Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
Zack was away at Nature’s Classroom for three days last week with his school. He’s never been away from us for that long before. They didn’t allow electronics, cell phones, phone calls, or communication of any kind. We just got a group text message from the school Wednesday afternoon letting us know the five bus loads of seventh graders had arrived safely in Connecticut.
The Zack we all missed came home a different kid. I almost fell over when he told me he hadn’t thought about video games while he was away. I don’t think that has ever happened in his entire life! Moreover, although he chronically complains when my husband drags him outdoors and hiking, he absolutely loved all the outdoor time at Nature’s Classroom. He even asked to be enrolled in their camp next summer.
The change I wasn’t thrilled about was how he tried to treat us all. When Mason kept repeating a new phrase Zack brought home from his trip, Zack swat him down like a fly. When Jocelyn was singing her way through the rest of her day like she always does, he wanted her to be quiet. The final straw was when he forgot I was his mother and tried to slam me.
I get it. Zack has never spent seventy-two hours straight away from me monitoring his every move. More importantly, he’s never hung out with the majority of the kids he spent all that time with. All his playdates are arranged by me, picking and choosing the kids whose behavior I like. I have intentionally kept him sheltered and naive.
All bets were off at Nature’s Classroom, though. He was hanging out with all types of kids there. I had put in a request that he be separated from the four kids who bully him. Without that barrier, he had a chance to cross over a bit into the cool kid world. I think that was a very big part of why he had so much fun. But that meant he spent extended time with kids who behave differently then we do. Apparently he conformed to their ways. I don’t blame him one bit. Who doesn’t want to fit in?
But there’s a line that should not be crossed. That line is defined in Romans 12:2. There needs to be discernment when we make a choice so we choose what is good and pleasing to God.
Zack is just twelve. There’s preteen hormones starting, along with all the other social challenges of Middle School. I can’t fault him completely. I look back on my own adolescence. I made plenty of wrong choices and behaved in ways I’m not proud of. But it is my job now as Zack’s mom to remind him of what is good and pleasing: what is the right way to treat people, and what is the wrong way.
I did just that at the baseball field that night. Things came to a head as we were packing up after Mason’s game. A more patient mom would have waited until we got home, but I’m not her. In a hushed, but very firm voice, I laid it out for Zack: he needed to treat everyone with kindness and respect, me especially.
I guess my point sunk in on the long walk to the car. As I was closing the trunk, Zack came around to the back of the mini-van and apologized. It was like a movie moment when he hugged me tight in the dark parking lot under the full moon. The apology was so sincere and heart felt, I knew my sweet Zack was back.
I know this is only the beginning of Zack’s adolescence. I anticipate a lot more pit falls and traps along the way as he discerns when to conform, and when not to. I don’t expect him to always get it right; I’ll never require him to be perfect. But if I can keep him focused on what is good and pleasing, I think he’ll be okay.
Questions For Reflection:
* Does my child conform to the behavior of his peers? If so, am I okay with that behavior?
* If I’m not happy with that behavior, how can I go about pointing out what is good and pleasing so my child knows the correct way to behave?
* Do I recall conforming to bad behavior when I was younger?
* Does remembering this help me to be more compassionate with my child as he/she navigates different social situations?
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