Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The trails

“There is a time for embracing and a time for letting go” –Eccl. 3:5

While in my hometown, Fort Worth, this past week, I was reflecting back on some childhood memories. I was remembering all the time I spent at the end of our main road at what we called the “trails.” We had forts and secret places built in the trees and fields in the acres of dense woods past our subdivision. The trails now are a huge shopping center development, but 40 years ago, the trails were the perfect getaway place for my friends and me.

Then I started remembering the details of what we did at the trails. We rode friend’s mini-bikes without helmets, we caught snakes and bugs, we ran in the creek barefooted, and had more than a few cuts and bruises from falling off bikes and running into things. We had so much fun just being boys.

Now, I’m sure not advocating carelessness and I appreciate that we, as parents, are responsible for the safety of our kids, but in the control-crazed society we live in today, I’m afraid we’re over doing it. The crazy stuff we did as kids back then would probably be considered child abuse today. In the agrarian society of 50 years ago, kids and teenagers probably took on more responsibility to make day-to-day decisions than most kids do today. I’m thinking parents were working on the farm instead of following their kids every step of the day. I’m thinking that without all the communication devices of today, kids were left to make decisions and live with the consequences. Maybe parents trusted their kids a little more to learn from their mistakes and move on.

So be careful over-analyzing your teen’s every move. If you’re a “stay-at-home” mom, then God bless you. What a blessing to get to focus on the home front. But don't be a “stay-on-my-kid” mom. Give them room to risk and grow. If you’re like many parents that have to work day-t0-day, research shows that “latch-key” kids sometimes develop more independence and self-reliance. The plus is, they learn to take more responsibility for themselves.

Wherever you are on the “controlling my kids” continuum, the goal is in the magic middle: provide and care for them as our kids but we let them take chances and risk. We don’t need to go back to the “good ‘ole days” without seat belts and smoke alarms when more kids died in car wrecks and families perished in fires. Be thankful for technology. But neither do we need to keep our kids from being kids.

Let your teen take that spring trip to the beach, let your teen go to summer camp, let your teen spend the night away. Teach them to come up with a plan, communicate well and go. They’ll make mistakes and get a few cuts and bruises, but in the end, they’ll learn to fend for themselves.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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