Last Sunday, I drove my son over 100 miles away to attend Arkansas Boy’s State for a whole week … It was something I’d never heard of before a month ago, but I guess it’s been going on for 75 years now all across America?! In any case, my son had never been away that long except for to church summer camp, and often with my husband as his counselor!
But he’s 16 now … going on 17. He drives, he has a job. He’ll be a Senior next year. He can grow a scraggly beard! He constantly threatens me with the fact that he WILL NOT live in Arkansas after graduation, even we chose to stay here … *sigh* and *gasp*
[I fear myself turning into Fred Sanford, clutching my chest in a guilt-inducing fake heart attack, crying toward heaven, “This is the big one!” when he tells me about future plans … sorry if you’ve never heard of/watched this show and have NO IDEA what I’m talking about!!] :
I was a little afraid to let go on the day I dropped Drew off: What kind of kids would he encounter? What would the conversations be like? Who would be his roommate? What kind of “stuff” would he hear that we’ve kind of shielded him from? But our school’s guidance counselor assured us the boys who attended were the “best of the best” … and the activities were well monitored … and there was very little free time to get into any trouble. And my husband assured me that it was going to be a good experience.
Reluctantly, I left him there – and joyfully, today I got to pick him up. And guess what? He was ok. He stuck to himself a lot (and he called his mama on his breaks!) … and he actually participated … and he was elected as a “state representative” … and he even took a stand on one issue where all the other boys in his group were “in favor” of an issue and he was the only one who was against it!
So, on the almost 2 hour drive home, him driving, we discussed the political issues he learned about … and the speakers he heard – from both sides of the political agenda … and about what he wanted to do in the future … and about some insights he had about school, education, church, and so many other things. Mature things. Grown up things. Well-thought-out things.
And it is in those moments … that I realize … he is going to be ok. I can pry another finger off my control of his life. My husband often reminds me that it doesn’t matter how much we shield our kids or have them attend church activities or want to share and teach them, in the end IT HAS TO BE IN THEIR HEARTS to do right, to serve God, to choose what choices our family makes will continue to be a part of their life choices. Or not.
Anyway … in summary, Drew said Friday was his favorite day at Boy’s State. The delegates who were elected as representatives – and others – were able to go to Little Rock and sit in the session house where the real state representatives and senators sit – and even discuss and vote on some mock bills. Drew sat in the seat of one of the men from our area (who happens to go to our church) … one of the “good guys” who has proposed and seen the passage of at least one big bill recently that will continue to protect religious freedom in Arkansas and even supported and defended it on CNN.
(Andrew & Arkansas state representative Bob Ballinger)
Drew’s already said politics isn’t for him … but he was open-minded, said the speeches he heard and the discussion sessions he participated in made him think. And that’s what we want: teaching our kids to reason for themselves … and then to know why they believe what they do. And to discuss it with us so we can hash it out together.
I remember this turning point somewhere in my Freshmen year of college or shortly after: did I want to continue to follow the ways I had been taught growing up? In many cases, such as doctrine, I chose YES … because the Bible backed up what I’d been taught. In other areas, I’ve made my own standards – and in the last 22+ years with my husband, we have established our own standards for our family. Will my children continue in them? I don’t know. But right now, I’m going to trust that they will make well-thought-out choices. (or face their own consequences when they choose poorly! I know I’ve learned much from my own mistakes!)
And for this, I can only continue to use the learning opportunities ahead – and be there to discuss and listen – and to most importantly, PRAY.