If you read here regularly, you know I’m not a big fan of romance or happily ever after stories. But I do respect the hope that inspirational authors in the genre bring to the page, and the real-life emotional and spiritual issues they weave into their very rigorous story form.
So, when I came across a historical romance author’s post regarding a bad encounter with bad pseudo-romantic ideas, I had a vibrant discussion with the Fab Four (yes, all four, ages 16 down to 10) about our responsibility for what goes in our minds and hearts, and the life direction we choose as a result.
The discussion topic was courtship, Christian patriarchy, and the anti-dating movement. (Let it be known that my husband chose to court me, not date me, when he was 19. But it was his choice, not his parents’.)
Taken to extremes, we’ve seen the courtship movement destroy family relationships. We’ve seen it send young people running into the arms of the world for refuge from the unbearable weight of guilt and judgment heaped on them by their church culture, and even their parents. What Ms. Lathan writes, rings true.
…when taken to extreme ends of the spectrum you see the following. Boys and girls are not to talk to or even look at each other. God’s gift of free will and intellectual reasoning are suppressed. Choice for a mate is left up to parents, specifically the father…Women are subservient in everything and have no purpose other then to have babies. Emotions, especially in regards to sensuality and romance, are wrong and to be denied. Learning anything about sex or sexuality is forbidden until after marriage, at which point the couple are left on their own to figure it out. Gazing beyond the bubble of the family and what the parents decide is forbidden.
-Sharon Lathan, author of Miss Darcy Falls in Love
Best Friends for Life
“I’m kind of awkward around girls,” said my 16-year-old, “But I can talk to them.” Which is true. My kids are friendly with scattered shyness, rather than the other way around. They’re a bit cynical about people their own age, but I suppose there’s good reason, since it’s an awkward age for all concerned.
“You do just fine,” I told him. “But just imagine. If you never, ever get the chance to learn how to talk to the opposite sex, how are you supposed to forge that foundation of friendship for a marriage?”
To which my quiet but strongminded son nodded emphatically.
I have many good friends, and a handful of best friends of both genders. But Dave is my prime meridian, the point from which the geography of my life is mapped. He taught me friendship, more than anyone has, and if I’m a friend to you, then you know the ripple effect of my husband’s influence.
If I could name a liability to cross-gender interaction as a teen, it was an excessive preoccupation with dating and romance at the expense of friendship. I well remember the difficulties of interacting through a haze of hormones and insecurity, but neither of those things can be prevented. Taking the leash off them leads to destruction. And so does denying that stage of human development its due place.
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. That remains true after the wedding bells are done ringing, and it’s necessary to a balanced love relationship. As we raise our teens, the process of learning that self-control takes on a new context, one that’s foundational to true love.
Raising Daughters, Raising Sons
This leaves my husband–my best, best friend–and me with a challenge and a responsibility. We can fake our way through the teen parenting years by exercising denial and constraint, or we can choose in favour of compassion and shared experience.
That has not been easy. But for me, as a card-carrying member of the Chiefest of Sinners Club, it’s a no-brainer. Sin is not external. We can’t simply ban it. It’s in our nature, inextricable in this lifetime.
As homeschool parents, we choose proactively. We choose to go out and see the world, we choose to discuss it and walk through it for what it is. We choose love and personal discipleship.
We are in this way of life not so much to shelter our children as to enjoy the finite time we have with them before they go their own ways. When they do, the door will always be open for them to return in time of need. They didn’t choose to be born. We chose, and we chose fallibly. And so will they.
Freedom is Responsibility
Our choices are our own. Their choices must and will be theirs, not ours. That’s what it means to be human.
This I know: It was God who took an 18-year-old woman-child and a 20-year-old young man, and made this family we have together, against all odds.
No system we invent will ever substitute sufficiently for grace. If we are to be Christlike, then it seems to me the best way to parent is by practicing that same grace.
Christ died to save sinners, of whom I am foremost of all. May my children know that one sure anchor, even if I teach them nothing else about the human heart.