"…I look back on the way I was then, a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. Try and talk some sense into him…."
~ Red, to the Parole Board, Shawshank Redemption
If you're a parent, even if you've got The Best Kids on the Planet, there will be a point you're disappointed in the choices they and/or their friends make. Even if you love their friends almost as much as your own, even if they're active in church or they're leaders at school, even if they're straight-A students. Even if their transgression isn't that big of a deal in the overall scheme of life, even if it's not life or death, even if no one gets hurt. Even if it's only a matter of style or opinion, or flaw-marred character or attitude in need of adjusting.
Even, even, even…!
I'm a mother to three older teenagers and I watch the fret and worry of mothers with their younger children and I wonder and muse their futures. Mine, theirs, all of ours.
You rarely see what's actually coming.
I've often thought about the wisdom of Red in this scene quoted from Shawshank Redemption; not that any "terrible crimes" were committed in my youth, just that my older self sure could have prevented my younger self from making some stupid, impulsive decisions.
I'm afraid stupid, impulsive decisions never go out of style.
So, when your children and their friends grow older and Do Stupid Things, when "try and talk some sense into them" is futile (or after the fact), when you're angry or hurt or horrified or a combination of all three, remember–
- time reveals perspective
- their poor decisions don't mean you've failed as a parent
- their brains aren't fully developed (though this is NO excuse for personal responsibility)
- sometimes we actually LEARN from our mistakes; hopefully whatever they did this time will prevent them from doing something much worse down the road
- You have to forgive them
- Love isn't conditional
- If they're believers, God is at work in them and even mistakes can be redeemed for good.
Two lessons all parents are served well to teach their children:
- Their sin will find them out, sometimes in the unlikeliest of ways. Make sure you have a "village." Stay in touch with other adults, teachers, coaches and parents who are willing to risk your friendship/relationship by being honest.
- There are always consequences to poor decisions. For Shawshank's Red, it was prison. For most of us, the price is less severe. Sometimes consequences occur naturally, other times they're the form of punishment or restriction by adults; either way, let your children bear the weight of consequence. It's a wonderful deterrent to "next time."
"Kids will be kids" is alright most of the time; but when kids aren't held responsible for their actions, adults or parents are the ones at fault.
Broken trust is a challenge to restore but it can be done; make sure they earn it.