Parenting is hard. No ifs, ands or buts, it's just hard. And as exhausting as it was when I had two under two and a nine year-old, two teenagers and a young adult is WAY more exhausting. The oldest was a good little helper at 9 with the toddlers, but far way as a 22 year-old, he really doesn't even factor in much with the 14 and 15 year-olds. And living thousands of miles away now, he rarely contributes to my emotional and mental exhaustion anymore. Which is why when something about "empty nest" popped up on the screen at church on Sunday morning, I leaned over and high-fived my husband. There are some days, that I am happy to be in the home stretch. Both kids will be in high school by fall, and after #1 blazed through, I am well aware of how quickly it will go.
I love my kids, don't get me wrong. And honestly, I am pretty blessed - they ARE pretty good kids, especially when I send them out into the world where they are apparently a little more apt to remember all that I pounded into them about respect for others as they grew up. They get it - well, they must, because their teachers like them, even find them "a pleasure to have in class." We're doing well with a girlfriend's mom, moms of friends tell me they are good kids. They are good kids. But they are good kids who at home like to argue, press boundaries, push limits and more often than I care for, wade in the waters of disrespect.
I get it. They are TEENAGERS - and that's what TEENAGERS do. (I feel like I should come up with an acronym... Tiring, Exhausting, Exceptionally Naughty...I'll work on it....) But a lot of times when it happens, the overwhelming thought that blazes through my head like a hot wind is, "I didn't raise them to behave that way." And I didn't. And sometimes my frustration really gets the best of me. (Though I have to admit my recent commitment courtesy of the swear jar to stop cussing, has brought the unanticipated side effect of more self-restraint... who knew?)
This past weekend both my kids crossed some boundaries with me. (Why do they always feel the need to tag team? I told my mom recently that as the mom of an only child she actually had it a little easier in the teen years. She started to disagree when I pointed out that at least when I was a teenager I sometimes went off duty to sleep. My kids seem to take shifts... but I digress.)
I'm not here to trash my kids. And that's not actually what I am doing, but I noticed something this weekend, it really sank in deep. And it truly screams loudly in the face of "I didn't raise my kids that way."
My daughter and I got into a disagreement about her wanting to get her nose pierced. My decision is "No. Not till she's 18." And I told her so. I'm not saying that ought to be everyone's rule. I'm not saying it's a black and white issue, I'm just saying for me, "face altering decisions" ought to be made by an adult. I don't want my 22 year-old coming back to me someday and asking me what I was thinking when I let my 14 year-old get her nose pierced. My opinion for my child is that it is a trend that may not even last into her adulthood and it may definitely not remain her personal style, so "No, no can do."
She didn't like the "No," and she wasn't a fan of the "why." But I'm the mom, and it's NOT a democracy. I'm older, I'm wiser, I can foresee things she can't based simply on my added life experience. She thought she could get her dad on board (actually she thought he already was on board) because he has considered piercing his own nose and he told her once he thought it was cool. But when she tried to play the card in front of me, without knowing my thoughts and without any hesitation Neal said "No, not till your're 18," (much to my delight.) She threw a fit. And again demanded to know why.
I told her all my reasons to which she responded, "That's not a reason!" and later added, "You won't give me a good reason." Clearly I beg to differ, but when she harped and harped and harped I finally said those words every kid hates, "Well, I'm your mother and because I said so."
That made her indignant, and outraged, and a little too expressive, so I banished her to her room till she could better hide her disdain. My kids wear me down sometimes, more than I actually care to admit, but not this one, not this time. I feel like I can see what she can't, and I am confident I know better than her (for her.) She's 14, she doesn't know near what she thinks she does.
I've heard the beloved (and despised) "Because I said so," get a bad rap lately in the "parenting world." People have come under this misguided sense that our kids need to be treated like equals, and need to be reasoned with, and every answer needs to be understood and (gulp) agreed upon by all parties, and I say (because I'm not swearing anymore) HOGWASH!!!!
What a lousy bill of goods we have sold our kids to make them think that they always have a right to make their arguments and to make a way. That's not how the real world works. They will have coaches, and teachers, and professors and bosses all throughout their lives who will have the right, will and power to say "because I said so." Because it's my team, my business, my class, and you have to do things my way. And if we let them buy into the lie that they won't by letting them break the authority in our homes, we're fools.
But even bigger than the people they will face in their lives, their is an ultimate "Because I said so," that they will have to learn to submit to, and that's the voice of God. God doesn't reason with us, or offer explanation of "Why" to everything He asks of us. Quite the contrary, most of the time if we will it to be so, what God asks of us won't make much sense at all. "Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Forgive those who have sinned against you." Yeah, I know, some of us understand the logic there, but we don't have to. We could argue, kick and scream and resist. We could demand to know a better reason why. But in the end "Because God said so" needs to be sufficient.
No, I'm not saying piercing her nose is equivalent to "don't have sex outside of marriage," but the heart issue that wants to argue both those points is the same-- self, selfishness, rebellion. And as parents, it's our job to help out kids work that out. Sometimes it's like pounding our heads against a brick wall, but "No," (to whatever YOUR conviction is with your kids) is NOT a dirty word. Quite the contrary, it's a necessary one. And "Because I said so," IS a sufficient reason.
At my age and stage of life, I find myself trying less and less to understand the "why" or get a good reason for what God asks of me. I actually find some solace in "Well, God said so, so I am just going to do it for that reason alone." That's both in the logos (written) Word and the Ramah (personally spoken) Word that God offers. I am still in school because God said to go back. Does it make sense? No. But I assume God has a good reason. I also try really hard to continue to work towards forgiving those who I feel wronged by, NOT because I want to, but because God says I need to. And I know God is a loving God who wants what is best for me. And I trust in His character. I trust in His wisdom. I trust in His heart.
And if you feel those same things about yourself towards your own children, then sometimes (more times than they might agree to) I encourage you, comfortably and confidently own the reason and express it freely, "Because I said so."
These kids live in a world where fighting that is encouraged. They (the society as a mindset) are so full of their "rights" that they will never even own their wrongs. They think they are entitled to whatever they want. But the real world isn't going to hold up that end of the bargain, and if you love your kids, neither should you. Say no where you feel the conviction to do so as a mom or a dad, and state your reason if you will, but whether they come on board or not, hold no guilt, "Because I said so," is totally legit!