I’m sitting by the pool while the boys are at swim team practice on a Wednesday afternoon. The radio is playing over the speakers and the team is warming up behind me. I steal a few glances at my boys cheating their way through the exercises. Push-ups? Not exactly. Sit-ups? Not even close. They laugh with their friends who are doing the same. They are only half way paying attention to the coach as he shouts commands.
Is the culture doing a better job forming my children than I am? Some days, like today, the culture wins and puts a chink in my armor and a hole in my heart. It’s hard, this battle between the culture and us. Their army is bigger and their appeal is great. And often, oh so very often, I feel in touch with Joshua and his little army. I feel tiny and weak and overwhelmed by the task ahead. And then I remember - Joshua and his little army won. In fact, they didn’t just win…they obliterated Jericho and everyone in it.
The key to this battle was not their numbers or even their strength. They won because they did what the Lord told them to do. It didn’t make much sense. Victory certainly didn’t appear to be imminent. They did it anyway.
What we are doing makes as much sense in today’s culture as marching around the city blowing horns. Having the girls get their Spring Dance dresses approved before they come to the dance? Unheard of. Making the kids call us before they watch a movie at a friend’s house? So embarrassing. Not dating until you graduate from high school? Say what?!
Our five kids range in age from 2 to 15, so we fight the culture on many different levels. The younger the child, the less the battle. Felicity’s world revolves around us. Her outside influences are limited. She trusts us completely. However, being the youngest of five and spending a lot of time with older siblings has its challenges. She knows the words to as many songs on the radio as she does to nursery rhymes. She also knows how to Dab (it’s a dance move - ask your kids to show you) and just recently noticed that Elsa has “boobies” (thanks kids). However, at the end of the day, she spends much more time with me than she does anyone else, and I can win those battles pretty easily by a talk to the older child doing the influencing (the scripture about better for a stone be tied around your neck than to lead a little one astray usually does the trick) and a little explanation to Felicity.
As they get older though, the battle becomes tougher. Their time at school and outside with friends almost equals their time with us. Technology calls to them like the sirens to Odysseus. We have made some very conscious decisions in this area. When we built our home, we decided not to run the cable lines upstairs. We do not want them to have computers or televisions anywhere that we can not witness what they are watching. We have one television and they all share one computer, both of which are downstairs in the family room, which is open to the kitchen, which is where I am the majority of the time. None of our children have a cell phone.
Let me assure you that we do not think this is the only way to fight the battle and we certainly don’t pass judgment on families who have made different choices. For us, unlimited internet access is not something we think our kids are ready for. We have not won any popularity contests with these decisions. We talk to them about how we’ve made the decision and have been afforded many opportunities to show them why.
Does this mean our kids are perfect? Nowhere close. Does this make us parents of the year? In no universe. Does it help us fight this battle? Absolutely! Does it give us a little more time to have a stronger influence than YouTube? Most certainly. Will our children ever be allowed to have their own phones? Of course…as soon as we feel that they are ready.
We let our kids know that the decisions we make are our own, not the Community’s. They can all regurgitate our mantra that, “We don’t know what everyone else is doing; this is the Parris family rule.” That goes for everything from the way they dress, to what they listen to, to the things they watch, to the way they treat people. But even with our best efforts, we fall short. Our kids are exposed to things that aren’t pure. They sometimes show up in clothes that are not totally appropriate. They are human…and so are we. And we thank the Lord that we’ve been called to this Community life to support us to continue to fight the fight!
In the end, all parents are engaged in one of the most important battles we will ever fight. And we should fight to the death, even if we have to march around the city while blowing horns.