Parent Traps

Kermit the Frog used to lament; “It’s not easy being green.” I’m sure he had his reasons, but I’d like Kermit to know that it’s not any easier being a parent. Parents have felt this way since the fourth chapter of Genesis and things have become trickier ever since. The twenty first century has brought an astounding number of challenges to parenthood. Let’s just say there are serious “land mines” that await us each day.

Take for instance, the whole topic of homework. I didn’t mind homework too much as a student, but as a parent, I have come to loathe it. You see, I was born around the middle of the last century and so, many facets of my children’s homework is, well… new. They have new spelling and new history and new math. After I cleaned up the dinner dishes the other night, my daughter asked me to help her with her math homework. I hesitantly obliged and it wasn’t long before she was in tears. She told me I was dividing wrong and adding wrong and that if she did the work my way, the teacher would mark it wrong. Advanced algebra? Nope—just fractions with a fourth grader!

Carpooling is another phenomenon of which our mothers knew not of. They washed diapers by hand so God didn’t let them carpool for fear of early mental pause. My mother didn’t even apply for a driver’s license until she was middle aged. She knew exactly what she was doing—that sly fox. On Mondays alone, I pick up Paris at school, and then I pick up Capri and then I drop them off for piano and voice lessons. I run to pick up Jordan to get him to soccer on time. I pick up his friend whose mother works and then I leave the soccer field to run and get the girls. You should see me on Saturdays. I’m actually thinking of decorating the inside of the SUV since I spend so much time in it.

Computers are another source of frustration and failure and they do indeed affect my ability to parent. I was helping Capri add sub sentences to her report and I inadvertently deleted her report. When Jordan asked me to set up margins (I could do it quite well on my electric typewriter), I erased the left half of his essay and never found it again. Paris’ theater teacher sends attachments that I cannot locate. I am quite sure there’s a huge attachment file floating between my house and Mars with lots of stuff waiting for me.

The kids cannot believe that I grew up without a computer. I assured them the first computer I ever saw was in a sci-fi movie with “2001” in its title—it was a far off year and a far flung premise and I was confident at age 13, that neither would ever come to pass. The computer was named Hal and as I recall, it had a mind of its own. And the computer was not the only thing we lived without in the last century.

“Ma! You didn’t have calculators? VCRs? Microwaves? Fax machines? CD players? Game Boys? Nintendos? DVDs? Play Stations? Game Cubes? How did you live? What was that like? Did you feel deprived? What did you do for fun?”

“Well, I had a nifty eight track player in junior high—oh, never mind.”

I really felt old recently when a friend came for lunch and brought along her preschooler.

After the four year old little sweetie finished her sandwich, I offered to set her up in the TV room to watch a cartoon on our new DVD player. She propped herself up on the couch and I covered her cherub like legs with a quilt. I looked around and located three separate remote controls. Surely one would work. I pressed 73 buttons and nothing worked. I pointed them at the TV, the DVD, the VCR, and finally, at my frazzled brain. The little angel popped off the couch.

“I’ll do it!” She relieved me of all three and within 15 seconds, she clicked on the TV, clicked over to the DVD and clicked up the volume. Humbled yet again.

A friend of mine told me a great story related to the huge land mine of being discriminating and discerning about family entertainment. A father of three teenagers had a family rule that they could not attend “R” rated movies. His teens wanted to see a particular popular movie that had just been released in local theaters. It was rated “R.”

The teens interviewed friends and even some members of their church to find out what was offensive or questionable in the movie. They made a list of pros and cons about the movie in order to convince their dad that they should be allowed to see it.

The cons? It contained only three curse words, the only violence was a building exploding (and that’s on TV all the time), and you actually did not “see” the couple in the movie having physical relations; it was just implied--- off camera, of course.

The pros? It was a very popular movie—a true blockbuster! Everyone was seeing it.

It contained a good story and a good plot. It had some great adventure and suspense. There were some brilliant special effects. The stars were some of the most talented actors in Hollywood. It probably would be nominated for several awards. Many of the members of their Christian church had seen the movie and said it “wasn’t too bad.” If they could see the movie then they would not feel like “rejects” when their peers discussed it.

Since there were more pros than cons, the teens had asked their father to reconsider his position just this ONE time and let them have permission to go see it. The father looked at the list and thought for a few minutes. He told them he could see they put considerable time and thought into their request. He asked if he could have a day to think about things before making his decision.

The three teenagers were thrilled. They were sure that they “had him” because their arguments were so convincing. There was no way Dad could turn them down. They happily agreed to let him have a day to think about their request. The next evening, the father called his three teenagers, who were smiling smugly, into the living room. There, on the coffee table, he had placed a plate of brownies. His kids were puzzled. The father told them he had thought about their request and had decided that if they would each eat a brownie, then he would let them go to the movie. But---just like the movie, the brownie had pros and cons.

The pros? They were made with the finest chocolate and other premium quality ingredients. They had the added delight of yummy chocolate chips in them. The brownies were moist and fresh with wonderful, smooth, creamy, luscious chocolate frosting on top. He had made these fantastic brownies using an award winning recipe. And best of all, the brownies had been lovingly made by the hands of their own dear father.

The cons? The brownies had only one. He had included a special ingredient. The brownies also contained just a little bit of dog poop. But he had mixed it in well and they probably would not even be able to taste the dog poop. He baked the brownies at 350 degrees, so any bacteria or germs had probably been destroyed. Therefore, if any of his children could stand to eat the special brownies which included “just a little bit of crap” and not be affected by it—then he was confident they would also be able to see the movie with “just a little bit of smut” and not be affected. Of course, none of them would eat the brownies and the smug smiles left their faces as they filed out of the room.

Now when his teenagers ask permission to do something that involves questionable content, the father just asks, “Would you like me to whip up a batch of my special brownies?” There are never any takers.

Parenting…it’s not just a job…it’s an adventure. May God be our guide.