Welcome to my musings...

After a 3 year hiatus from blogging (too busy parenting teens to have time to write about it!), I have decided to revive my blog. I look forward to sharing my perspective on mothering as I am at the tail end of my child-raising journey. Nothing could be more beautiful, more full of joy and pain and anguish, than the divine calling of motherhood. I pray my musings will bless you on your own journey, and that you will feel encouraged and equipped!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The "Balloon Boy" Hoax

Our beloved town of Fort Collins made world-wide news this week. We were spending a peaceful afternoon at home when the phone rang. My mom was calling to ask if we were watching the news, as there was a breaking story involving a family from our town. We quickly tuned in to hear that an experimental balloon-type aircraft had been accidentally released from a home in Fort Collins, and that the family’s six-year-old son was believed to be on board. The aircraft traveled about 50 miles from their home, and was believed to be capable of reaching 10,000 feet of altitude. We watched with anxious hearts throughout the afternoon as rescuers tried to find a way to reach the balloon and save the boy. We prayed continually and fervently for this child’s safety, and for the parents who were undergoing such a traumatic event. Several hours later, the balloon deflated and landed in a field. When rescuers cut open the aircraft, no boy was found. Our hearts fell as they speculated on when and if the boy could have fallen out of the craft, or if he could possibly have escaped alive. My mother’s heart was stricken at the thought of this family losing their youngest son in such a terrible way. I couldn’t escape the images in my mind of this poor little boy falling from a great altitude to his death, especially after a news report claimed that someone had seen something falling from the craft.

Some time later that afternoon, the local sheriff announced that the boy had been found, safe and sound, hiding in the family’s attic. The media immediately pounced, asking the sheriff if this had been a hoax. Stories began circulating about this family, and about their previous media experiences. Clips were shown of this family participating in a TV reality show called “Wife Swap”, showing their children as ill-behaved and rambunctious. It was released that 911 calls had been previously made from this home involving domestic disturbances. Tales were told of this family’s “storm-chasing” experiences, and how they had taken their children directly into the path of danger.

At first I felt angry at the media for attacking this family without any proof of wrong-doing. The relief was so strong that this child was unharmed that I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) believe this family would put people through such an experience. As more time went on, however, it came out that this was indeed an elaborate hoax, staged by the family in hopes of gaining a contract for a reality television show. This hoax was uncovered by a slip of the tongue of the boy while being interviewed on television (he said, “we did this for a show”).

I have to say, I am appalled. These parents callously used their six-year-old son in an effort to gain publicity for themselves. They put a great number of police officers in a very stressful situation and wasted a lot of taxpayer money in a fruitless search and rescue operation. They disregarded the anguish every parent in Fort Collins felt as they watched this story unfold. They are now almost certainly going to be charged with at least two misdemeanors and two felonies for their reckless scheme. In my opinion, however, their worst crime is one that won’t bring any arrest or fine. The choice they made that tears my heart out is this: They willfully taught this little boy that it is okay to lie to get what you want. The consequences of this action will reap terrible fruit. This boy will grow up to believe that it is acceptable to manipulate people, distort the truth and do whatever it takes to get what he desires. To me, this is the ultimate tragedy in this terrible story.

So, what can we learn from this? It’s easy to point fingers and be appalled at this family and their choices, but what does it have to teach us about parenting? To me, the lesson to be learned can be summed up in this: We need to teach our children to love truth. God makes it very clear in His word that He hates lying tongues (see Proverbs 6:16-19). We need to make teaching our children truthfulness a top priority. Telling lies, exaggerating for effect, “stretching the truth” are not harmless activities. Each lie or perversion of the truth leads to more lies and culminates in a character that is dishonoring to God. As we watch the news stories about this family, let’s examine our own hearts and our children’s character and see if we, too, are guilty of teaching our children to be untruthful, whether by words or example. Let’s resolve to stand on the Truth that is found only in God’s word and to raise children who are passionately committed to Him. It’s the only way we will raise children who can change the world…and I, for one, don’t care to live in a world where parents use their children to gain fame and fortune for themselves.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stealing Lexi's Hope

This summer, my youngest daughter participated in a two-week drama intensive camp. They met from 9 am to 5 pm each day, learning singing, acting and dancing skills, as well as rehearsing a Junior Broadway production of “Annie”, which they performed in two shows at a local theater. Lexi has long held a love for acting, singing and dancing, so this was a wonderful opportunity for her. She talked about it for weeks and was so excited when the first day finally arrived. She and I drove to the studio on the first morning, and as we walked in, I felt her excitement turn to apprehension. It quickly became apparent that almost all of these kids knew each other, and had acted with this theater group before. They loudly and wildly greeted each other, ignoring this tiny blonde newcomer. She clung to my hand, which Lexi almost never does, and I could tell that she was reluctant for me to leave. I, too, was having a hard time leaving, as this was really the first time I had turned her over to other people for any length of time (she has always been homeschooled) and it was very unusual for her to turn shy. She is my adventurous one, the one who makes friends quickly and has never looked back when you drop her off at dance class or Sunday school. Her out-of-character reluctance fed my own fears of leaving her with this group of strangers. I had grave misgivings as I finally left the building after the parents’ meeting. I confess, I cried all the way home.

On top of my anxiety about her sudden attack of shyness, I was worried about my daughter’s heart. I knew that they would be giving vocal and acting auditions this first day, and would learn their part by the end of that day’s camp. Lexi had very emphatically told me what part she wanted in the play…that of Lily St. Regis, the blonde bombshell scam artist who, along with her partner Rooster, tries to con Daddy Warbucks. She was most definitely not interested in being an orphan or even in the part of Annie, but had her very heart set on receiving this part. Being the practical and protective mom that I am, I tried to gently warn her that because she was the youngest age in the camp, and being especially tiny, she would probably not win an “adult” role, since they might not find it believable to have the role of Lily played by someone shorter than most of the orphans. I knew she had the ability to play any role in the play, but knew that physical appearance often plays a major role in determining who fits each character. She assured me that she could win it, and I again argued with her that it would be fun no matter which role she received and to not have her heart set on any particular role. I was so afraid that she would be disappointed, and pictured her tears upon receiving an “orphan” role. We discussed this many times over the days preceding her camp, and I tried in vain to dissuade her from expecting the part of Lily. The day of her audition, I was a nervous wreck. I kept picturing her sad little face as I left her at camp, and prayed continually for her audition and for her response when she found out what role she had been assigned.

Later that afternoon, as my son and I drove to pick her up, I worried out loud about how she was doing, and how she had handled the auditions and role assignments. Had she cried when I wasn’t there to comfort her? Was her heart broken? Had she made any friends at all in this group of kids who seemed to not even notice her? Upon arriving at the studio, we walked in to hear a conversation between one of the mothers and one of the women who worked there (who also had a child in the camp). The mother asked the camp worker how the kids had done when the parts were announced. The camp worker replied, “There were quite a few tears.” My heart twinged as the mother asked, “Was it mine?” The worker laughingly replied that it was mostly hers, who as an “experienced” camper expected to waltz in and get a leading role without much effort. She said that many of the kids who had participated before were surprised to be cast in smaller roles, thinking that they deserved all the best parts. Then she went on to say that there were a couple of new kids who had come in and wowed the judges with their auditions. She continued talking about one in particular, who she called this “tiny little blonde thing” who came in and asked to audition for Lily and then stunned the judges by reading the role with a hilarious Brooklyn accent. The worker said they were falling out of their seats laughing and knew immediately that she should have the part. Noah tugged on my sleeve and whispered, “It’s Lex, Mom”. My heart began to pound and I waited anxiously for Lexi to come out. As she entered the lobby where we were waiting, she looked downcast and wouldn’t meet my eyes. She said, “Let’s go, Mom.” I was pretty sure she was faking, but anxiously followed her to the car. She slowly buckled herself in and waited until I finally said, “Don’t keep me in suspense…I’ve been waiting all day!!!” She sighed deeply and said, “Well, I really had my heart set on the part of Lily…and THAT’S WHAT I GOT!” Then I asked her about her audition, and if she was the one who auditioned with a Brooklyn accent. She looked at me smugly and nodded with a grin. I asked her, “Do you even know where Brooklyn is?!” to which she shook her head “no”. I laughed and asked her how she knew what a Brooklyn accent sounded like. She answered, “I’ve seen the movie, Mom…I just pretended I was Kristin Chenoweth!”

Later, as I thought about this experience, I realized something. While my intentions were good (protecting my daughter’s heart), my actions were wrong. In trying to prevent the possibility of her pain, I was stealing her hope. Because I had experienced disappointment in similar circumstances as a child, I wanted to spare her. I knew the crushing disillusionment from a failed audition, and I did not want my precious little pixie to experience it. Instead of encouraging her to go for her dream, I wanted her to be “safe”. I thought if she had lower aspirations, it wouldn’t hurt as much if she failed, like I had. I loved drama growing up, but I was cursed with a sometimes paralyzing shyness when it came time to audition. The one time I valiantly overcame my fear and gave an awesome audition (my senior year), the director called me back for the lead role, but then gave it to the other girl (a junior) because she was reluctant to believe I could do it, since she hadn’t seen that in me the previous years. She told me that although I read the role better, and seniors usually got the lead, she wouldn’t give it to me. It absolutely broke my heart and that was the last time I acted.

Now I see that I was viewing Lexi’s experience through my own failure. I desperately wanted to protect her from the pain that I had felt. Instead of giving my daughter wings, I was tethering her to the ground, so she wouldn’t be hurt. And, boy, did she show me. She went in, gave it her all, and succeeded. She had the best two weeks of her life, and the experience of playing “Lily St. Regis” in Annie, Jr. is something she will never, ever forget, as long as she lives. She was an unqualified success, bringing the audience to laughter and rave reviews (people stopped us outside the theater to compliment us on her performance). But as much as she learned, I think I learned more. My job is not to clip her wings, but to help her fly. Life is full of disappointment, but if I shield her from it, she will never learn to persevere through it. I need to teach her the tools to flourish even in the midst of disappointment, not keep her from ever experiencing it. In trying to protect her, I was actually doing her a disservice. I think, in our society, we have failed our children by trying to protect them from every disappointment. We have created a generation of kids who expect to get what they want when they want it because we don’t want to “disappoint” them. We have created a school system that has removed all competition and reward, because it might hurt someone’s “self-esteem”. Instead of teaching our children to give it their best, and how to go to their Father’s arms for comfort when they fail, we have tried to prevent them from ever failing.

Next time, I will try to let Lexi hope without tarnishing it for her. And if she fails, she will know that her mother is here to hold her, and to share her hurt, and to help her find her way to the Father of all comfort.