There I was, in that interesting moment when the doctor was about to tell us the sex of our first child. Deep in the dark recesses of my mind, that place full of bad memories of being abused and mocked as a young and awkward boy, I knew one thing and one thing only: I wanted this baby to be a girl.
Hit the fast-forward button by some twelve years and yeah, I have that baby girl, but because time flies, she’s no longer a baby. She’s a teenager.
It’s not so much about a crush or even the fact that my daughter Emily is infatuated with an eighth grade boy, or even the soul-smashing reality that apparently this eighth grade boy is also head-over-heels for her. I mean, who wouldn’t be? She’s beautiful, smart and funny, so it’s a no-brainer that boys were going to come-a-callin’ eventually. It doesn’t mean that I have to be happy about it, I mean, am I selfish for wishing that the only man she would ever love would be me? Not possible. But again, crushes are gonna happen, and while we are prohibiting the ridiculous notion of “dating” at this early age, it is the means by which our young daughter went around some fairly easy-to-follow rules and boundaries that has us disappointed and quite a bit sad today.
It’s all about the lying.
The easy thing to do here is to throw up our arms in surrender, say, “Oh, all kids lie. Heck, I lied all the time!” And we certainly could do that and all of us would be fine, right? I’m not so sure. So much of the struggles that we are experiencing with Emily currently are centered around the fact that we are not allowing her to have a phone, or are we allowing her to have a Facebook account. Oh, and did I mention that there is no Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter in her universe at this current date and time? Yes, you read that correctly. We are bucking the trend of allowing children to have unfettered access to the wild west that is social media. And oh by the way, she can’t text or call any of her friends, because as I mentioned we are not allowing her to have a phone just yet.
She’s simply not mature enough for a phone, and I am not ready to unleash the bondage and sickness of our social media society on her just yet.
Here’s a little story about that.
Emily has her own YouTube channel. All her videos are harmless and completely innocent and they are all private. But there was a day when we forgot to upload one particular video as private, and for about 48 hours it floated around out there, visible to anyone. Upon discovering this problem, I changed the setting and quickly stumbled upon a half-dozen comments that had been left behind. Four of those were completely innocuous, but two of them were ultimately taken down and reported to Google because of the obscene and despicable language directed at my daughter.
So yes, I am a little paranoid about Emily’s exposure to this sort of stuff. My rationale: What exactly is the hurry? The counter argument: You are sheltering her. She has to grow up eventually!
So Emily has lied to us about a lot of things recently, and most of them are the result of her desperate need to be like the rest of her friends and classmates who can call and text from their phones, and view every single funny, and often times inappropriate photo or video that has been posted on the aforementioned social media sites. She has accessed forbidden websites and then attempted to cover her tracks and made calls from Sam’s phone to boy-crush after telling us that she needed to call a friend about a homework assignment.
Those are just the most recent ones that have happened in the last few weeks, and while they may seem very tame to most readers and perhaps hardly seem worthy of punishment, please know that we are bringing the consequences and this time they are very serious. You see, the pattern that is developing now is not an uncommon one for a teenager who is desperate to test boundaries and see how much she can get away with, and we are at a critical juncture in raising her correctly.
It is all about her character.
The window is closing. Emily will be twelve in a month, which is mere inches away from sixteen and then before you know it she is eighteen and our influence will be but a whisper in her college-bound ears. We don’t have a lot of time left to teach and model right from wrong to her, and while punishments and withholding social media rights may seem cruel and unusual in this time of Donald Trump and reality television, we are absolutely doing right by our daughter. We live in a society that rejects goodness, virtue and Jesus Christ, but in our house we embrace righteousness and take the call to be holy quite seriously.
You ever see “Over The Hedge?” Good movie and you should check it out sometime. A main character is a turtle named Verne who is a born leader, but quite conservative and quite cautious in how he proceeds, to the point that his tail actually tingles when he senses that something – a plan, action or idea – is wrong or dangerous. I’ve brought up Verne quite a bit to Emily lately, reminding her that the tingling in Verne’s tail is precisely like the discernment we have from God’s Holy Spirit, who guides us into truth and provides us with the supernatural ability to be holy even when the world is compelling us to do otherwise.
So if my parenting style is a little slow and methodical you can attribute it to Verne.
All kidding aside, we are seriously preaching that character counts in our family, and with that in mind, lying cannot be tolerated, and repeated lying and deceit will result in serious consequences, many of which Emily is now dealing with.
Yesterday was an awful day. It had been an extremely long week of work (one of those where I awoke on Thursday convinced that it was Friday, thus making it that much longer), and faced with a busy Friday night and weekend full of activities, I checked in with Samantha on the way home to see how things were going. Not only was she very sick, Sam had the unpleasant duty to inform me of our daughter’s latest deception and knowing that serious consequences needed to commence immediately, it was my task to drive to Sky Zone, where Emily was enjoying some quality time with her church discipleship group, and take her home. It was an odd and surreal feeling to be one of those families, you know, where the Dad suddenly shows up and drags the wayward kid away from the fun and games, and yeah, that’s pretty much how it went. Banished to the backseat of my car, Emily made several appeals, arguments and justifications for her actions. I listened to each and every one of them – none plausible, yet impressively delivered by my daughter – and then refuted each of them, point-by-point, never raising my voice, yet my blood was boiling.
This was a pivotal moment in our relationship: I could officially check-out from this point forward and hope for the best, or I could strap-in and truly do the parenting I never wanted to do (or felt equipped for). My heart was breaking and aching as I listed the privileges that we were removing from her day-to-day life between now and the end of the school year.
It was all so harsh and oh so painful, but it was all so absolutely necessary.
I arose this morning after a fitful night of sleep. I dreamt of such horrible things that I almost wish that I’d just stayed awake all night watching Fuller House. Yep, it was that bad of a night. Still, I sipped my coffee this morning and played Battleship with Trevor (I won the game and made him cry, which is a story for another day), and greeted my beautiful daughter with a hug. It took me back to that moment at the doctor’s office all those years ago when I silently prayed that we would be told that we were having a girl. Sure, there were all those selfish reasons that were rooted in fear, but God’s answer to all of my prayers – no matter what my motivation – was my smart, beautiful, talented and funny Emily.
She will always be my little Sweet Pea, who sometimes requires extra patience (clothes on the floor, forgot to flush the toilet), a little added guidance (those shorts are too short, and please wash off that makeup) and today, some consequences.
And she gets it.
Emily sees the value in the quality of her character, the reliability of her word and now reestablishing our trust in her. She understands that we are called to be holy and even at this young and impressionable age, Emily is going about the task of working out her salvation with fear and trembling. It is oftentimes difficult to watch and many times more difficult to parent, but in the end I trust in God that it will all be worth it. She is a great kid and I am absolutely positive that her future is bright.
I love you Emily.