As I sit and stare, trying not to let him know how acutely I am looking at him, I see my 16 year old son. I look at him from the deepest part of my heart. What I am experiencing is profound amazement – pride that he is a wonderful, enjoyable young man. Ever grateful that he knows the Lord, and utterly astounded he is ours – that he was our newborn baby boy, was this adorable toddler, and now is this fascinating, independent teen age boy on the brink of manhood. I thank my God for this tremendous gift – the journey of raising this young man.
As we sit on the screened in porch of our cabin, the sun shines brightly on his hair, just catching the top of his head as the roof shades us. The beam of sunlight on his hair causes it to glow, showing strands of brownish/auburn richness. This hair that is a little long now will soon be cut short, in preparation for his first real job – a dock boy for the summer.
As he sits with me, just to hang out together, I so appreciate his small talk. When parenting teens we all know those moments come few and far between!! ‘Ya grab every opportunity you can! Hard to believe he used to be a chatterbox when he was small.
For such a young person, he knows so much. He is living his dream this summer by being a dock boy at a resort on our lake, which is 5 hours north from our home. The job will require that he lives at the resort and works from dawn until dusk, 6 days a week.
As we relax on the porch, I can see the muscles of his whole being flexing themselves in anticipation. His thoughts meander out in his words…could he take our small boat down lake to the resort from our cabin (this is a huge lake and a wilderness area); on his day off once a week, he will take the little boat to our cabin and let himself in; no, he won’t mind going to his private room in the lodge at the resort each night after a long day of work, all alone in his room, as the stillness of the wilderness begins it’s night and the loons call and the wolves howl. (Not to mention that the resort is a long way down lake from our cabin, passing a number of islands and bays along the way. This is a remote area, not filled with many boats or people on the lake.)
I do smile at the vision of him in the work he is about to begin. He will hop down to the docks to help guests launch their boats, get their bait, get directions and clean their fish. In between, he will work around the resort on many projects, much of it hard labor and some of it his least favorite thing – mowing the grass. A lot of mowing in this case, with 12 cabins. He will help build docks, decks, design and put in new landscaping, repair motors and fishing reels and boat trailers. He will help guests park their boat trailers, check on them at their cabins, provide firewood to the cabins and get their garbage each day. (Bears). His friendly demeanor will be a blessing to the guests also.
I see his confidence as a true woodsman, raised camping and hiking in the wilderness. He is very comfortable starting campfires, rigging fishing lines, handling the wildlife – including bears, and surviving should he get lost in the wilderness out there, or stuck on an island in a storm. He is also a good swimmer and was asked to be on the swim team when he was just 5. That’s comforting.
All this is a good thing.
So what’s my problem? Why am I feeling this way?
Well, it’s that I am still concerned about whether or not this is the right thing for him. (My husband and I had prayed about this and discussed this at length prior to giving the go ahead).
OK, …and… I am going to miss him so much.
Yes God. Let go and go God.
Why is it that I am wondering how he will really feel as he crawls into bed the first few nights, in a new place, all alone. The resort owners will be sleeping in the upper level of the lodge, while our son’s room and private bath are on the main level of the lodge, with a door opening to the outside. Will he be lonely? Will he be homesick? Will he be afraid? Will he be safe from invaders? Even big people can be afraid of a situation like that! The flip side is that we have known the resort owner for years. He used to be OUR dock boy when we used to stay at a different resort on that lake. For heavens sake. My parents let me go to Ecuador for a whole summer, as an exchange student, at the same age of 16, and living in a family of strangers! Get over it Lori, I tell myself! And self says, “I’m trying!”
I am also thinking about appropriate supervision for our son. The resort owner does not have kids yet. He works morning noon and night at his resort though. So everyone goes to bed tired each night. There is no restaurant or bar at the resort. The lodge just has a game room and check-in/lounge area. But will the owner know to watch out for our son, to keep him safe, to put restrictions on him – like not leaving the resort at night after work, etc. (our son would not have a car anyway, but what if a guest had a teen and thought going out in their car would be fun?) A parent can think of all kinds of things that could present problems for their kids…and they should conduct proper consideration.
How come I keep dwelling on the fact that though the owner is a good person and we like him a lot, he is not a Christian? How do we really feel about our son being under the guidance of someone for a whole summer, who may not exhibit all of the Christ centered aspects of life we would hope for? After all, our son will be having all his meals with them, and will hang out with them morning noon and night, for almost three months. Would he be watching R rated movies? Is it important to consider having only Christian influences on our minors for extended living situations? What about at 16, when he has been raised a Christian and has a strong faith life?
This is the stuff that makes parenting so difficult at times.
Letting go is not always very easy.
How could we say no to a 16 year old boy that wants to own his own resort some day and has wanted to be a dock boy since he was little? To a kid that loves it up here and has tinkering, fixing, building, problem solving, designing, and nature oozing out of his bones and pores? The job would be a great life experience for him, particularly since he wants to own a resort someday.
For him to get to do this would be like putting a duck to water. He will blossom and thrive and grow in ways we can’t even measure. He is so ready for this. He has always been so very independent.
But, I am thinking, we will have to be down in the cities during the week for our jobs. We spend almost every weekend at the cabin, but we will not get to see him because his only day off each week is Tuesday. This means that we would not be able to share all those wonderful weekends with him and his friends up at the cabin with us! I can’t stand the thought of it! I love having the kids around. We have a blast – morning, noon and night. Campfires, mealtimes, hearing about their adventures as they come and go, and games. Gosh, I don’t know. Is this good for HIM, to miss all this with us?
I have been thinking about his faith life from the get go. With weekends being prime time for activity at the resorts, he will not be able to worship on Sunday- the only worship time up here in the area. He will not be able to participate in church youth group activities up here either – one, because there aren’t any, and two, he won’t have free time to do so. AND he will be missing the teen youth group at our church at home, which he is active in. His spiritual life and spiritual growth is a top priority. He plans to do daily devotions and have his bible with him… But basically, he won’t be in a “Christianized” environment. He will be in the real world. Great. Now what do we do. Yes, we have already considered all this.
I have had all these thoughts going through my head as we share these moments of otherwise peaceful solitude together.
I know the answer.
I am feeling all of these things because that is what a parent is.
I know the only solution for my peace of mind and solace.
Take it to the cross. We did.
After much time in prayer about this, my husband and I realized we need to let go and go God.
So I continue to pray, “God, please help me keep peace of mind regarding our son’s job, and please protect him spiritually and in all other ways, with your armies of angels. Help him put on the armor of God and keep it on this summer, as you strengthen him and mold him. Lord, keep him in the palm of your hand. He is yours and we thank you for him. Amen.”
Parents, thank goodness for our God. I don’t know any other way to get through the hard parts of parenting!
Oh, by the way, I think God is telling me to move my office to the cabin for the summer, since there are no kids left at home that need me there day in and day out. Our other child is 22, will be home for the summer and will be working full time during the week and at the cabin on weekends. I do most of my parent coaching by phone so this will work great, since I have an office up here anyway. I can travel when I need to for my speaking engagements. It is nice to know I will be able to see our son on his day off if he wants to.
One more thing. My husband and I decided we will go down and have a talk with the owner about our guidelines for our son, before he starts his job in a few weeks, when school is out. Since the owner does not have kids, he has no parental experience yet. Talking to him is a good solution. By sharing our expectations, we set both the owner and our son up for success. This will include things like, reminding the owner he is in complete charge and is responsible for a minor – our son. This means we need to be assured that he will have curfews on our son (just in case there are kids in the resort), restricting him from leaving the resort at night (there is no place to go that late anyway! The closest town is 30 minutes away!). It also means he must include the restriction of absolutely no drinking, smoking, drugs etc. or he would be terminated. (Our son does not partake in these things, but other families in the resort may have kids that do and who knows what goes on down at the campfires late at night when parents are sleeping…) This also will include supervising our son when he is on the internet at the lodge and no R rated movies, should a rainy day keep our son indoors. Most of all, we need to make sure that the owner realizes that yes, it IS his responsibility to look out for our son, in safety related ways and otherwise.
Our son is a great kid. However, a parent’s role in parenting teens is to let loose but not let go! Teens need parameters more than ever, because of the temptations and slippery slopes of our culture. In addition, their brains are not fully developed. The area of the brain not developed involves a child’s judgment, and the ability to properly process pertaining to cause and effects of actions. When you add this to the combination of zero life experience or wisdom, seasoned by a total lack of a sense of vulnerability, you end up with a dangerous concoction called the mind of a teen. Full of such potential and a prime target for the evil one.
Bottom-line, I need to keep focusing on the fact that I already took this to the cross. I need to keep working on letting go and go God. It is a process sometimes. That’s OK. This is different from being a helicopter Mom. None of us want to be a smother mother. I guess all this talking to myself was really a need to self affirm that I am not a helicopter mother.
Just a boat Mom! I can go down by boat and bring some fresh baked goodies to him and the resort owners! Heaven help me!
Lori Jo Kemper is a PCI Certified Parent Coach® and speaker.
Copyright 2006, Lori Jo Kemper, www.TheParentingPath®