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« Don't think of Herod before bed | Main | Ancient Words »
Sunday
Sep092018

Why I could not be pointedly aloof.

Last week, I saw a person re-tweet something by a woman named Megan Hill. I am not familiar with who she is. Her comment was:

One of the best things my parents ever did for me was to refuse to treat any boyfriend as if he were another member of the family. They were friendly, but pointedly aloof until the day of my wedding. 

The Best of Intentions

I am very familiar with a parents' desires to set boundaries in the relationships between their kids and their friends. I longed for my children to wait to pursue serious relationships until they were older. At the time we homeschooled, courtship was all the rage. I told them that was the goal; they listened. And they did exactly what we did not want them to do.

In light of the fact that our kids would not hop on board with our plans, I felt like the best thing to do was at least be aware of their relationships and befriend their friends, whoever they were. Any of my kids' friends knew that when they came here they would be treated as if they were one of my own. It didn't matter who that friend was. And we had a lot of teens in this house over the years.

It wasn't always like that, however. When the kids were younger, we lived down the street from a family whose mother had some personal struggles and the kids ran wild. I did not do enough to help those kids. I was far too worried about what influence those kids would have on my kids when I should have done more to help them. So when our kids started high school, I made sure things would be different. When my son brought home a skittish young girl in 10th grade, I was anything but aloof. And I have no regrets.

Someone in Need

She came from a troubled home. She was without a father and her mother was mostly disinterested in where her daughter was or what she was doing. In addition to teaching her the gospel, taking her to church, and feeding her, I mothered her. When her mother's poor financial choices impacted her daughter, I made up what was lacking. And I'm not talking about luxuries; I'm talking about basic necessities in a teenage girl's life.  When she had conflict with her mother, and showed up here, we didn't turn her away.

The relationship ended. And it was difficult for everyone involved. And yes, it felt like I was losing a child. Perhaps we were wrong for not stepping in and forbidding our son to spend time with a spiritually immature girl (something you can't actually do once they are in public high school). Perhaps we didn't have enough control over our teenagers. But when you are confronted with someone in need of love, you're not thinking about how you'll feel in 15 years. And when your 16 year old son desperately wants to show compassion to someone in need, you want to affirm that. We gave to her when she was here, we felt sad when she walked away, but we know we did the right thing in loving her and caring for her; in not being aloof, but warm and welcoming. I think I was right for getting up on those winter Saturday mornings so she could be at work by 6:00 am when it was -25°C with a windchill.

The Message We Send

When our children are younger, 8 or 9 years old, we are not hesitant to have them bring friends home and welcome them to the home. Even if our female child brings home a male friend. But when we start putting up walls and changing the way we treat their friends because there could be a romantic entanglement, are we actually contributing to a subtle combative attitude? The opposite sex is one to be guarded against. My own children have said something like that.  One of my sons once commented that in 8th grade a guy is allowed to be friends with a girl but once high school starts, he has to start looking at her like she's a temptress, and she has to be afraid she's going to cause him to stumble. I wonder if as a parent, my aloofness would not simply send a message to the friend: "I think you could be trouble." Is that how I want to be with my kids' friends? No.

It is appealing to think we can shield our children, micromanage their lives, and protect them from everything, and when they are young and foolish we should. But there is also a place for letting them fail when as they are learning to use wisdom. I could not be aloof out of fear of what being too welcoming would do. Over the years, I have become more cautious in all relationships, but aloof is one thing I just can't manage. I've been on the receiving end of aloof more times than I can count. It kinda stings. It's unfortunate that the word choice was used in the tweet. I was also a little disappointed that it received so much support, but I don't really belong to that group, so I guess I should just let it go.

My daughter is engaged. I have no plans to be aloof with her fiance until July 2019, and then minutes after the ceremony turn on the love. What would that say to my daughter?

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