When I was a young mother, someone once told me that parenthood is a constantly changing journey….Once you think you’ve got it all figured out, baby throws a new challenge at you and you have to figure that one out too. For instance, when baby-proofing the house, you start when the baby starts crawling, somewhere around six months. You remove anything small and swallow-able from the floors, and you generally rearrange things for the safety of baby. You even make room for a play pen. Then, once you’re satisfied with your baby-proofing skills, baby throws a new one at you by learning to pull herself up. Suddenly the coffee table is no longer safe, and the prized super-trendy Zen garden and marble-filled glass vases from your twenties have to be carefully packed away out of reach (and, in our case, lost). A month or so later, baby starts walking, then running, and it’s been a long time so I don’t remember exactly what we did to baby-proof, but it seems like our décor was pretty bare bones for quite awhile.
When you’re tired and sleep-deprived, you see 18 years of sleepless nights
stretching out before you as your inevitable destiny. But one day, she sleeps
in. And then all of a sudden, she’s capable of getting breakfast for herself,
even if she awakens before you do.
One day you wouldn’t even imagine letting your kiddo use a public restroom by
herself, but then the next day it seems logical.
The page turns, and a new chapter begins. But with that new chapter, the
story progresses, and the plot thickens.
Ryan and I have talked about this a lot recently. We knew when she was a baby
that we would hold her to high standards. We knew we wouldn’t be popular with
her at times. Back then we couldn’t picture the exact scenarios—I mean,
Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat didn’t even exist yet. But we knew that
whatever the situation, parenting would not be easy. As every generation of
parents has had to discover for themselves, the road to a healthy, well-adjusted
adult is bumpy and washed out, unpaved and unmapped.
But I’m not sure we understood how much our own childhood insecurities
would have an impact on our parenting decisions. We each remember being the kid
who wasn’t allowed to watch certain shows (Smurfs) or read certain books (Sweet
Valley High). Sometimes we weren’t allowed to go to movies with friends or go on
class trips. It’s never fun to feel left out – to be the only one who can’t
participate in a conversation. But our parents knew what was best for us. I once
had to leave a get-together with my girlfriends early because I had a piano
recital the next day. After I left, the girls TP’d the house where the boys were
and dumped a toilet on their front porch, which prompted the guys to egg the
house where the girls were staying. The night has notoriously been called “The
Night of the Toilet,” and I missed all the excitement.
Ryley is a bookworm – an avid reader who loves Percy Jackson books and Star
Wars books but who is not allowed to read Harry Potter or anything by John
Green. Her friends are absolutely befuddled by this, and she is absolutely
embarrassed. “How can you be such a bookworm and NOT have read ‘Harry Potter’?”
they ask. She can’t explain it without sounding like a weirdo. She is allowed to
watch Doctor Who and PG-13 comic book movies, but half of the live action shows
on the Disney Channel are banned for her. I know she would love Glee, but the
decision on that one is still up in the air. In fact, Ryan and I don’t always
agree. Some of the sci-fi stuff gets a little too weird, in my opinion, and the
Rys are always teasing me that I all too often call things “demonic.” I would be
more apt to let Ryley watch an episode of Friends, but the occasional sexual
talk is bothersome to Ryan.
To an outsider it would seem that there is no method to the madness. But we
have our reasons, and we are constantly re-evaluating her maturity –
emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and otherwise. We don’t forbid things
without good reason. We discuss and pray and ask for God’s wisdom.
But that still didn’t stop me from bursting into tears with her when we
handed her a big fat NO on the subject of Instagram.
Her little heart was broken. In a group of friends where she already feels
like the oddball out, not letting her have Instagram means she can’t see the
funny pictures they all post, and she can’t share in the inside jokes and silly
conversations. Her friends are hilarious and intelligent and witty. I get it.
She lives only in the real world, while her friends are able to participate in
this sort of underworld. She arrives at school a step behind everyone else.
On the flip side, by not allowing Instagram, we are doing her a favor….When
the school day ends, so does the friend drama. She can come home and enjoy her
evening in a stable environment. She doesn’t have to see any of the pictures
that her emo friends post showing the horrific scars from where they’ve cut
themselves. She doesn’t have to see any of the melodramatic conversations
regarding self-harm, suicide, or sexuality. She doesn’t have to read any more of
the cuss words that she hears all day long. She doesn’t stumble across
inappropriate content that will haunt her and spark her curiosity.
We can’t protect her from everything. I realize that. The 21st
Century world is absolutely SATURATED with sex. And Ryley is INQUISITIVE. She
knows way more about the world than I ever knew at her age. Thus far, we have
created an environment where she can ask us anything, and we answer her
honestly. But what happens when the middle school culture has advanced way past
her age and maturity, and suddenly the answers are too heavy for her 12-year-old
Self harm is all the rage among her classmates. Seriously, it’s become
“trendy.” The girls disassemble their little pencil sharpeners, use the blades
to cut themselves, and then hide the blades inside of markers or chapstick tubes
so parents and teachers can’t find them. Ryley overheard one girl approach the
“queen bee” and say, “Hey, I need some advice; I tried cutting, and something
went horribly wrong.” It makes me sick. Our school administrators have been
doing an excellent job getting these girls into counseling, but it’s like a
wildfire that’s gotten out of control. Some of them are for sure doing it
because they have inner pain, and they want to have some control over the pain.
But others are doing it because all the cool kids do it. I’m not sure which one
So with all this going on, why would I want my daughter subscribed to a site
where she can become even further inundated with this darkness?
Some of Ryley’s friends wear long sleeves to hide the scars on their arms.
She wears long sleeves because someone told her that her arms are too hairy…her
beautiful, perfect, unscarred arms with their little dusting of blond peach
It’s time for the mothers to get involved. I have just recently proposed to
the administration that we hold a mother/daughter meeting for 7th
graders, where we can come together as a community and get to know one another
better. If moms knew each other…if we could organize get-togethers over the
summer and work together to create a positive environment or even outreach
opportunities for our girls, I think we could eliminate some of the “emo”
depression. I believe that regardless of race, religion, or family background
(one friend told Ryley, “Your family is abnormal”), we can all find common
ground in the fact that we love our daughters and want them to be kind,
successful, and happy. Only good can come from it.
In the meantime, we’ve been trying to get her more involved in our church
youth group so she can make some more Christian friends. Yesterday, on the way
to a church laser tag event, she was trying to think of a good laser tag name
for herself. She wasn’t sure if she should do anything Star Wars-related,
because her youth pastor has preached that Star Wars is bad. We told her not to
worry about it and to just be herself.
“But,” I added, “between games, don’t forget to talk about ‘the Lord’!” She
It turned out that lots of kids chose Star Wars and comic book-related names.
And in her silliness with her church friend, she chose “TheDorito.”
As a Christian, I’m finding that the only way to help our daughter navigate
these challenges is through constant prayer – for her and others. Sure, she
doesn’t cut, but Ryley has a lot of other hang-ups and issues that affect her
and her relationships. Whenever we remember to, we pray for her classmates, and
we pray for her to have opportunities to be a light. We pray for ourselves that
God gives us wisdom to make the right decisions that will protect that light
from becoming snuffed out by the world.
If or when this mother/daughter meeting idea takes off, I know it’s
inevitable that the chapter will eventually turn, and the story will progress in
other ways. That’s just the way the world works. Just when we think we’ve got it
figured out, the girls will outgrow the cutting and move on to other kinds of
drama. But whatever that drama is, at least we’d be facing it as a community.
Best of all, we know the Author of this story, and despite the plot’s twists
and turns and all the many intriguing characters that are woven throughout, we
know He is famous for His amazing endings. And we can trust Him with our
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