Who can argue this point: It is much harder to raise a teen-ager today than it was 30, 40, 50 or more years ago.
You don't believe it? Just look at the titles of books written to help moms and dads through the minefield of parenthood.
The Parents' Guide to Surviving the Teen Years.
The Angry Teen.
What to Do When Your Teen Constructs a Low-Yield Nuclear Bomb.
OK, so I made up that last one, but I'm sure you get the point.
When I was a teen, the worst thing my friends and I ever did was burn out the turntable belt on my parents' hi-fi as we tried to play various Beatles' songs backwards to hear the hidden messages (Paul is dead! Paul is dead!). Compare that to today's teen who visits with God-knows-what pervert in any number of Internet chat rooms.
I remember the tremendous freedom I had as a child growing up in the city during the early- to mid-1960s. At the age of eight, I walked a mile or so to catechism class every Tuesday afternoon. Each Wednesday, it was a couple miles in the opposite direction to Cub Scouts. Or we'd take off on our bikes to Watershops Pond for a day of fishing for punkin seed or head downtown to Kresges to grab The Monkees' latest 45. Our lives were free of fear.
And, I believe, our parents also had less to worry about when it came to their children. There was no "trenchcoat Mafia" about to erupt into a shooting spree in school. There was no Jeffrey Dahmer stuffing mutilated bodies in a freezer, or John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo randomly mowing down everyday citizens as they hid in a car trunk.
Today, we worry about where our kids are going, who they're seeing, and what other dangers might be lurking around the next corner. They're faced daily with sex, drugs and rock 'n roll (and it's not even the good rock 'n roll that I grew up with!). Without a firm foundation in good, moral values, they don't stand a chance.
That foundation begins with a four-letter word: time. With all the hustle and bustle of today, we parents need to set our priorities straight by spending time with our children.
A few years ago, a childless relative told me I should go to college nights for the next few years to complete my degree (to get a better-paying job in order to provide more for my kids). Think about it: leaving for work in the morning before the kids are up and arriving home from school each night long after they've gone to bed. With household chores and yard work taking a bite out of Saturday and church activities on Sunday, there wouldn't have been much time to spend with my family before starting the work/school routine all over again in just a few short hours.
Although I had already made up my mind not to pursue night school, I was deeply gratified when my eldest child, a new teen, said to me, "I'd rather be poor and have you around the house."
While teens may be hard to raise in the 21st century, every now and then they come up with a gem that truly warms your heart.
(Bill Dolack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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