I’d been caught. I was 16-years old standing in my father’s bedroom listening to a lecture. I was guilty as charged, so I just sucked it up and tried to at least appear attentive.
I was sexually active, still. I’d gotten pregnant, again. I’d even gotten another abortion all without my father’s knowledge. Well, until now. I wasn’t necessarily scared of my punishment. I was mostly feeling irritated with the scolding I was getting. I tried to remember enough key points to be able to respond if necessary. The premise of his reprimand was that God didn’t like pre-marital sex. Ok. Got it!
He concluded with no punishment for the offenses. However, there was a pop quiz. My father asked me, “So what did I say?”
“Pre-marital sex is bad,” I replied.
From the standpoint of a teenager that was already living a destructively dangerous life, the pop quiz was just validation that I was enrolled as a full-time student in the school of hypocrisy. It became even more difficult to take any of the educational material I was receiving there seriously.
You see, my dad was a single father at the time. He and my mom were already divorced, and my father was in a committed relationship with a wonderful woman. He loved her very much. His plan was to marry her someday and they spent a lot of time together including overnights with each other. Their sex life was nobody’s business, especially mine, but even I was pretty sure it was healthy and thriving.
I think had my father used an approach that wasn’t biblical his point may have had more validity. However, using a biblical principle to condemn my sinful actions while using the pop quiz to excuse his own undermined everything he’d said to me, valid or not.
Sometimes that is a mark we often miss as parents. As adults there are absolutely privileges we enjoy that our children don’t. However, it doesn’t mean that our children won’t try to mimic us. How many parents have caught their toddlers “playing with the stove” just to have said toddler correct the accusation by confirming that they were indeed cooking? We know that what they are doing is dangerous but to them they are just doing the cool and amazing things they see us doing.
So, what do we do as parents?
In this instance, we tend to use it as a teachable moment. We explain that the stove can be dangerous when children use it, especially alone. If they have a play kitchen set, we encourage them to cook there until they are old enough to cook like Mommy and Daddy. We may even let them help us stir cake batter or pour the milk into a recipe to give them that sense of accomplishment as we guide them through the progression of cooking responsibly.
You can say that you don’t want your child to pick up bad habits but if they are exposed to bad habits, they are likely to pick them up. It’s the reason we strive to live in safe neighborhoods with a high-quality education system. We may even screen their friends or place them in enriching community programs. We understand that their engagement with positivity and excellence will likely cultivate positivity and excellence within them.
When our kids see drug use in their immediate environment, be it marijuana or heroin, they are more likely to pick up the habit. If our kids see flared tempers and hear abusive language used in their immediate environment, they are likely to normalize the behavior inciting them to fits of rage as well. They’ve been officially introduced to those behaviors by their environment, and well…
Monkey See, Monkey Do.
At some point we may want our children to cook, so we groom them for the experience. However, if we never want our children to use drugs, it isn’t realistic for us to do it and condemn it at the same time. You can certainly express your displeasure to them, but your contradictory actions will negate your message every time. There is no grooming your child for a life of abstaining from something that you clearly engage in yourself.
Finding that your child has adopted a habit or lifestyle that you wish they never would’ve even discovered is sometimes disappointing as a parent. As you guide your child down the path that you know will be fruitful for them, don’t neglect to examine and prune the path that you are walking as well. They could have harvested those fruits from the seeds you have sown yourself.
After spending a year in grief counseling, I started to see that my life needed a major overhaul. Yes, my boyfriend died making me the single mom of our infant twins, but I was still grieving my loss of innocence from decades of abuse. I decided to turn my pain into a new purpose and to share this journey with others that may need some motivation.