"I don't want to, that's why."
How many times have I said this, heard this, or rued this inflexible statement? Too many times to count. Of course, when it's coming out of my own mouth, it's merely a matter of asserting my own prerogative...and, well, I’m Right.
When I hear it as a response to a parental suggestion I’ve made, it elicits no joy.
And, when it is the case-closed, closed-mind refrain I hear after putting far more thought, prayer, wisdom, and heart into my appeal than the nay-sayer can ever imagine...well, that's an even darker shade of disappointment.
As parents, how clearly we see the diametrically opposed consequences to the yea or the nay response our children hand down! How much we desire, out of pure unselfish love for them, that our own would trust our counsel –-at least now and then--and how much quicker we seem to feel the sting of their folly than they do themselves.
A short time ago I was sitting, partially benumbed, watching an installment of "Teen Mom," on MTV...right down there on the list with "Toddlers and Tiaras" when it comes to the nadir of media culture...only worse, because these programs chronicle what happens in real lives after the real ‘unexpected bundles’ arrive into nests of arrested development.
Unlike T&T, which is mind-bending because it documents the ‘unusual’ ambitions of Pageant Parents, “Teen Mom” features no tongue-in-cheek connection between the camera and the viewer...it just is what it is and, sometimes, it’s hard to watch.
If I have, at times, despaired at how difficult it is for a child of mine to trust my instincts and wisdom, (despite the fact that I offer them infrequently now), I can only conclude it must be "Game Over" for those of my generation who wake up one fine day to find that their life seasons have been telescoped on overdrive, and that their teen son or daughter is about to present them with a prototype of the next generation.
New life-always a blessing, and undeniably a burden in some sense; but the proportions of those two ingredients vary widely from situation to situation . As the years go by and I witness this scenario play out in the lives of more friends, I realize how much of life is held together by tightly stretched heartstrings...
Which is why, a few minutes ago, my own heart unexpectedly glowed with thanks…
Earlier this week, “because I don’t want to” was the expected but still discouraging reply I received after prayerfully encouraging Mr. J (also known to moonlight in this space as a reluctant film reviewer) to go to Heartbeat on Wednesday night.
“Heartbeat” is the junior high/middle school youth group at our church…meeting Wednesday evenings to focus on the Stuff That Matters in Life, by means of teaching, discipleship, fun, fellowship, missions, and of course, snacking….
Heartbeat is to youth ministry what rich compost is to a garden….potent fertilizer with proven results…no guaranteed yield, of course, but the recipe is, most certainly, Tried and True. Heartbeat was the ministry context from which two of our offspring launched into their first missions trips…spiritual reference points for them both; in particular, for our daughter who was baptized in a Kentucky river on one such trip.
Like so many things in life, Heartbeat is an Opportunity Gift which requires a bit of courage to open…first of all, there are those indistinct voices of discouragement buzzing around reminding the Not-Kid/Not-Yet-Adult prospect that this evening may not be ‘cool.’ And of course, there may be no real likelihood of a fast-food stop on the way; the odds are good, they surmise, that they won’t know a living soul there, and if so, it will the kind of person who is sure to step on their very last nerve.
So, um, no thanks, Mom, I don’t want to go to Heartbeat…or anything else you suggest today, either. And, by the way, I’m not your little kid anymore so I’m exercising my ‘No’…and I hope you get it!
But, undeterred, I pulled my mom-guts together and pressed on, employing the Father Factor for the full-court press.
One often doesn’t get quick feedback from these episodes…sometimes you really never do know what happens. In this case, Mr. J., as we were enroute last night, bore more than a passing resemblance to Eeyore…a familiar alter-ego. Nor did the return trip show any signs of a happy metamorphosis.
“Because I don’t want to to, that’s why,” echoed in my mind as my few tentative inquiries went unanswered.
But tonight, when it was no longer even on my mind, I chanced by his room after tucking Miss Cee in for the night and found him still awake.
Checking in on him, I heard a deeper-than-it-used-to-be voice murmur, “Mom, I’m glad I went to Heartbeat last night.”