My daughter, Kelly, is 35 years old. She is an English professor and her husband is an executive with Blue Bird Bus Manufacturing Company in Georgia. Needless to say, her mother and I are proud of her.
In her teen years, she almost drove off the straight and narrow and came close to falling into a ravine.
Her high school years were spent in one of the finest public schools in our state. Very preppy and lots of elbowing to get to the top of the “popular crowd.” Lots of pressure. I considered her high school a Sodom and Gomorrah.
She starred on the junior varsity high school softball team and made the varsity team as a sophomore. But, I felt, as a veteran coach myself, that something wasn’t right. The coach consistently started a girl in the infield who I felt lacked the skills to be placed in such a position. One day, Kelly came home and told us about the sad and shocking revelation about her female coach. The parents of this player caught the coach in an affair with their daughter. The whole community was shocked. The coach was fired and several players quit the team including Kelly.
Kelly made some good decisions in high school, but ran with a group of girls who I didn’t care for. One of them had a single parent-mother who would fly off to resorts in the Caribbean for a tryst and leave her teenage daughter at home alone. Her daughter was a good friend with Kelly. I suspected alcohol was plentiful and available in her home, and later, I found out that it was.
Moreover, this girl also began dating soldiers from our nearby Army base. And of course, her Army boyfriend had a friend who was introduced to Kelly. I wasn’t happy. Kelly was only 16, and these men were much older. I feared there was partying going on in her friends’ house. I always asked Kelly if the girl’s mother was home when she wanted to go over there. Her answers always came back in the affirmative.
One Friday night, Kelly asked if she could go to a contemporary Christian concert at one of the large churches in our area with her friends. Of course, I was delighted about this, but something didn’t look right in her eyes. Father’s intuition, I guess.
After she was gone for about 45 minutes, her mother and I decided to go and drive through the parking lot to see if Kelly’s car or if her friend’s car was in the parking lot. We drove around the parking lot several times. No car.
I said, “Let’s drive over to her friend’s house and see if their cars are there. Yep, big party going on.
I got home and called. (This was in the day before cell phones). “Kelly’s not here,” the girl’s sister said. I adamantly said, “Put her on the line, or I’m calling the sheriff because I think you kids are drinking, and I’m coming over there.” The sister called her to the phone.
“Kelly, you need to come home. Now! We have some talking to do.”
This wasn’t the first time Kelly had lied to us. I told her that I was selling her car and an ad would go in the paper Monday. That’s anathema for a kid at a preppy high school where the students drive better cars than the faculty!
That week, a lady came out to look her car. She had cash to pay for it. But, it was a five speed, and she couldn’t drive it.
After the woman left, Kelly cried and cried and begged us not to sell the car. Nothing gets to a dad more than his daughter’s tears. So we said, “No car for two weeks,” and we didn’t sell it.
We continued to have some conflicts over rules as all teens test the limits. One rule we had was that she couldn’t go over to her friend’s house ever again. They were welcome in our home, but our place wasn’t the kids’ hang-out. Another conflict we had was her wanting to go to Myrtle Beach for spring break with her friends. We gave an emphatic, No!”
Her friend’s mom called, and I can’t print all the names she called me when we refused to allow her to go to the beach without a chaperon for a week.
That brought things to a head. Kelly informed us that she was leaving to go live somewhere else. Although she didn’t say with whom, we had our suspicions.
Her mother and I told Kelly, “The car stays. The stereo and TV in your room stays. You can take your clothes. Most kids wait until 18 to leave home on good terms and with the blessings of their parents. But, if you want to move out at 17, we won’t stop you. Good luck.”
Much to our relief and surprise, she ended up at grandma’s house. After about three or four days, she called begging to come back home. “Grandma’s rules are worse than yours,” she said.
“We have to talk, Kelly. Come on over.”
We told her that she was welcome home as long as she followed our rules. It was only a few months before she would leave for college in Birmingham which we were going to pay for. But if she left, she was on her own.
My wife and I shed a lot of worried tears raising Kelly. In the end, it was a joyous, victorious day when we took her to Birmingham. She was on her own with our blessings.
Immediately after her college graduation commencement, she said, “Thank you for being hard on me in high school. I was headed down the wrong road.”
Knock her mother and me over with a feather! We all melted together as one.
Kelly confessed, “I couldn’t do anything wrong in college. When I was tempted to go out and drink and party, Dad sat on one shoulder and mom sat on the other. I couldn’t do it!”
It’s tough raising teens. We took a great risk in holding the line on Kelly. If we let her go, we would lose her. If we held the line, we could have lost her. We cried and prayed a lot not knowing which road she would choose. But in the end, she chose the right road, and we are forever grateful for her wisdom and the Lord’s guidance and protection during those difficult teen years.
Teens live in a culture gone wild. Christian values conflict with the values of not only their peers but their parents too. As a parent of a former teen, I urge you to be firm with your teen, and in your firmness, be loving, patient, reasonable, and understanding. It’s worth the risk!
I am so grateful for the homeschool movement, especially in this increasingly dangerous world. Peer pressure that isn't balanced by parent oversight is emptying our churches and filling the jails. What a tragedy the wasted lives that didn't need to be. But, thanks be to God, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, He knows how to rescue any and all, even from the miry pit. Thank you for sharing your experience parenting a teenager. I'm sure many will find it helpful and encouraging. (I especially liked the line about Grandma's rules being worse than yours! :)