Raising a geek

Last night I went to listen to a speaker...a Catholic woman, mother of four, family columnist for the Washington Times, and book author. She was speaking on parenting...raising a geek...many things drawn from her own experiences. The context of this "geek" is 'genuine, enthusiastic, empowered kids'. Her talk was not new information, just a confirmation that the way Tim and I have chosen to raise our children is ok. Some of the things she offered though were new food for thought as far as how to go about thinking about what we're doing. The piece of information that she offered that jumped out at me the most was regarding what our vocation as parents means...God has given us these children to raise up. We are the authority, and in being so are setting an example so that they will learn to be obedient not only to us, but ultimately to God. We are not to really take into consideration what our children think sometimes, rather what God thinks of our decisions. It is our job to guard their hearts, to make good decisions for them. Too many parents have the ultimate desire to make their children happy which usually results in giving them many material things, making decisions to let them do, watch, have things that don't guard their hearts.

She even presented statistics that parents realize they're doing this, but they don't want conflict with their children, so they give into the begging for TVs, computers, ipods, gaming systems, inappropriate TV shows, movies and games, parties, etc. This essentially undermines their authority as parents. She gave the example of a gentleman who shared a picture of his 12 year old daughter with her. She looked 18. The father was proud of how beautiful she was but was a little disappointed that she was wearing makeup at 12. He wished she wouldn't. "Dude...you're the father!", was her thought. She's right, but I think I know how challenging that can be too. There are many "battles" one chooses not to fight and I'm sure that eventually they get a little bigger without the realization that they have grown. What started as not ruining a whole entire day over which shoes she would wear soon turned into letting her wear makeup at age 12 making her look like she's 18 to avoid a tantrum...conflict. The result? That little girl...probably a 6th or 7th grader is very much at risk of seeming more mature than she really is, or should be expected to be which could put her in a dangerous and/or tempting situation before she really knows how to handle herself. Her heart is certainly not guarded.

That is what we are ultimately doing in the majority of the decisions that we make...guarding our children's hearts, and I just really liked thinking about it in those terms. It gives me something more specific to pray for...something more specific to work on myself. My own actions need to guard their hearts.

Her idea of empowerment simply meant giving a child the confidence to be comfortable with himself. To be able to stand up for what is right even in the hardest times of feeling pressured to fit in. She then talked a little about how awful the media can be. We all know that...I think even the laziest parents know it. It is definitely easy to disregard it at times. What I've never thought about though is even how destructive the media can be to parents. All of the parenting advice in magazines, books, TV, etc...how is a first time parent to know what is true and what isn't? It isn't enough as a new mom to take my mom's advice...after all, it had been 15 years since she had a newborn...things had changed, medical advances had been made, education had evolved to offer new moms now more accurate information. How does one determine which advice to take from the newest studies and which to take from a parent who successfully raised children? We have become a society of raising children who are not responsible for the consequences of their actions. This is true...I see it everywhere! Why? Because parents were told that they were not to tell their children anything but, "It's ok that you burned down the baby's crib. we'll just work on making better decisions tomorrow" instead of "that was wrong, you're in trouble for doing something bad".

She reiterrated that it is ok for parents to demand obedience despite the fact that the new age method of parenting says not to because you don't want to make your children feel like they are in a boot camp. Somehow obedience is now associated with lack of love. Again, not new information. It was encouraging to know that we're not the only parents who block TV channels, refuse to let our children wear their pants down around the middle of their butt, will not consider TVs or computers in their rooms, limit their "opportunities", discern what is appropriate for OUR child despite what the majority may be doing. It was encouraging because it is really very easy to get pulled into things as an adult much like it was as a teen ager or young adult, and without the support of those on the same side, can get harder and harder.

In summary, her presentation was about how it is ok to not strive to raise the most popular child, to make decisions that go against the grain...that our children will survive the initial humiliation of being the "only one that doesn't get...". It also reminded me the magnitude of my obligation to God as a parent. Although my world doesn't need to revolve around my children, my time needs to be all about my children right now.

The final thing that I was so glad to hear her say (because when we say it, it gets shot down often) is that not all teenagers are rotten. It does not have to be expected and then embraced that this awful attitude is a phase. That they'll not want to be seen in public with you as a parent. That it needs to be allowed to pass. YAY!!! We've been in denial about that from the get-go...we're out to prove the theory wrong. We have every intention of setting the bar higher than that and it is ok to expect that our children can be good and respectful and obedient (with some challenging moments) during all stages of their lives. It is a process, and we're willing to invest in it, even if it means raising "geeks".