Lately, one of my daughters has been feeling a little left out at school. I struggle with a zillion concerns and challenges as a parent of four kids. I have endless goals and desires for all my kids, but having school-age girls is really bringing some specific challenges to light, especially as it relates to little girls. Here they are
- Preserving their innocence, without sheltering them to the point that they say things like "bowel movement" when they are in college.
- Allowing them to be completely their unique, individual selves... without being socially unaware.
- Fostering an environment where they feel like they can tell me the truth about everything.
- Fostering an environment where they also feel terrified of breaking the rules.
- Fostering an environment that nurtures their independent thinking, creativity and free-spiritedness.
- Establishing a balance between being free-spirited, and always losing your lunchbox.
- Instilling a primary desire to please the Lord in everything to do.
- Instilling a secondary desire to use dry humor effectively.
- Training them to be godly girls.
- Instilling humility and grace, so they serve and honor others ahead of themselves.
- Instilling enough self-respect that boys are afraid to ask them on dates.
- Teaching them that their inner-beauty is what matters most.
- Also teaching them how/when to create the perfect "smokey eye."
- Creating a home that becomes the hang out for their friends.
- Fostering friendships with the kind of kids that won't get drunk and steal my family heirlooms.
- Teaching them to dress in a way that will not get them the wrong kind of attention, nor cause others to question if they time-traveled from pioneer times.
- Empowering them to stand up for themselves, and others, when necessary.
- Empowering them to lead when they need to, and follow when they need to. (And to discern when to do which.)
- Empowering them to be the first one out on the dance floor at a lame wedding. (They need to learn that I won't always be there to get the party started for them. Someday, down the road, probably after a double hip-replacement, I won't be there... and YMCA will be playing, and they are going to have to grow up, and dance like total fools without me.)
This, friends, is just the tip of the iceburg. I want my kids to live counter-culturally... but, also be able to live amongst the people so that they get to enjoy full and fruitful relationships. I want to help create the counter-intuition required to care not about being happy, but about being holy. I want so many paradoxical things for my kids, I am afraid they will develop multiple personality disorder. The bottom line is that I want what God wants for them, and it takes some really delicate balances, and also some pretty major extremes to live Biblically.
Perhaps I am failing desperately, and that is why the girls sometimes feel a little like they are "odd man out." Or, perhaps, they are odd afterall... and that notion is almost comforting because I ran with "the popular crowd" for some time when I was in school and here are a few of the things I got from that experience:
- People can hate you for no apparent reason.
- People will do almost anything to be accepted by others.
- People are threatened by that which they do not understand.
- So many more people smoke pot than you might expect. (And I am not only talking about the high school kids, but their parents. And teachers. True. Story.)
- Appearance is everything... not even physical appearance, but appearing like you have confidence, or that you don't care what others think, or that you have money, etc.
- Believing in "God" is fine, good even.
- Following Christ is laughable. Viewed as "extreme."
- Nobody has as much money as they pretend to have.
- Teenage girls are clinically insane.
- Teenage boys notice this, and disregard it. They really are as
hornywilling to overlook a insanity as legend holds. Maybe more.
- Dating in high school is not always a total joke, but, usually.
- Kids use swear words more than they use regular words.
- Nobody is saying "bowel movement."
- When a teenager says to someone "your parents are so cool!" It really means "I don't realize this now, but later in my adult life, I will look back and judge your cool parents for being so stupidly insecure and permissive."
- The kids that are perpetually in some spotlight of popularity are subjected to more scrutiny than is bearable for such a poorly developed brain.
- Academic, athletic and social pressures matter more to most parents than spiritual and moral development.
- A lot of the most popular kids are really, really sad.
- The kids that have the most stuff, are often the saddest.
- A lot of the popular kids are just peaking really early, and this is as cool as they will ever be.
So, there you have it. My last three years of high school were a pretty miserable experience. I felt hated by most of the people I was friends with for the many years before that. I felt like I couldn't break into the other friend groups, because I was viewed as a "popular girl" and I don't think anyone would have believed that I really didn't have more than one or two good friends. I was "friends" with everyone, but when the weekends came... it was really just me and my best friend, Chrisann, and so much singing into hairbrushes in my bedroom.
As a mom, I want my kids to just fly under the radar of popularity so that they can be themselves without being subjected to the scrutiny of being psuedo-celebs in their schools. I want them to sing into their hairbrushes with one or two great friends, and not feel like they failed because they lost the huge group of friends that used to come over. I want them to be friends with everyone, but have only a few really true friends... and I want them to know that this is a success, not a failure on their part, or because they have been rejected. And I want them to genuinely follow Christ, even if it gets them laughed at.... because I know that the only lasting joy comes from knowing that I am who God says I am, and that I am pleasing the God that created me for His glory. I really believe that if my kids can get ahold of this truth, they will be awesome for life.
Not just in high school.