Recently a desperate mom and her teenage son were registering at the school where I work. As Mom filled out the necessary paperwork she chatted with our Office Master who I’ll just refer to as ‘M’. I tried to concentrate on my list of to-do’s but was distracted by Mom. She was just one of those overly loud talkers. It was nearly impossible to block out her exhuberant and laughter-fill justifications for her son’s poor performance. I glanced up at mom who indeed looked the part – frizzy, frazzled, and feigning. I wasn’t sure if it was the mom or the son who needed the stability of our program.
Mom eagerly shared that her son had access to excellent technology for his online classes. Unfortunately, “his computer was bogged down with games like, you know, Grand Theft Auto”… <Imagine awkward and overly-loud laughter here.> I paused my work just long enough to gawk at the backside of Mom’s head. M just nodded courteously at Mom. Granted, as disgusting as Grand Theft Auto is (just the name makes my skin crawl) M and I have heard most every excuse in the book whether at the school, in our personal experiences raising teens, helping youth through other organizations, etc. and Grand Theft Auto wasn’t the worst excuse ever. Regardless, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit. M affirmed how important technology is for online classes and gently shifted the conversation, sharing that our program is perfect for self-motivated high schoolers. Trying to draw the son into the conversation, M kindly asked him if he was self-motivated. The son just stared at M blankly for a few moments until Mom jumped in, affirming that he was indeed motivated. The son didn’t move or say a word.
Mom then rambled on a bit more sharing that her son had grown over a foot in the past year, thus he needed more sleep than other teens. In fact, he needed to be able to sleep in. It was unfair to “tear him out of bed in the morning, throw him in the car and drop him off at school exhausted.” M and I locked eyes briefly and I caught myself subtly shaking my head in disbelief. The various excuses and justifications for the son’s lack of success continued to flow. A concerned and even overly-concerned parent is one thing. A parent who excuses bad behavior and covers for her teenager’s poor performance is another. Why are so many moms hell-bent on raising kids who make excuses for poor behavior and expect everyone else to fix their problems? Moms – rise up and be the authority that your kids desperately need! You can be, and should be, loving and gracious while still being the strong mother your kids need. Truth and grace go hand-in-hand.
I had to quickly remove myself from the room for fear that I would walk over to Mom, pull up a chair and say, “Listen lady -the reason your son isn’t doing well in school is because of a lack of parenting. Get rid of the evil filth that you allow your son to call ‘entertainment’ which blatantly shows sexual violence against women as well as other illegal and violent activities and get your son’s hiney in bed at 10pm, if not earlier, each night so he can get up on time for school, engage in classes, and get better grades.”
Yeah, I wouldn’t make a good high school counselor.
Later in the evening I was going through a mental checklist of what was still needed for us to get our taxes done. Yes, it’s dreaded tax season. I had a running list of questions to ask our CPA and found myself so grateful with his patience. We’ve asked countless dumb questions and he’s steered us in the right direction. Like many clueless Americans, we just don’t know all the ins and outs of taxes. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with two home-based businesses, homeschooling exemptions, my hubby’s schooling, job changes, etc.
After feeling such a deep gratitude for our CPA, I suddenly realized that I’m not so different than the mom in the office after all. We both have things we take for granted. We both ride through our lives not knowing what we don’t know. We both feel overwhelmed with the expectations placed on us, etc. As obvious as that sounds, it’s not. It’s easy to assume that people know things that they don’t. The difference between Mom and I was that I don’t laugh at irresponsibility. If anything, I err on the side of expecting too much from my kids.
While I would still be EXTREMELY willing to have a chit-chat with this mom, I also realize that based on the rest of her story:
- She’s clueless as to what her son does with his time. Her own fault? Sure. Or she just may not have the tools mentally or emotionally to structure his time better.
- She may feel too exhausted to fight.
- She may have slipped into societies’ norm of wanting to be her kids’ BFF instead of stepping up to the plate and getting her hands dirty with the hard work of shaping her kids’ character, priorities, sense of justice, right and wrong, and stirring their imaginations with possibilities for their futures.
- She may have no idea how mind-numbing, desensitizing, and evil some forms of entertainment can be, especially if ‘everyone else is playing/watching/participating in it’. Many parents, myself included at times, find it easier to just go with the flow rather than look like the ‘weird/strict parents’. We would NEVER tell our kids to go with the flow but we teach it with our actions all the time. Everyone else is having sex? Everyone else is hanging out at parties where illegal things are happening? Everyone else uses filthy language? Everyone else talks to their parents disrespectfully? Everyone else is playing Grand Theft Auto? Everyone else is looking at porn? Everyone else is listening to…? Everyone else is / does / says..? If this is the norm then I guess it’s okay.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority,
it’s time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain
5. She’s like any other mom who sees the best in her kid and can be blind to the bad.
6. She may not have friends who are bold and yet loving enough to point out some of the obvious issues with her parenting (structure, sleep, etc). She may not have any friends at all.
Does the mom still need a chat? Sure. It’s her job to fight for her son. As parents, it’s our responsibility to bring out the best in our kids and those kids around us. Good character doesn’t happen by accident. But Mom, just like the rest of us there are things in life we just don’t know. Maybe we’ve chosen to remain ignorant in an area for whatever reason (please re-think this choice!) or we simply haven’t walked that particular path before mentally, physically, or spiritually. We can all look ridiculously ignorant and fake at any given moment simply because we don’t know any better. (Trust me, I do this all the time! I’ve mastered the ‘huh?’ expression.)
It’s important to know what we don’t know, which is often more than we realize or want to acknowledge. Secondly, surrounding ourselves with other people who are stronger or healthier in our areas of lacking is crucial. We have the opportunity to learn from others as well as teach others. I’ll be the first to admit that I ask dumb questions and give blank stares. Yes, I’m one of those. I’ll admit that I’m not the brightest bulb in the box so I assume that other people prefer I ask questions instead of being fake. This level of transparency is what we all hunger for – to know and to be known.
We all have areas of doubt. We all have areas where we feel like failures. We all have areas of ignorance. We all have areas of weakness. We all need to have more grace with each other and guard against being judgmental. I’m totally preaching to my own heart here because my heart easily falls into the muddy pond of finger-pointing, especially when someone’s acting like an idiot.
Besides the judgement factor, we need each other. We need each other’s strengths, knowledge, and experiences. We can accomplish so much more with much lighter burdens when we journey together.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.