Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wit's End.

A week ago I posted an entry about the challenge of disciplining my children. Then a couple days later I pulled it down, for fear of offending my children, specifically my oldest son. I was worried I was disclosing too much and might embarrass him.

Now here it is a week later, and this ongoing problem with Jacob has resurfaced yet again. And I am somewhat exasperated. I feel like I want to give up, disconnect, because this flaw in my son keeps coming up and up, and no matter what I do, I can't seem to get through to him. So my concern for his discomfort has been overshadowed by my concern for his well-being. And so here I post again.

The flaw is sneakiness, it comes in other forms, from defiance to outright lying, but sneakiness, that's a good word to encompass the whole battle.

A few weeks ago I caught him using his phone close to midnight. There are a whole variety of rules that got broken in the process, like not using his phone after 9:30, not being allowed to have his phone in his room at night, and when I caught him, at first he lied to me, SWORE to me, that all he had done was "turn it to silent." My suspicion was he was texting, but I couldn't prove it because outgoing text messages don't time stamp on his phone. But my mother's intuition told me he was lying. Upon further investigation I discovered he hadn't sent a text message, he'd made an actual phone call to a girl he used to go to school with, a crank call. He spent 2 weeks (or more?) with no phone, no internet access (except when he used it at my mom's without permission - more sneakiness.)

As the start of school approached I tried to back off a little, let him be dropped off at the movies with a friend, gave him his phone for safety reasons, and for my own comfort. When school started the first couple days I had him take it to school for safety reasons, "turning it in" as soon as he got home. By Thursday I decided he could have it back.

Another issue from the past with sneakiness was Jake lying about things like getting homework and such done. I caught him a couple times up in the middle of the night doing schoolwork when he should have been sleeping. I really came down on this situation because he would turn his bedroom lights on in the middle of the night without having any consideration for how it might affect his little brother's sleep. He's on the top bunk about 2 feet from the light source. We have had this happen 2 or 3 times, once for homework, another time he was reading a magazine, this time he was working on his latest "manuscript." That's when I caught him doing this past Friday night. I woke up in the middle of the night, well like 5 in the morning and something/ someone (probably the cat) had opened our bedroom door sometime through the night. I'm not a good sleeper and so as I was stirring, the bright light outlining the boys bedroom door caught my attention. I found him in his room, wide awake working on a play manuscript he's adapting in his spare time.

I was so angry. On more than one occasion he has been specifically told NOT to turn the lights on in his room when his brother is asleep. Ethan's little, needs his rest, and if he was awoken in the middle of the night or way too early hours of the morning he'd probably have a tough time going to sleep. I realize that so far 3 for 3 he's managed to sleep through it, but is that the point? I've told Jake, made a rule, and he ignores it, defies it even.

It seems to me like it's a pattern, the lying, sneaking, defying specific rules. Now I realize that on a bigger scale Jake seems like a good kid, sneaking to do homework, or write, but there's a core issue there, and it scares me. Am I to assume that although we have these struggles in "little things" when it really matters, then he will do the right thing and obey? I think that's a leap of faith I'm not willing to make. Doesn't it talk in the bible about being faithful in little things before you can be trusted in the big?

My husband adds to my frustration. Compared to Neal (and even me to some degree) Jake is a good kid. At his age I was sneaking out and drinking alcohol, and Neal was doing far worse. So in Neal's eyes he is a good kid, by comparison. But Neal and I also grew up without having a Christ-centered home, and to some degree, at least in Neal's case we weren't really taught any better. Or in my case, my parents were just too trusting and I had friends whose parents were far more permissive. I worked the system. And because of Neal's family background and issues with his dad, he finds it harder to discipline our kids. So I feel like I am always picking up that slack, I'm the "mean mom."

If it's inconvenient or there is a cost, discipline often goes by the wayside. For example after I caught Jake up with the lights on, there was no punishment, the four of them spent the day at Universal Studios. Neal didn't want to disappoint the little ones, and he didn't want to leave me home alone with Jake. (I had plans to clean and a meeting to help counsel some friends.) Another example, a few weeks back my little ones stole some toys from the dentist's office. There's this treasure chest and you're only supposed to take one, and they took more, Ethan took 8, Tori took 5, and Ethan lied to the receptionist when she specifically asked him if he was taking just one. We were at the house by the time I figured it out, and Neal was waiting to leave with the boys for the river. To me, lying and stealing are "spankable" offenses. And there had been an ongoing issue with Ethan about lying for a week before. I felt E needed a spanking but Neal wasn't willing because they were leaving. So it feel to me again to be the mean mom and I spanked Ethan (and Victoria) before the boys left. Ethan wouldn't even kiss me goodbye. And then it was me again a week later when I made them go back to the dentist office, confess their sins and return their stolen property. And I'm sorry, but it is stealing.

Another struggle I am having is how angry I am with Jacob. I try to withdraw from him to make a point of how unacceptable his choices are, but I don't know that is has any effect. I feel like I am beating my head against a brick wall, and I worry that it's my son's heart. If you defy your parents, lie about it, sneak around, there are spiritual consequences even if the physical ones are ineffective. Every time he does it, I know it gets easier and easier to do it the next time. And I see him on this road to disaster. The lies will get bigger, the choices more serious. What is a mother to do?

I've been trying to evaluate our home, wondering if it's something I'm doing, or Neal is doing that is setting a poor example. But we don't lie, we're very forthright and transparent. Then I wonder if I am frustrating him into rebellion? I don't know, I am at my wit's end. Last time we had a big blow up with Jake sneaking around and lying we had even gone and I tried to make him accountable to his youth leader at the time, but when I told the whole story the youth leader looked relieved. Jake told me when he talked with him after I left he's said something about being glad it wasn't "worse," that he'd been really worried. But is there anything worse than being a person who lacks integrity?

Another thought that has occurred to me and has me concerned is this. If I keep catching Jake, over and over, is it because God has him truly on a short leash and he's getting held to a high standard and God isn't letting him continue in the sin? Or is it the more logical assumption that he's doing it so much I'm catching him often, but there are lots more times he's slipping by? That's what scares me. Everyone who knows Jake likes him a lot, and they all think he's a great kid, but if he's a good kid "out there," why is he living a double life and behaving so differently in our home? And what kind of example is he setting for his younger siblings?

I am tough, "mean mom" isn't a hard role for me to play, but I don't think expecting my kids to be honest people is too much to ask. I don't think it's too high a standard to set. My final and greatest worry is about my son's relationship with Jesus Christ. I see no real conviction in Jake when he does these things, I mean truly there must not be enough to stop him, and when he gets caught, I see no repentance. I see someone who is sorry that he got caught, not sorry for what he did. It frightens me.

I guess I need prayer for wisdom. I pray for God to speak to Neal too. I need prayer for Jake too. I honestly believe this is a huge issue, and at a time when we are sending him out into the world more than ever before with new influences and temptations, if there is no conviction toward integrity at the core, then I am very afraid.

I am also seeking counsel. If someone out there is reading this and has any insight, it would be appreciated. If you don't know my e-mail you can contact me through it by clicking on our family page and then going to my profile. Sigh. This parenting thing is tough.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Come to AIM - Tuesday 7pm