"You ready? Have everything you need?"
"You look a little nervous."
He breathes in shaky-like. "I am."
He gives me a quick look with a wavering smile. He looks again at some of the other boys congregating on the bleachers. I follow his gaze. They look so old and physcially mature compared to the boy sitting next to me.
"I'll plan to pick you up at 6:30, but I'll give you my phone so you can call if you get done earlier."
"Okay, um, I guess I'll see you later."
He slams the door and starts walking to the bleachers. I notice that many of the boys are wearing soccer shorts, not basketball shorts and make a mental note to check the thrift stores for soccer shorts.
As I back away I try to figure out why this is so hard. Is it just because we moved and homeschooled for a year? The kids were not in organized sports, but we took part in the homeschool activities with a homeschool group, joined the homeschool orchestra, met kids in BSF and Sunday school, got together with families outside of these settings for the kids to play with, and the kids play with neighbor kids. Have they been that sheltered? It is only a few hours of soccer camp for heaven's sake. Then why does it seem like I am sending him out to the world? Is it that in the other settings I don't worry about my kids being accepted, but in this one I do? Does it even matter?
I return at 6:30 to pick him up. "Did you know anyone?"
"Yeah, the twins from Sunday School."
"Great! Did they talk to you?"
He shrugs. "Not really, they recognized me, but didn't really say anything."
Ah yes, of course...the twins are with their school peers now. Being friendly to the new guy is a risk. They don't know him well enough (interpretation: how well he plays soccer) to know if being his friend will be a credit or debit to their own acceptance. Why do I even care if they accept him? I know he is a great kid that loves the Lord, why do I need the "approval" of a bunch of high school kids? Because I was a "newbie" at high school once and know some of those "acceptance" feelings?
How do we teach teens that our worth comes from who we are in Christ, not from how we play soccer, or violin, or how well we do academically? How do we teach them that obedience to the Lord is more important than not looking stupid? How do I teach this when I am struggling between wanting him to fit in, to be accepted, and to have friends so he isn't hurt and wanting him to stand out because he is different in a "good" way? I mean, I'm already at the store buying him new soccer shorts!
I don't have the answers to all of the above. Right now we are just praying that our boy has a such a love for the Lord that he desires to be obedient, trusting His grace to uphold him when he does so. I think it is probably okay for me to buy the soccer shorts for him to fit in so he's not "the kid from Iowa who was homeschooled last year." But it would not be okay for him to watch that inappropriate movie, or read that book with questionable content, or wear those clothes that promote immodesty just to fit in. He may get a different label when he is obedient in these categories, but I can guarantee that it will also come with begrudging respect.
So, I will continue to pray for him, for me, his dad that we can parent wisely through the teen years and that the Lord will grant the boy wisdom to know the difference between the good and bad "fitting in" and that he can see beyond the physical world in front of him to the spritual world that also surrounds him.
Hear, my son, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of
When you walk, your step
will not be hampered, and if you run,
you will not stumble. Keep hold of
instruction; do not let her go;
guard her, for she is your life.