saying yes

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When I started parenting, there were so many things that I was never going to do. You know, arbitrary moral-ish type items. A lot of them are just my own standards - I don't pretend any type of holiness or extra morality over them...they were just things I do and don't like when it comes to parenting styles and children. Random things like (and don't judge me here. I know some of them sound stupid) not letting my kids go to dances, making my son have his shirt on outside even when it's hot, not painting my little girls' nails, putting a onesie on my babies at all times, not piercing the girls' ears, etc. Mostly appearance type things that really have no bearing on real life problems or solutions, but just existed in my head as standards for our family. I wouldn't say I have no reason for these standards - I do have valid reasons for all of them; it's just that those reasons aren't life or death, future threatening reasons.

One of those 'things' happened to be class trips. We don't really do overnights for safety reasons. There are a couple families that we know well and that have a specific familial make-up that we are comfortable with that I will allow my kids to go to their houses, but we're talking once or twice a year usually. The oldest has gone to church camp the past couple years, but understand - this was difficult for me. I did not love camp as a child, and beyond that, I have heard enough stories from the teenage boys in our former youth pastor days to be more than a little leery of the locker room behavior that occurs. We sent him off with prayers and a little gratefulness for the break from all the early teenage angst.

Then comes this 8th grade class trip. The expensive one to Washington, D.C. I have so many objections. So many. The separation of the haves from the have-nots. The dangers of having 100+ kids away from their parents for four days. The sheer expense of it all. The chaperone situation. On and on. I actually didn't even consider it. Sign-ups were last year, and they sailed by. This fall, the pressure to go came back with a vengeance. Let's put aside my irritation with the teachers pressuring kids to do an expensive extra-curricular in the classroom, and go forward to the point when our son presents us with a contract he had typed up himself, outlining a payment plan for him to pay us back for the trip and the pros and cons for him going, complete with fanciful calligraphy font and signature lines. He'll be irritated when I say this, but it was adorable.

Due to his commitment to his project, we decided we had to give it a more serious consideration. At which point, we surprisingly found ourselves coming up with our own negotiations to counter his contract with. My objections? Almost completely answered, down to hired hotel security guards that are stationed in each hallway for the night shift to assure that no one comes our of their rooms.

That's how I ended up in a crowded cafeteria to sign my son up for the White House tour and figure out room assignments, and that's when I re-discovered how crazy I am about my son. He already had three roommates eager for him to join their room as soon as they found out he was attending, but one of his other classmates came up at the meeting to ask him if he had a roommate. This kid didn't have a single person to share with. Of course, my mama heart was bleeding for this kid who is, from all I can see, completely sweet and kind, but I wasn't about to force my son away from the first group.

First thing he did the next morning was come and tell me that he texted his friend, and he still hadn't found any roommates. So he went to the school, on his own initiative, and told the teacher in charge of room assignments that he needed to switch. He talked to his other friends and explained the situation. If this had been just a case of our son switching from one group of friends to another, I'm not sure I would've cared. But I sat in that cafeteria and watched all the other kids match up in groups of three and four, watched this kid cross the cafeteria specifically for my son, and watched him leave after realizing he was already in another room.

I asked some questions later. You know, why this kid didn't have other friends. Why the other kids didn't like him. All the usual probing questions a mama wants to find out. According to my son, his friend just has mostly girl friends. He's interested in different kinds of things than most of the other middle school boys. They make fun of him. They call him gay. They do all those crappy middle school behavior things, and my son is still his friend. He told me just because someone's different doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them. He said being quiet isn't a reason to not like someone. He said even if he is gay, what difference would that make in how he should be treated? 

My son and I have been at odds lately. He is in the throes of teenage hormones, and I've been less than generous in my responses. In the middle of the yelling matches, I find it hard to remember that my son is kind and compassionate beyond measure. I forget how completely smitten I am by him and who he is becoming.

This week, I was reminded of how strong he is. How brave. How unafraid he is to be friends with a kid whom others make fun of or to room with a kid that others are calling gay. It clearly never even crossed his mind to consider what others would think of him, and I am so thankful for that. I'm so envious of that, actually. If I could've navigated my school years with half as much grace, I would've been much better off. It took me a lot of years to come to that kind of self-assuredness.

This week, I was reminded of his diligence and commitment to hard work and responsibility. I don't know too many other kids that would plan a year-long contract to repay a debt for a trip they wanted to go on. Not to mention, his repayment schedule solely depends on his hugely underpaid newspaper delivery job that pulls in a regular salary of a whole five dollars per week. He said he didn't include tips or extras because that money is unreliable so he can't depend on it to repay the debt. I mean. My kid.

This week, I was reminded of last year's end of the year awards ceremony. Our oldest has always gotten a plethora of academic awards. I'm happy he is successful at school, but honestly, I'm not that proud of it. It's largely genetics that makes him think in a way that is well-suited for traditional schooling. But last year, he won a different award. A write-in ballot from all of his classmates for the Character Award. Now that's the kind of award I can be proud of. Proof that he is living his life with integrity. Proof that other people can see the light of Jesus in him daily.

This week, I was reminded that sometimes we make decisions for our children that look different than what we imagined our lives would entail. Other people might not approve or understand. Maybe we never expected to say yes to the things we find ourselves saying yes to, but then again, we didn't know the kids we were going to be parenting when we thought about all those things. Every kid is different, and every kid needs parented differently as a result.

I've spent way too much time lately concentrating on the negative, and I just forgot who my son really was. In my willingness to say yes was hidden the truth of all of that. Sometimes the joy and reward of my yes is for more than just my own kids. Sometimes it's for their friends too. And sometimes it's for me. I'm so thankful I said yes.
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