How do you get your kids through the hard teenage years? You have taught, led, disciplined, guided and practiced the basic truths that are logical, righteous and good.
What do you do when the teenager (son or daughter) reaches the dating age, say about 16 or 17? When your hormones are turning flips going down into middle age and your kids have hormones that they have just discovered, what do you do then?
You say they are good kids. Do you trust them? I really mean trust them? Have they earned the freedom that you are going to offer? This is a most serious step for both you as parents, and your son or daughter as they come to years. I know this is a judgment call, but all in all, are they able to make good decisions? I know that I am getting into deep waters, but stay with me, for Ann and I have been through this same process six times. Have we made mistakes? You bet! Do we want to repeat the process – No sir! But that’s no reason not to share some of the things we did that may be considered ‘outside the pail’ of what’s normal.
We found ourselves caught in the middle. The teens, by reason of age, were out of our personal control. They are on their own at school and have picked their friends to chum with. That bothered us. They had begun to double date and on occasion single date. We didn’t like sitting on the porch, late at night, waiting of them to return from their evening out… It’s an uneasy feeling to know that we no longer can ride ‘shotgun’. We always said as they departed, “Be good”, expressing our fears rather than our trust. Why didn’t we laugh and smile and say, “Have fun”? Our idea of fun may not be theirs. That’s not the most comfortable way to live as kids or parents. So what options did we have?
We talked about it, prayed about it, debated it between ourselves. Why don’t we have a special party for them? Take them to a nice restaurant. Let them invite one of their friends to come along. We can pick out a special ring, nothing real expensive but something nice. Have it wrapped and give it to the waiter as we enter the restaurant. Our instructions were simple. When we finish our meal, please bring the gift along with the cards and give it to our son or daughter sitting with us. As of now, they know nothing of the proceedings. It is just a party!
The most difficult part was in writing the cards. In many ways they were farewell cards, graduation certificates, both loving and heart rending. We put our most intimate feelings in permanent ink. It was a real “tear-jerker” just spelling each word. One card from Mom and one card from Dad. Here are just a few ideas for a start.
Dear Beloved, Dated
I cannot speak what’s in my heart right now. So I will write it and leave it with you for the lifetime that is ahead of you. Put it in your very special box of memories. You are a most wonderful person and my love for you is above life itself. The gift we give to you now is a gift of sweetness and life. Our tears only stamp the sealing wax in words. We no longer can or desire to enforce our rules or judgment. We will always be there for you when you feel the need to talk. The RING is an outward show and an inward grace we call “Freedom”. From this moment on, you are free to make ALL YOUR OWN DECISIONS AND JUDGMENTS. Not just some of them but all of them. College is just ahead of you and you’ll be making all your own decisions anyway. We believe you need to have time to practice and this ring will give you that freedom and responsibility. We are releasing you, believing the trust you have made with us through the years will stand the test.
With this Freedom Ring comes the heavy responsibility that you alone must bear. All decisions you make will have consequences, both for right and wrong, good and bad. Freedom is not defined as to “do your own thing”. It is the taking of full accountability for every act and judgment you make. It’s a ‘growing up time’ and we are grateful that you earned this privilege. We believe you will weigh each decision you make with care and wisdom.
Guard this ring with your life. Never take it off. Wear it with the inward pride of trust from your mother and me. The wise man Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it” and Paul said to youth, “Be an example of the believers, in word, life, love, spirit, faith and purity” (Proverbs 22:6; I timothy 4:12).
Parents: Please be careful in reading these words. With such a Ring, there are heavy risks and great rewards. You alone must decide. To release them is not a matter of how but when.