Teens. I love teens. I love their unbridled emotions, their sincere thoughts, their enthusiasm, their rebel natures. I taught high school once and I have raised my own teens. And through all these years, I have asked myself: What is the best way to help them grow up?
When I was younger, I tended more to strictness. Why? Mostly out of fear, wanting to protect them -- from drugs, alcohol, sex, car wrecks, heartbreak, bad grades. And I think it is valid to want to protect them from these things. But I also have been wondering this: if we protect too much, do we keep them from having experiences they need to mature. Let's face it -- we learn much from our screw-ups.
Over the past week or so, a few things have caused my little brain to focus on these issues. My son returned to college for his sophomore year. Another mom expressed how much she cries upon sending her son away to school, because she will miss him, but also because she worries he might get into trouble. One of my daughters, who went to a strict Catholic college (her decision), said to me, "People act like having sex is the worst thing you could possibly do." She also told me that a couple of young women who got pregnant at her school were asked to leave until they gave birth. This struck her as rather unfair. I agreed, saying to my pretty traditional girl, "Now you know why women's lib happened." And as I have mentioned before, I homeschooled my kids, thus causing me to hang with a lot of homeschool moms. No offense intended here, but not many people can out-do homeschool moms in their efforts to protect their kids from the evils of modern society. These efforts are loving and well-meaning. And, despite what you may think, homeschoolers generally have excellent social lives, though usually with other homeschoolers who are also being protected from the evils of modern society.
So, upon reflecting on the things mentioned in the paragraph above, I am asking myself: how much protection is healthy and is it always such a bad thing to get into some trouble? I am not talking here about irrevocable trouble. And I am not talking about abandoning our kids to fend for themselves in our hedonistic society. You should always, always be there for your kids. But, maybe it is ok for them to try a few things, to have a few close calls, to check out that cute guy or girl, to wear a daring outfit once in a while, to hang with people who think differently. Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to tell them that the normal events of growing up are sins. Maybe we should allow them the normal events of growing up, with mom and dad serving as the "guard rails", if you will. Maybe they will be better adults for it.