Even though your kids will consistently do the exact opposite of what you're telling them to do, you have to keep loving them just as much.
I spend a lot of time around teenagers. I work at a school so of course I spend some of every day with teenagers. I’ve mentioned before that I work at a detention center school - so the kids that I’m working with are in trouble. They broke the law and now they are most definitely detained. This can be a discouraging place sometimes. It’s a place that brings front and center all the problems in society with drugs, alcohol and all of the many issues that can affect families and kids. And so many of these kids come back over and over and over again. They have the court sessions here at this building as well and as I walk back and forth through the lobby on my way to the classrooms I see the parents that come for the court hearings. As you might imagine there is every type of emotion possible on display before those court sessions - Anger, embarrassment, sorrow, fatigue, apathy even relief sometimes. There are a lot of kids that are in trouble and there are a lot of families that are in trouble. Being faced with the constant barrage of negativity, it can be easy to despair.
Now, to get to my point today I need to side-track here for a minute. The other day I was watching an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation. I don’t run across Star Trek so much anymore, but I have to admit I am a fan so I also have to admit that I remember seeing this episode before. In this episode Warf was returning to the Enterprise after competing in a Bat-leth tournament. Somehow his shuttlecraft passed through a space/time continuum vortex or something and he woke up in the wrong universe for his quantum vibration. Now before you get too confused, I really do have a point. The idea behind this episode was that any time the possibility for a choice or action occurs, all of those possibilities break off and form their own parallel quantum universe. So the when Warf returned to the Enterprise he found that he had a different rank than he remembered, he was married where he hadn’t been before and some of the people who had been there before -were gone …and other’s who had been gone were back (you know how it is with those expendable crew members in Star Trek – the ones that die to prove the situation is serious). Anyway, things were different because for any particular situation there are hundreds of variables and ways that it could turn out. So Data had to configure a quantum flux-capacitor or something to get Warf back to his correct universe and everyone lived happily ever after (except for the Enterprise that was destroyed by the borg ship before the time fissure sealed….but that’s another universe)
But what does this have to do with troubled young people? Well like this episode of Star Trek I think sometimes about all the different directions that lives can take. What is it that makes one kid a relatively normal, relatively good kid and another a constant visitor to the detention center and probably future State Penitentiary inmate? The answer is….I’m not really sure.
I am grateful every day that I have good kids and I like to think that part of the reason my kids are good is because I never let them have any fun. Seriously though, both their dad and I expected them to be a good kid and have tried and are still trying to teach them to be responsible. But before we parents take all the credit, they had decisions to make too. Many of the parents I see come for juvenile court every day are no different than I and no doubt had the same expectations for their kids. But for whatever reason their kids took a turn and ended up in the wrong universe. It can be frightening to think about the choices our kids can make, how fast things can go wrong, and again it can be easy to despair.
But I’m going to go Mormon here for a minute. There was a scripture I ran across the other day in The Book of Mormon that made me start to think. It was a prophet named Samuel who was talking about young people. Helaman 15:5 And I would that ye should behold that the more part of them are in the path of their duty, and they do walk circumspectly before God, and they do observe to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments according to the law of Moses. Whether you are religious or not, all Samuel is saying that while not all the young people are doing what they are supposed to do, the more part of them are. And even faced with the daily evidence to the contrary, I think that for the most part this is true and I saw the proof of this recently.
I mentioned a blog or two back that I was going as a chaperone on a cruise with Ebay’s team. When we were getting ready to go, there was some concern about how much trouble we might have keeping some of the kids away from some of the evening entertainment and amenities on the ship. For any of you that have been on a cruise you know that while there are a lot of things to do on the ship, drinking and gambling seem to be some of the major pastimes onboard. Plus there were apparently some “rated R” shows available late at night as well. So the chaperones were anxious that the kids not be tempted to cross over to the dark side, and that if they were tempted we at least had a plan to deal with the issue. But after all that worry and concern we found that the kids were extremely capable of occupying themselves with decidedly “G-rated” activities. Some of them would play spoons (it’s actually a card game despite what it sounds like) up on the highest deck because they liked how windy it was. Some of them would have ice cream cone eating contests in the buffet (Ebay got through 14 soft-serve cones and he didn’t even win) and some of them would just hang out on the deck, watch the ocean and enjoy their teenage banter. I found that I was relieved, although, I have to admit, not surprised. I think I would have been more surprised if we had run into trouble with this group of kids.
So if you (or I) look around and despair for the future, I can testify to you that like the scripture says the more part of the kids that I know are trying to follow the “path of their duty.” And even the ones that have slipped into the wrong universe are redeemable. I guess all we can do is continue do our best to fashion the flux-capacitor that somehow brings them back to the right universe - and to hope that, despite some evidence to the contrary, the best is yet to come.