If ever my blog posts sound a bit edgy, keep this in mind: I am the mother of three teenaged boys. No greater joy has mankind known, and no greater trial. Well, there are tougher struggles, but this has to rank way up there. The reward, should I somehow, by the grace of God, raise these boys to be functioning members of our free society--much less to be brave, kind, generous, godly men--will be unspeakable joy. That's because the obstacles are too many to count, and they are mighty stumbling blocks, indeed.
Our children are met with far greater challenges today than we were. We hear that all the time, but as a parent trying to shepherd them through, I can say it's true. Frankly, there's very little we can do at a certain point to shepherd them. Technology has opened up a whole new world of dangers and distractions. And while we can monitor and keep them away to an extent while they are young, at some point we have to let go. They have school work that requires the use of technology and there's no getting around that. That's when a lot of trouble can begin.
Look at the most basic news website--the ones you and I go to everyday--many of them are "conservative" sites. The ads have practically naked women, tempting men and boys to merely tap on their image to open up a world of delights. These are news sites my kids, because they're interested in what's going on in the world, go to on a regular basis. Or they see them open on my computer. And these are some of the milder temptations they face.
Boredom is a biggy. Boredom in our schools because we have lowered the bar so dramatically, placing kids of wildly divergent abilities in the same class in the dreamy hope that the brightest kids will raise up those who are struggling. The results of that well-intended policy? Smart kids who are literally bored to tears in classes that should light their imagination on fire with great books and powerful ideas. Instead of listening to a teacher instruct ninth graders on where to put an apostrophe, they text their friends, or play games on their iPhones. Frankly, who can blame them?
Our kids, and in this case, I'm talking in particular about our boys, are looking for something to occupy their dulled senses. They turn to video games, the internet and any form of escapism that comes along. They don't have to deal with the real world and real people. When they do, they often find it mind-numbingly dull so why bother.
We drill them not in anything academic--that is passé--but in bullying. Again and again. Well, in not bullying. And yet they still bully. Kids will always bully. That's not ok, but I'm not sure we're handling it the right way, particularly as we deemphasize consequences (there are so many bullies it is apparently impossible to punish them all) and turn to "mediation"--a disaster, I assure you, for the bullied. We teach the bullying victim to take it--turn the other cheek and try to understand their aggressor. Hence, more bullying.
Drugs and alcohol are more prevalent, more available than ever. Anyone who jumps up and down over a sight decrease in alcohol use by our kids isn't paying attention to the spike in drug use. Prescription drug parties where kids bring a handful of medicine's they got from their parents' pill bottles and then consume a random combination of them are particularly bizarre and worrisome. Marijuana use is increasing in its availability and usage, particularly as it is legalized in some states. Those states, not surprisingly, are beginning to report a dramatic jump in the use of weed by kids. There's an avalanche of pro-pot propaganda on the internet, trumpeting its benefits and negating the dangers. Having read much of it, I will say it's pretty well done. And there's not much out there to counter it.
And of course these kids are home without parents--mine sometimes included--as both parents are often at work, if by some luck there are 2 parents in the household. With 41% of all births now occurring out of wedlock and 50% of marriages ending in divorce--mine included--more and more kids face daunting odds. Many parents abdicate the responsibility to teach values to our schools--schools that are just trying to keep students safe and provide at least a bare minimum of instruction, but that are in no position to instill a worthy moral code in young minds. Combine that with access to trouble at their fingertips, boredom beyond belief and the constant drumbeat from our president that they can't do anything without the government and should be envious of those who by some miracle have achieved success on their own, and we have all the ingredients for disaster.
I don't write this because I have the answers. I'm right in the thick of it, and realize I, who once thought I knew it all and parenting didn't look so tough, have, well, no answers. Where I once might have looked in judgment at families struggling with the throes of parenting teens, I now say "there but for the grace of God." Or sometimes I say, "yup, I'm right there with ya."
I do know this: We need to hold our sons close for as long as we can. And release them into the world fortified. Fortified with the assurance of our love and affirmation, and confident in who God created them to be. This is for sure: they will be pummeled from all sides--boys are under attack--and we have to prepare them for it. We have a culture that preys on our boys, urging them to be satisfied with the least life has to offer.
I want the best for my boys; I want them to strive for more. To be men of honor in a world that laughs at anyone who won't download pirated songs and movies. To respect women despite a culture that finds it acceptable to call them "bitches" and that encourages girls to "sex it up" and aggressively pursue boys and intimacy. I want my sons to be bold, ambitious, and prosperous--in body, mind and spirit--in a country that now shames the successful. To feel entitled to nothing, but willing to work hard and revel in the fruit of their labor. To want passionately to leave the world a better place than they found it, in a world that teaches them to get all they can for themselves, by whatever means necessary including lying, cheating or stealing, with little or no regard for the impact on others.
I want to pass on to them big, noble dreams that will help them rise above the mediocrity around them--and to see that there is still so much that is good. Those dreams come from inspiring them a heritage of honor, one they want to live up to. That heritage can come from their parents, who faithfully, intentionally model a life well lived; or from a revered ancestor who lived a remarkable life, someone the family seeks to honor in the way they live theirs. It can come from our most gallant and blessed shared heritage as Americans--it is an honorable heritage of courage and dedication to the concept of liberty for all. Or, of course, it can come from the knowledge that they, our sons, are beloved children of our God Most High, knowing that they are so precious, so beloved that the King was willing to die for them, that they might live with Him. What a heritage, indeed.