Allergy shots, as it turns out, are a blessing in disguise.
Reese is now 15-years-old, and has suffered from chronic congestion nearly his whole life. Yes, we've tried going gluten free. The GF diet is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it highly enticing to a growing teenage boy whose sniffles don't bother him nearly as much as they annoy me. I know there are probably some articles you'd love to send me, but you can save your breath. The buffalo chicken ranch pizza at Duca's is just too good.
And that is precisely where we sit every Monday at lunch while Reese waits the customary thirty minutes after he endures his three allergy shots. We have to hang around to make sure he doesn't go into anaphylactic shock so, rather than wait in the eerily silent waiting room with the other magazine reading patients, we walk across the sidewalk and sit down for lunch.
He used to bring his textbook and try to pound out a few advanced algebra equations, but that drive has since subsided. Now we eat. And talk. A rare gift indeed.
What initially felt like a serious wrinkle in my weekly schedule has turned into a profound treasure for this Mama who is breathing into bags as she watches her son navigate the insanity of entering high school.
He's been stressed and so have I. Not a good combination for anyone within ear shot.
This weekly lunch date has become a lifeline for me as I see increased independence written all over this firstborn of mine. Who cares that it costs me $17 every time?? I get a weekly lunch date with my teenage son. Priceless.
This week I looked forward to it more than most, however, because I sensed it was an opportunity to come clean about something. As he took a bite of that gourmet pizza I shifted in my chair. My fork rested on the table and I cleared my throat in an effort to say the words that, unfortunately, come out of my mouth more often than I care to admit. Or at least -- they should.
"Reese, I think I owe you an apology...."
He looked up at me with quizzical eyes. "Okay...Why?"
"I want to apologize for two things actually. First, I'm sorry for riding you so hard yesterday when you came upstairs for lunch. I realize I kind of blindsided you with previously unsaid expectations. I was stressed and you seemed too lazy for my liking and I snapped. It was unfair to you and I'm sorry."
"Alright. Thanks. Is there...something else?"
This one was a little harder because I was about to wade into territory that has caused stress between Reese and me and, quite frankly, between Scott and me for the better part of the last 5 years -- or really, since technology became a thing.
"Yes, there's something else." I took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I've been so overbearing and controlling when it comes to you and social media."
Now he was all ears. I went on to apologize for riding his ass so much over the years in regards to video games and social media and the like. (Pardon my french, but sometimes a well placed curse word goes a long way with a teenager. At least it does with this one.)
I confessed that I recently had a revelation. The older he gets, the more distant he seems. At least to me. He has his own room in the basement and he's naturally an introvert so his room is his happy place. In his defense, he has some pretty loud brothers and sisters and sometimes he just wants a little getaway. (Amen, brother.) We often have to fish him out of there when it's time to mobilize for dinner or church or really, lots of things.
The older he gets, the more I worry about losing him. Of course independence is part of growing up, but so is insatiable curiosity. I remember being a teenager. (I know, hard to believe, eh?!) I was a good girl. I got good grades, went to church, led student council and all that. My public face was stellar.
And it's not that all that wasn't totally genuine, it's just that I got pretty good at leading a more private, secret life as well. I didn't have the added layer of navigating social media, but I was easily influenced by the party scene and the boyfriends in my life. Not good. And I think, to some degree, I have been projecting that on him as well.
Of course there need to be guidelines for social media and technology use, but the reality is that even if I buckle down like it's Fort Knox, the minute he walks out the door there's a whole buffet of opportunities waiting for him on the devices in his friends' hands -- in carpools or walking around school -- to play or see or do whatever!
He listened and then he looked me straight in the eye and said, "Mom, what are you really afraid of?"
I knew it was now or never. I had to come clean.
"You know," I said. "It's honestly not Instagram or Facebook. I follow you on those sites and it's all pretty tame so far. Probably the biggest thing that scares me is You Tube. And even then, it's not necessarily the language or the violence. Of course, I don't love that stuff, but it's really more the....sexual stuff. With one click of a button you have all sorts of tempting videos vying for your attention. You may be searching for something else entirely, and then on the right hand side of the screen you might be tempted to click on something scrolling by that catches your eye. I mean, you're only human. And that's the kind of thing that has the ability to creep in and lead you into a private world that makes you want a little bit more each time. That's what I'm really afraid of..."
At this point, the plates were cleared and so was the air.
I can't say that the conversation is totally over, or that my controlling nature won't rear it's ugly head. But I can say that I feel so much lighter admitting and recognizing my fear. I'm not suggesting a totally hands-off approach. He lives under our roof, it's important that we engage on this issue.
But that's the key word -- engagement. Engaging in the conversation rather than fighting for control over it will get us ten times closer to the relational trust I think we all desire.
Fear-based parenting is no way to parent. Sure, it's an easy way, but it's also a lazy one.
Lazy parenting says, "Because I said so...It's my way or the highway." And believe me, I want to press the easy button nearly everyday!! If my kids were just obedient little robots, I could kick my feet up. They would do everything I say because they trust me and they know I have their best interest in mind.
But that is not reality. Trust is built on shared experience and consistent interactions.
Real, intentional parenting requires me to set down my own agenda and enter in. Into the mess and the heartbreak and the heartache that is just part of growing up. Real parenting recognizes that temptations will arise in all shapes and sizes. Our kids WILL deal with real time temptation.
So did I. And so did Jesus.
It's entirely possible that my kids will make some of the same mistakes I made -- and then some. But just because these things might happen doesn't mean I should revert to control or fear.
So, at the end of the day, what am I REALLY afraid of? I'm afraid of losing my kid because I have pushed him away with my control-happy-crazy. While it is my job to equip all of my children with the skills necessary to navigate this ever-changing world as best they can -- it is God's job to guard and protect their hearts. His Holy Spirit will lead and guide long after they've left our home.
I can put as many parental controls on their lives as I want, but where there's a will there is always a way. (Don't I know it!)
Only Jesus has the power to convict and encourage, inspire and guide in the private, basement room places of our kids' lives. And I'm just honored that I get to a part of it...
PS -- THIS!!!! This song has been an absolute bedrock for me in recent months. Whenever fear threatens to consume, I throw this one on and pray over my kids, my husband, my friends, my dog -- and pretty much anyone else I can think of!! Listen and enjoy. The message may radically revolutionize your days too.
You will not want to talk to me about this one. I am highly fear based, when it comes to screen time. I would only feed into your fears. I am so anti-technology for boys that it is a little ridiculous. (Right now, my girls could care less about screen time). I'm sure I'm a touch controlling over that one, but right now, life works so much better when iPads, etc. are at the barest minimum. Attitudes are better, arguments are down, and playing outside is up. I'm glad you are going first on this one. I can't imagine that I will execute this portion of the world well, with three, soon to be, tween boys. UGH! I do love that you get to have a lunch date, each week with Reese. What a cool kid . . . like mother like son.
I hate that this post really addresses a lot of my own fears. I am on one hand very eager to maintain dialogue and harmony with my son which makes me on the other hand hesitant to lay down rigid rules and punishment. I learned all the rules really well in my family of origin. I was a master at APPEARING TO OBEY them all. I wasn't truly the master of any true obedience, though. So I lived a double life. I wasn't snorting crack behind the bleachers or anything but I had crafted a persona for my parents that was not me. So this issue is so hazy for me. I know that every day I am working to connect and love my kids even and especially when I say no to something. AND I for sure know that I really, really like who Reese is becoming and I love that he asked you the question!