The other day we went to our annual neighborhood watch block party. It’s an opportunity to have real conversations with the people with whom you share the roads and to whom you wave everyday as you drive in and out of the hood. Let’s face it. Suburban living—even in our rural desert oasis—is all about driving in and out of the hood.
In addition to talking about safety and the overdue asphalt sealing of the three main roads comprising our subdivision, we asked about one another’s kids. Who is now in junior high? High School? How’s your son handling his first year away at college? The conversations are mostly mundane and predictable. We answer things like: “She’s fine. Still playing soccer.” And “yes, he made the basketball team.” Or “she’s great—just got her acceptance letter from the U.” Occasionally, however, someone decides to be perfectly frank.
“How’s your son handling his first year away at college?”
“Well, he’s enjoying it a little too much.”
“Going off the deep end a bit, is he?”
“Oh yes! We had to have the ‘Come to Jesus Talk’ the other night.”
Come to Jesus? I wasn’t exactly sure what my neighbor meant by that, but his general meaning was quite clear. I have another friend who calls those heart-to-heart-parent-to-child talks, “the blue chair talks.” When her kids are called to the blue chair, it’s serious business.
My husband and I have these talks with our kids, too. We simply refer to the process as “reeling them in.” We’d like to give them a long leash, allow them privileges and reward them for good behavior, but the ole ‘give-‘em-an-inch-and-they-take-a-mile behavior comes into play ALL THE TIME.
This morning I had to have one of those Come to Jesus, Blue Chair, Reel ‘em In conversations with my teenager while driving her to school. Without going into all the details, the main subject was about her expectations and assumptions that she could make all the plans in the world about this party and that performance, this practice and that meeting, and leave it up to me to not only gather the times and locations, but also arrange my schedule to get her to and fro.
This kid has NO clue that I have a life beyond chauffeuring her all over town. I’ve seemingly become a non-person to her—something without value except how it can be of service to her.
Lately I’ve found myself counting the days until her sixteenth birthday and wondering what kind of car we’re going to get her so she can do the driving herself. Granted that leash extension may open up a whole new set of Come to Jesus criteria . . . but at least I’ll retain the power to not only take away her cell phone, but her car keys as well.
And yes, I realize, that even though these teenage years are taxing, they go by very quickly. My mother, who I miss dearly, went to Jesus over ten years ago. And I’d give just about anything to have her wake me up, make my breakfast, and drive me to cheerleading practice just one more time.
Meanwhile, if anyone has a trick to penetrate the teenage mind—something that gets through—please let me know. My gas tank is about empty.