“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
-Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
(take your pick)
One of our dear friends (to protect his privacy I’ll refer to him as Darn Funny, or DF for short) has been having a bad few years with this teenage son. The boy has been doing poorly in high school, left behind one year, was cutting class, getting detention, and this year transferred to a school for the “bad kids”. The hardest blow to date was the boy was caught doing drugs in that school. In complete exasperation, DF was lamenting to DH about the situation and asked the question “Why couldn’t my son be more like yours?”. My DH’s first-born son, Aaron, from his first marriage is the same age (18) and a freshman at college. Both he and his sister are good kids with good grades and good hearts and they’ve kept away from bad people and bad situations.
But this is no sheer accident or a luck of the draw or a complete act of divine intervention. It’s been the result of purposeful parenting by the part of their mother. Oh, there may be some of the other three ingredients mixed in for good measure but by far the key ingredient of this recipe is the vigilant, downright militant focus their mother has placed on her children…sometimes at great expense to her own personal relationships with others. She is their greatest protectors…and their biggest fans. Despite having been a single working parent for most of their upbringing, she has lengthy conversations with each of them every day after work and school about anything and everything. Not superficial conversations…but heart-to-heart conversations. She counsels them, guides them, corrects them, loves them…and has lots of fun with them. She builds up their self-esteem and encourages them to do great things. She is up their butts making sure their homework is done, that their chores are completed, that they love one another and gives them no slack. At one time she jokingly explained that the reason behind the kid’s good behavior is that she has instilled a sense of fear in them…not a fear of God…but of her! But despite her tough love, her kids love her as fiercely as she loves them. As is the case in many similar situations, this mother has done such a good job at parenting her children that in doing so, she has given her (ex)husband a free pass in that regard. DH is a part of their lives as they only live half a mile down the street from us but he’s not involved in their day to day upbringing…the dirty, ugly stuff…the necessary, purposeful hard work of parenting. He’s completely a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy; the fun-loving, pal-around dad; the “can you give me a ride to school?” dad, the “How was your day? Fine? Great!” dad; no deep conversations (not even about sex) dad. He makes parenting look easy when the truth is, all the real work is done half a mile down the street. He loves them alright and cares about their welfare and has certainly contributed to their lives in a way only he can. And they love him in return. But they don’t stay out of trouble because of his involvement in their lives or out of honor and respect for him…they stay out of trouble because of their mom’s involvement and out of honor and respect for her. And deservedly so.
Serving the best interests of a child requires purposeful parenting. It can’t be accidental or well-intentioned. It’s simply not enough. I’m not judging DF on his parenting skills. I’m simply stating that it’s by no accident that my stepkids have turned out the way that they did. Thank God they did have such purposeful parenting from their mother. Oh, to be sure…their mother is perfectly flawed as the rest of us are and has certainly made her share of mistakes. But in this single regard, she has done a magnificent job. So many children would be so much better off if only their parents would take a page out of this one mother’s book.