Remember tenth grade?
I do. Like it was yesterday. It was the year I started driving. Started dating my husband. Started wearing long johns under torn jeans that were 6 sizes too big. I remember cutting the front tab off of my button fly levi’s so that the buttons would be exposed. There was a lot of plaid involved. And bleach. Plaid and bleach. Blonde Drew Barrymore style curls and a baby blue VW bug. And daisies. Daisy crowns to be precise. I contemplated a dolphin tattoo but thank the Lord it never happened.
I remember wear we sat to eat lunch and how we’d drink hazelnut latte’s at Rhino Cappuccino after school. Nirvana, Hole, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots playing in the background. Or maybe Frente, Smashing Pumpkins, PJ Harvey, the Pixies and some Cranberries. Someone was always humming the Cranberries.
We went and saw the epic Animation in Jurassic Park, we cried through Philadelphia and were, of course, Sleepless in Seattle. I watched What’s Eating Gilbert Grape seven thousand times. Juliette Lewis was the coolest girl I’d ever seen and I wanted to be her. Including the part where she kissed Johnny Depp.
I remember the parties. Someone’s parents were out of town and they didn’t think anything of leaving their teenager home with a cabinet full of alcohol. Friends started smoking various things and kissing their girlfriends just a little too long.
I also remember my parents trusting me enough to drop me off with a friend and be back to get me at a decent hour.
I never drank at these parties. I didn’t smoke anything and my bathing suit always stayed on in the hot tub. My parents knew they could trust me and, being the rule follower that I am, I obeyed the rules. I was never tempted by the lunacy that ensued from teenagers drinking and I’d leave long before it got embarrassing.
But the most important thing was that before even entering the scene, I’d made up my mind.
I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to take a sip. I wasn’t going to have a drag and I was going to stay vertical when I kissed a boy.
Twenty years have passed since those days but I remember them clearly. I remember them especially vividly just now because my oldest boy, well, he’s in tenth grade too and I hear him tell many of the same tales I lived. He’s not into parties but he hears the chatter around school and he knows who has pills that can be popped to just let your mind go and he knows who’s dating whom. It hasn’t changed one bit.
My first parenting strategy was to just tell him all the things not to do. Drink? Don’t. Smoke? Don’t. Be alone with a girl for any length of time? Don’t.
But it didn’t exactly sit well with me, this parenting technique. It was too controlling. Too, my ideas instead of his. Too, me being a parent who doesn’t understand and just doling out rules on life. And this one? I wouldn’t exactly call him a rule follower.
After much prayer and reading and thinking I came across a verse in our devotions that became my new parenting model. A little phrase in Daniel just leaped off the pages at me and gave me the aha! moment I was looking for.
Daniel 1:8 says, “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank;”
Daniel made up his mind. He predetermined. Some versions say resolved or purposed. And this mind making up? It didn’t happen in the moment. It happened prior. He thought it through. Likely prayed it through. Decided well before he was faced with the situation just exactly how he was going to handle it. He made up his mind.
This changed every single one of our conversations. Every. Single. One.
Because now I wasn’t saying no, no, no, nooooo! I was saying things like, “Should you find yourself in that position, what are you going to do?” Or, “When you have a drink offered to you, how are you going to handle that?” Or, “When you really like a girl what are the guidelines that you are going to have for treating her with respect?”
We even say the sentences. But _________ made up his mind that his will not defile himself with ________. Fill in the blanks.
We’re making up our minds, over here. We’re walking through situations and we’re deciding well in advance how we’re going to handle them. We’re predetermining and resolving just exactly what we’re going to do so should we ever get there, we have a plan. And isn’t it so much easier to act in a situation when you already know what you’re going to say? When you’ve thought about it and have formed the sentences and spoken out loud that this is how you’ll handle it?
I think yes. I think we could all benefit from making up our minds. Making up our minds to not enter into gossip, or not tell that little lie or not spend more money than we have. If we make up our minds it sets us up for a win.
I hope I’m setting my teenagers up for a win, too by letting them be a part of the conversation. By helping them put into words what they’ve made up in their mind to do, be, say and how to act. By encouraging them and letting them know that even still, as an adult, we have to make up our minds on things before we find ourselves in situations we’d rather not be and to trust that we’ve raised them with integrity and wisdom so they can decide well ahead that they do not want to defile themselves.
I’ve always said I’d rather raise thinkers than just listeners and this is just one more step in that direction.