A loser in a game I didn’t want to play. Not fair.
A few weeks ago, I chaperoned a trip to the bowling alley with a group of middle and high school students from our church. I sat back and stealthily observed the fascinating dynamics of the In Crowds and the Out Crowds. Here’s what I noticed:
The In Crowd = long, straight, frizzless hair; loud, enthusiastic. Running shorts. Flawless skin and makeup. Always, always chewing gum (with their mouths open, looking like cows. One of my pet peeves.)
The Out Crowd = quiet. Slightly awkward. Less than perfect skin, hair, makeup. Occasionally glaring at the In Crowd, but also afraid to look at them. Definitely more fearful, less outgoing, more insecure. They almost cower in the shadow of the In Crowd.
I could slap a nametag on each girl with the name of someone I used to know.
As a mom, such dynamics break my heart. I know the lines dividing Cool from Not Cool are false and unnecessary, that all teenage girls have pain and insecurity, that they all feel like outsiders. At least I think they do. My friend D insists that she (a perky blonde California cheerleader) knew everyone liked her and she had no insecurity. Which means, of course, that all the non-blonde, non-cheerleader types like me hated her.
But today she is one of my dearest friends. For the bowling crowd, someday the lines will move and sometimes disappear altogether, someday the Ins and the Outs will belong to each other. Someday they will share coffee and projects and secrets, they will speak kindly to each other and laugh together and enjoy each other. Someday the shared adult experiences will evaporate the false divisions of adolescence.
But for now, they will just ignore each other, resent each other, glare at each other.
And, fellow heartbroken moms, there is nothing we can do about it. Lately this truth has flattened me. Even if I did everything right (I didn’t), even if I were a perfect mother (I’m not)—even then, my kids would still be jacked up, insecure, and afraid. Even then, they would be broken and hurt. Even then, they would doubt their value, their purpose, their significance. Even then.
Even the most loved kids from the most loving families can feel unlovable. Even the best kids from the best families can make very bad decisions. I’ll let you in on a little secret: we have zero control, and there are zero guarantees. That verse we quote and claim and hang on walls and embroider on pillows?
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride,
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
So let’s agree to shelve it, please. (What?! Incontheevable.)
When you look at the original language, this verse translates as a proverb, not a promise. There’s a huge difference. Train up a child according to his palate [in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old, he will not turn from it. In other words, if your kid likes music, encourage him to develop that gift, enroll him in piano lessons, and when he is old, he will still like music. Your kid is an athlete? A dancer? An artist? Embrace that gift and teach her to love it…and when she’s an adult, she will still love it. The unspoken implication is you shouldn’t force your kid to be something he’s not. If he doesn’t like sports, don’t insist upon Little League. When he’s old, he still won’t like it, no matter how many pitches you make him hit.
That’s all. Nothing here about how teaching enough right things will guarantee your kid will grow up to be a good person.
Sorry to burst that little bubble.
Like I said, zero control and zero guarantees.
I’m realizing lately that my kids could very easily walk away from the faith in which we have so intentionally raised them. Of course, I hope they don’t. I pray they will embrace the truth and joy and hope and peace we have tried to teach them. I hope they figure out for themselves that what we have taught them is true and good and worth it.
But they might not.
And there’s nothing I can do about that. Just like there’s nothing I can do to make my child feel included and loved at the bowling alley. Or at school, or on the playground, or at a friend’s house, or at church.
That doesn’t mean I’m without hope or purpose in my parenting, and that doesn’t exempt me from teaching them and loving them and pouring into them. Not at all. It only means that I have to release control—no, my illusion of control—because there is so little I can actually control. And my kids’ choices and feelings are not one of those things.
(How’s that for uplifting?)
So I pray. I pray that God will bless them with faith to believe he is who he says he is, and that they are who God says they are. I pray he will protect them, hold them, speak to them…and that they will listen. And
if when they don’t? I will continue to pray, knowing that he is a master of divine redemption, of taking the broken and making it beautiful. Some of my favorite people have long, long stories of brokenness and beauty.
My friend Erika survived leukemia. We’re attempting to write a book about it. She has shared many profound truths with me (that we can’t wait to share with you), and one of the greatest is this: she realizes the same Jesus who held her hand and healed her during her horrific leukemia treatment is the same Jesus who holds her teenagers. He took care of her; he will take care of them.
And mine. And yours.