(written in 2008)
A young mother asked me, “If you had one piece of advice for parents of teens, what would it be?”
I replied, “Choose your battles wisely, and don’t sweat the small stuff.”
When my children were little I would listen to my favourite music from the ’60’s when they weren’t around, because I was ashamed of it. Somewhere along the way I had decided that those who claimed rock music was wicked, were right. I thought it was a sin for anyone, male or female, to use hair colour. Tattoos and multiple piercings were absolute no-no’s. Any movie with higher than a G rating was inappropriate for a Christian to watch. And even moderate social drinking was a heinous sin.
Well, today my children are proud of the fact that they love my 60’s music and I love their contemporary music. I coloured my hair for the first, and certainly not the only, time two years ago, along with two of my daughters. Two years ago my seventeen-year-old daughter went to the hairdresser and had her hair dyed a light reddish brown. Quite a dramatic change from her natural colour of almost black. We often watch movies rated PG-13, and occasionally, depending on the reason for the rating, ones rated R. I will take a glass of wine on occasion, and if my children wanted multiple piercings or tattoos, my questions would be “Is it modest? Is it safe? And are you sure you will want a shriveled up whatever on your wherever when you are 80 years old?”
Have I lost my marbles? Or have I regressed in my Christian walk? Absolutely not. But in 25 years of parenting, I have learned to choose my battles wisely, and not sweat the small stuff. Our criterion for music is, the lyrics must not bring dishonour to the Lord. The song may speak of sin, but must not glorify it or condone it. Definitely no eminem, but we do enjoy the music of Evanescence. If hair colour is wrong, then why is curling the hair not wrong? And if tattoos and piercings are wrong because God did not create us with pictures on our bodies and holes in our ears, then why is it okay to get our hair permed or wear a little modest makeup? Both those things were considered sinful not so long ago. (Have you ever read Grace Livingston Hill’s books?) And I have learned that it is drunkenness, and not alcohol consumption per se, which is sinful and grieves the Lord.
If there is one lesson that stands out in the past ten years or so, it is that there is a long list of things we have been taught from the pulpit are wrong, but the scriptures don’t speak to them at all. I don’t mean only that specific things didn’t exist in Bible times. I mean we often make application where it is not necessary, thereby causing the list of do’s and don’t’s to be much longer than it has to be.
One of my daughters likes to wear black t-shirts and multiple bracelets and necklaces, including a chain wrapped around and around her wrist. One day I told her that if I didn’t know her personally, I might think she wasn’t the kind of person I would want to know. But this same daughter is a wonderful girl. Until she left home a year ago, she was my chief cook and bottle washer, and able assistant with my homeschooled six-year-old, willingly filling in for me often by reading to him, teaching him his letters and doing his math with him. Nor was she above watching Winnie the Pooh or Bambi with him. She loves the Lord and seeks to walk in all His ways. She enjoys family worship and is generally open and pleasant with me, as are all my children. Today she shares an apartment with her two older sisters, and is in training as a nursing assistant at a local nursing home. She looks forward to marrying and having a large family of her own some day. Certainly she has her preferences in clothing and jewellery… and why not? It is what is in her heart that counts, and as far as I can see, it is in the right place.
© Willena Flewelling – written in 2008