Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Battle Fields

Way back in October of 2001, when I was newly-ish married and a baby was about to become a new (and sweet/harsh) reality, Apple released it's own baby called the iPod, and it's been causing waves ever since.

I didn't worry back then about this new thing called an "iPod" or any other iDevice. I had other things on my mind, like sleepless nights and when to start solid foods. I had a cool flip phone and a house and a husband and friends. When she was born in 2002, we had a healthy delivery and a healthy baby who had a healthy first year, despite my lack of knowledge, my postpartum issues, and my paranoia over swaddling her that first long and drawn-out night home from the hospital.

She was a stubborn baby who grew into a stubborn toddler who knew what she wanted when she wanted it and wouldn't have it any other way. (I didn't know babies could even be like that. They can.)

Sweet through and through with a streak of dogged determination, the likes of which I'd never come up against before in life.

She reminded me of my mother. She still reminds me of my mother. (And also any other incredibly stubborn family member whose lines cannot be traced directly back to me.)

When she got her first iPod at the tender age of, oh, maybe nine, we had no way of knowing what utter chaos we would ultimately be bringing into our lives, in the form of a 3x5-inch piece of plastic and glass. We were excited for her. Look! A new way for you to be responsible! Yay!

It was on that device that she has discovered things that no child should see or hear about. It was also on that device that she discovered a way to connect with the world without her parents ever knowing. It was on that device that she received a heinous and inappropriate text message about--to put it nicely--girls who do things to boys--ahem, below the belt--with their mouths. And this from a fellow fifth grader.

It was not a nice text.

We have gotten phone calls at 1AM from eleven-year-old boys who thought they were calling her phone number. (She still doesn't have a phone, hence no number. A fact we are reminded of every day of our lives.) We have seen questionable texts. We have taken away apps and taken away the iPod and made rules and regulations, with the result being that we argue incessantly over the thing that was supposed to be...what? Fun? Entertaining? A boredom buster? If only just.

It is a battle over sharing passwords (a must) and sharing information (also a must) and turning it in at night (also a must) because, in her words, she doesn't like our rules (I HATE THEM with many exclamation points and in all bold--I've long called her Junie B. Jones because of her propensity for speaking IN ALL CAPS) and she thinks they are STU-PID. She doesn't understand why we take the iPod at night and argues over it almost every time, although we have spans of time where she complies with little complaint. Being agreeable will get you more of the things you want, I've told her. I. DON'T. WANT. TO.


haha--I didn't realize til later that that's ME in the background!!!

Okay.

How does one explain how scary the world of the Internet is? How easy it is to get mixed up in something really, really bad really, really quickly? Especially to a "I already know it all and don't need your help anymore" twelve-year-old (who actually did say "I already know it all and don't need your help anymore" to me, along with "you did a good job protecting when I was four but now that I'm twelve I can take care of myself".)

Sweet through and through, but that dogged determination...oh, that dogged determination that will likely serve her well later on in life, but right now? I'm so tired of arguing over that STU-PID piece of 3x5 inch plastic-and-glass. So tired.

I come from a long line of stubborn, do-what-I-want-you-to-or-face-the-wrath type of folk. Hardy folk. (And if I may make an observation without being offensive, so does my beloved.) Me? I'm like that too, but also learned to be afraid of other people's anger, of what they will do or say or how they will react, making me look more compliant or agreeable than I actually am.

Meaning when we two came together and made a baby, it was like the entire line of tenacious, willful, unshakable genes were poured into one single child.

Sometimes I want to back off, to give up and give in and make life easy. Easy in the short run, maybe. Sometimes I don't think I have it in me to be an effective parent. I don't want to be her friend, not necessarily. I've been twelve and don't really want to go back to that awkward, socially challenging season of life. But I do want to live in a house that isn't fraught with tension. Especially over an iPod. So it makes it challenging to want to face the battle.

As my perspective narrows and the boxing gloves come out, I find that I am nowhere even remotely close to enjoying the journey. And what's that saying? Something about it being about the "journey and not the destination"? I have the destination in sight and am wishing the journey away.

As I drove down the road today, I passed through a particularly odorific spot where a skunk had apparently skunked something or somebody. As the stink filled my nose and my car, due to the AC vents blasting cold, skunky air directly in my face, I thought that's it. I was so distracted by the smell that I did not see the beautiful curve of the road, the wild daisies waving on their slender stems, the blue mountains beautifully outlined up ahead. All I could see was the smell. As it is with life. Sometimes, all I can see is the smell of a tween who is pushing the boundaries, hoping for a lapse in judgement or a forgotten rule. But when that's all I focus on, I miss the scenery around me, which includes this beautiful girl who desperately wants to spread her wings.

Blessed are those who make You their strength,
for they treasure every step of the journey.
{psalm 84:5}

I do not often look outside myself for strength. It's not that I always think I have so much of it, or any of it really, but I am also cut from the same stubborn cloth as that long line of people before me. It is my legacy. (So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised as the tradition continues.) That I do not seek strength from the Source of strength does not make me a stronger person, as some may assume or culture might assert. It makes me unwise and flailing, as I drain myself and have nothing in reserve.

The promise is so simple: blessed are those who make You their strength. But I will complicate it's simplicity, because that's how I do when it comes to Scripture. I don't just take it at it's word and hold on, I question and muse and wonder and debate and question again.

It doesn't have to be that way.

I have one word: forgiven. And another: free. Which means that the barrier that separated me from God is no longer, and I have full access to His promises, and however I might get there, they will never go away. And that brings me to another word: breathe.

The tween and teen years will be challenging, but I am blessed to be walking them with her. Too many parents have faced sorrows beyond comprehension as infertility, cancer, disease and accidents have stripped them of the family they once saw as their future.

God knows I can handle her, He knows I can handle parenting, and He has placed her in my life to teach and grow and eventually set free from her cage. (I know she sees this as a cage, but it's to keep the outside world from coming in all at once, in a rush of copiousness, not the other way around.)

My prayer is that I will learn to make Him my strength as I parent, with a wisdom and discernment that cannot come from me alone.

Amen.

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