Stages of Parenting: Living with the Ebb and Flow of Relationships

Stages of Parenting: Going with the Natural Ebb and Flow of Relationships

The only constant in life is change. Have you heard that before? Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on life, and you’ve figured out a good routine, and your relationships are on an even keel, something happens to upset that balance. Marriage has different stages. Jobs had different stages. There are even different stages of parenting!

This week I wrote a hard series on my blog: dealing with sexual dysfunction in marriage. So many women write to me torn up with the difficulties they have–difficulties they never thought they would experience. Things were going well, and then–BAM!
I’m glad that series is behind me, because it was hard to write. Yet that attitude–that life throws you a curve ball, and suddenly everything changes–is perhaps the root of the problem.

We expect things to stay the same. We think that SAME is the point of life.

What if it’s not? What if life is supposed to be about change, and adapting to new circumstances? After all, it’s only through change that we grow. And I don’t think God wants us to be all relaxed, with everything all figured out, with our perfect routines and schedules. He wants us to have to rely on Him, and that means that life will be in a constant state of flux. Perhaps if we expected that, and understood it, we wouldn’t interpret regular, everyday things as huge curve balls.

Let’s look at the different stages of parenting to show you what I mean.

Our relationships with our children change over time, and that is a natural thing.

When the kids were first born, they were definitely more mine than my husband’s, in many ways. I fed them. I was with them. He played with them, but not as much as I wanted him to, although he was a great dad.

My youngest even played strange with him (and he was around a lot). She just wanted me, pure and simple. It probably had something to do with that whole nursing thing. Daddy couldn’t do that!

Then they hit one, and could run and laugh and play, and they became Daddy’s Little Girls. They’d go to me if they had a boo boo, but they’d play with Daddy. He was the fun one.

When Katie hit two she decided she preferred me again, and wouldn’t let Daddy tuck her in. That was hard on all of us, but she grew out of that, too, and Daddy became the fun one again. She would wrestle with him, and sneak up on him to see if she could pinch him without him noticing, and things like that. I was still there for the daily things, like getting her dressed, and making her meals, and bathing her, and she always came to me with those types of concerns, but Daddy was her toy.

That isn’t to say he didn’t discipline the girls; just that when they were little, let’s say up to about 10, they preferred him to me when it came to having fun. They preferred me to him when it came to talking things over, but in general they liked him.

When they hit puberty, everything changed. So much of what Keith had done with them was physical: wrestling, hugging, tickling. All of a sudden he had a weird time tickling Becca, and he stopped. It took a few years to renegotiate the “new normal”. And now, as our oldest has a relationship of her own with a guy, Keith has had to learn to deal with someone else holding her hand. It’s quite the adjustment! I’m having a much easier time with it than he is.

Sometimes I get frustrated because I expect him to parent like I do, but I have to remember that first year of their lives, when he didn’t play with them quite as much. He was still trying to figure out where they fit in, and they needed me. I think we’re going through that again. He feels like he’s on the sidelines, because they have all these “girl issues”, and their relationship needs a kickstart. But it will get one; I just have to be patient with all of them.

If you’re wondering why you’re husband doesn’t play with the kids more, ask yourself: could it just be a stage?

Or what if one of your children is preferring you to him right now, and it’s really wearing on you? Again, it could be just a fleeting stage. Katie only played strange for a few weeks. She only made me put her to bed for a little while. And it usually coincided with something big in her life, like she was learning to walk or learning to use the potty. Once these stresses were over she was okay again.

It’s not just men who have ebbs and flows, too.

I have had periods in my parenting when I felt as if I preferred one girl over the other, and it always sent me through heaps of guilt.

But when I look back, I can see that one was going through a difficult transition time, and was naturally more difficult, or moody, or stubborn. And it’s not as if it’s always the same girl, either. Quite often I’ll feel naturally close to one of them for a year or so, and then it will flip. I try not to show favouritism, and it’s not as if I love one more, it’s just that there may be one that I find it easier to be with. As time has gone on, though, I find that it’s more because of developmental stages than it is with them as people. I really do enjoy who they’re becoming.

Looking back on my life I can see years when I’ve had more energy as a parent, and years when I haven’t. I can see years when I’ve been closer to God, and years when I’ve been farther. I think this is natural. Perhaps if we kept that view of life in mind–that it’s rarely a straight line, but more of a series of hills–we’d be easier on ourselves, on our kids, and on our mates. Let’s keep the long term in mind. In the long term, if we’re consistent parents, if we love our kids, and if we nurture them, they’re going to turn out well, most likely. They will be our friends when they are older. They will follow God. But in the short term we may feel like failures with one particular child, or we may resent our spouse because he’s not as involved anymore, or we may feel as if we are doing a bad job.

I think families are more flexible and forgiving than we give them credit for. When your children look back, sure they may remember that one time you totally lost your temper and said something mean. But they’ll also remember all the great times you had, and that will be their primary memory. In the long run, two years that Keith spends renegotiating his relationship with them in these tumultuous years, or several years that I spend trying to get out of a self-imposed wilderness, won’t matter so much. It’s the collection of memories that are important, not each individual one.

So remember those hills and valleys. It’s okay if you’re in a valley; a hill is up ahead. And it will get better. The only constant in life is change, and change is a good thing. So weather those valleys, and keep praying. Another change is up ahead!

Does God Make a Difference Part 1: Our Expectations

Does God Make a Difference: A look at how Christians often appear insecure that God will actually workDoes God make a difference in our lives?

Every Friday I like to write a more personal reflection piece on the things I’ve been mulling over. I’ve written about a bunch of different things lately–why teenagers rebel, women getting burnt out from church, why we yell at our kids–and as all of this has been spinning around in my head, sort of like laundry in a washing machine, turning upside down and back and forth, I’ve started to see some common threads.

And one thing that occurred to me is this:

Deep down, we’re supremely scared that God doesn’t make a difference. Deep down, we’re supremely scared that we’re in this alone, and we have to make decisions alone, and all of this rests on our shoulders.

Let’s look at the church example and the teenage rebellion example for a moment to see what I mean.

Our Churches Give off the Message that They are Extremely Insecure

Saying No to Church ActivitiesIn my article on women starting to say “no” to church activities, we had a great discussion in the comments about what sorts of activities really are vital to a church, and what sorts of activities are more like “make work” projects, that we do because churches have always done these things and there really is no way around it. But then I had a few emails that helped me see things in a different light. Jan Cox, an author friend of mine, asked this:

Why is it that we need food at every Bible study? If I go to a Bible study at 7:30 at night or at 11:00 in the morning there’s always the expectation that there will be food. But when I’m at home I eat three meals a day. I don’t eat at 11:00 or 7:30. So why is it that we always have to make and bring food? Shouldn’t the Word of God be enough?

I think that’s an excellent question, and it gets maybe to the heart of the matter. Food is a wonderful thing, and community is often built around sharing a meal. But why do we bring food when food isn’t necessary?

Maybe it’s because we’re trying to make the activity more attractive, because we’re secretly afraid that if there’s not food, and there’s not a “fellowship” time, and there’s not something “fun”, that people won’t come.

It’s almost like an incentive.

Nowhere is this more apparent in the church than in youth groups, which are little microcosms of the wider church. Youth group is set up to attract kids and make them stay by making it FUN. We don’t want to overburden them with Bible studies. We want to give them lots of messages on how God loves them, and not quite so many on holiness. We want to do lots of flashy games! We want high energy, high power, high numbers!

But isn’t this really saying, “we’re afraid that kids won’t show up unless we make every week like a party”? (My 16-year-old just made a tongue-in-cheek video on the 5 Things She Hates about Youth Group, and I think you’d enjoy it, because it gets to this issue. We give a watered down message and a ton of games, and ultimately, is that effective? I know she’d appreciate it if you watched it and SHARED it!)

There’s a very fine balance between creating a great, nurturing community at a church and being so scared that people will leave that you have to make sure that there’s a ton of energy and activity.

We certainly need fun things at church, and we certainly need some food. But I think the wider point is still there: are we throwing these activities and doing these things to try to keep the ones we’ve roped through the doors in the doors, or are we really wanting to grow in Christ? Because sometimes we give the impression that it’s the former. Like the people get through the door, but then it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t lose any (even though it was God the Father who went out and found the lost sheep). And we seem awfully scared that we’ll lose people if we don’t have the best worship music, the best pews, the right colour carpet, and the right food at coffee time. (Though I love the coffee bars at many churches!)

We Assume Teenagers Will Rebel

Why Do Teenagers Rebel? A 19-year-old explains how it doesn't HAVE to happen!Now let’s turn to the teenage rebellion issue. My 19-year-old’s post from last month on why she didn’t rebel has gone completely viral. It took all of us by surprise, and she’s done radio interviews and been offered internships and all kinds of things since that post came out. It’s kind of ironic, too, because she wrote it in about 15 minutes when she was bored at a university statistics class. So it’s not like we planned it or anything.

But what she set out to argue was this:

Teenagers do not have to rebel. Too many parents treat rebellion as if it’s to be expected, and it’s absolutely not. Many teens won’t rebel, and we shouldn’t expect that they will.

I think that’s a perfectly valid thing to argue. But in the comments many people turned the argument on its head, as if she were arguing this:

If you do these things your kids are guaranteed NOT to rebel.

She wasn’t saying that at all, and I did think that she made it clear. But I’ve noticed a really funny phenomenon on this blog. Whenever I post about how to parent toddlers or how to discipline school-aged children, the comments all revolve around the techniques. But when I post about how to parent teenagers, the comments shift. Suddenly they’re all about, “ah, but you can do all of these things and kids can still turn out badly!” It’s like you’re not allowed to share “best practices” for how to parent teens in case we make people feel guilty.

I just sense that Becca’s first argument is still very much the underlying tone of how we approach parenting teens.

“There are no guarantees. Kids can, and often do, mess up. This has nothing to do with you, though.” Doesn’t this sound like we’re trying to give God an “out”? I believe in you, God, but if it’s not in your plan that my kids stay Christian, that’s okay. It’s not really a prayer of faith, is it?

I do agree that there are no guarantees, but it’s also a matter of emphasis. There are no guarantees that I won’t be hit by a car or get cancer tomorrow, either, but I’m operating on faith that God has me in His perfect plan. And so I don’t worry about those things. If they were to happen, I’d deal with it because God would carry me and He would be with me. But I’m not going to assume the worst right now because that isn’t biblical and it does nothing to help my life.

Yet are many of us walking on default, assuming the worst?

So let me ask you today: are you living out your Christian life as if you have faith that God is in control, knowing that you can hand things over to Him. If something bad happens, He’ll carry you, but you don’t focus on the bad. Do you assume that God will actually make a difference in your life?

Or do you assume that God will only make a difference if we work our hardest and do our best and spin those little legs as much as we can, because ultimately it all rests on us? And so it’s likely we’ll fail. It’s expected we’ll fail. And faith isn’t something we live out. We give lip service to it, but we don’t live it.

God should make a difference. If He doesn’t, what’s the point of all this? But God won’t make a difference until we start living by faith, knowing that He can do His own PR work (we don’t have to). He has the power to draw others to Himself (we don’t have to). He has the power to hold others in the palm of His hand (we don’t have to). He has a perfect plan for us and our loved ones (and we don’t have to worry about it, knowing that if we hit some major bumps in the road, He will then be there for us).

Does God makes a difference? Do you live like He does? If not, what will it take to get you there? Let’s talk in the comments!

Next week I’m going to talk about whether or not God makes a difference in our marriages. I want to explore the fact that in too many cases He doesn’t–and that’s because we’re not letting Him. I think secretly we’re scared that God WON’T make a difference, and so we crowd Him out and ignore what He says. And if you want to watch that video that my daughter did, here it is! (Or you can watch it full size on YouTube).

Teaching Kids to Cook: Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life Skills

Teaching Kids to Cook Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life SkillsI’m a big believer in teaching life skills to kids. I think too many moms do too much for their kids, which ultimately does them a disservice. When they move out they don’t know how to fend for themselves, but they also grow up feeling a little entitled, since little is expected of them.

When Jillian St. Clair asked if she could sponsor this post to share about her new resource, My Very Own Cookbook, I agreed, because cooking alongside my girls has been one of my most fun memories of their childhood!

I grew up with three sisters and a brother. The kitchen in our home was not very big, so not surprisingly we were not allowed to do much in it. When I got married I was not confident with my cooking skills even though I majored in Home Economics in high school.


My mother, aunt and grandmother cooked many delicious meals that I don’t know how to prepare. I don’t want the next generation to follow in my footsteps, so I’ve created My Very Own Cookbook for parents to share time with their children teaching them how to cook. It’s also a wonderful record of time shared with loving relatives who will help them become capable, self-confident adults.

There are many “grown-ups” who have no experience in preparing nutritious, healthy meals for themselves or their families.

Together, parents and young children can create memories of learning useful, cooking and management skills. Perhaps you were given many gifts/presents as a child but lack the training and confidence to care for a home, keep up with the laundry, and prepare delicious, healthy dishes or even how to set a table.

If You Didn’t Learn These Skills, It’s Not Your Fault!

None of these skills come naturally to any of us. We must count on others to help us learn them and this learning can begin as early as 4-years old.  My grandchildren are 10, 8 and 4. When we’ve enjoyed family vacations, we’ve prepared recipes together. Sadly, many children don’t get to spend much time with their parents. This is something they especially crave when they are young. Time passes quickly; if we’re not careful, we may miss the chance to make an important impact in our children’s lives.

When we don’t cook from scratch, too, we tend to eat out more. Not only is that far less nutritious and far more expensive, but it also means that you lose the potential to really bond as a family the way families used to do around the dining room table.

Beware of Technology Undermining the Dinner Hour

Often when we’ve eaten in a fast food restaurant I see parents texting instead of sharing conversations with their children. My concern is that this pattern will go too far and when these children are pre-teens or teenagers, they will no longer want to spend much time talking with or listening to their parents. Cooking and eating together creates opportunities to share important daily events in our lives. Studies show children who share meals with their parents make better decisions and earn higher grades.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to expose our kids to everything we can that will help them succeed in all aspects of their lives. Good manners, respect for others, kindness, acceptance and patience are learned behaviors. Who else is best to teach these than the parents who love them?  Setting up this kind of relationship early will benefit both the children and their parents. Knowing your children can care for themselves is a huge blessing!

The Best Gift of All from Teaching Kids to Cook: Quality Time With Your Kids

Research shows that working parents spend only 19 minutes a day of quality time caring for their kids. Perhaps you have heard this scripture verse before:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

The Food Network has featured many young children taking an interest in preparing recipes and even full meals. This early training will be very valuable to them as they mature into adulthood.

My daughters were 7 and 10 when I became a single mom. I was a stay at home mom until that time and when going back to work, the girls pitched in and helped take care of the laundry, their rooms and the home we lived in. Today, they have careers and homes of their own. Thankfully, they spend a great deal more than 19 minutes a day with their children.

As parents, we can help our children become adults by teaching them many things they’ll need to know so they can care for themselves when they leave home. Most parents with grown children remember and cherish the special times they’ve spent with their children. Teaching children how to be independent and self-sufficient is a precious gift.

My Very Own Cookbook is a blank recipe journal encouraging children to share time with their parents and other loved ones. Filling in the details of a recipe being prepared with help from loved ones will be a cherished gift and record of special times spent together with loved ones and a timeless record for their future children to enjoy.

Want to start teaching your children to cook? Download Jillian’s FREE ebook: 15 Recipes You Can Make with Your Kids–and get started today!

Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Brain, Your Marriage, and Your Sex Life

The Effects of Porn--a Must Read!

Pornography is ravaging marriages. In our culture porn is treated as if it’s harmless, but it’s not. Porn will wreck the arousal process in your brain and end up wrecking your sex life in marriage. The effects of porn are devastating.

I receive emails everyday from women who are desperate to fix their marriages, but they don’t know what to do. They married men who never seem to want sex. Or their husbands are never satisfied. Or their husbands call them boring or unattractive. And the root of many of these problems is porn.

Here’s the really devastating part: Because so much of what porn does to you happens chemically in the brain, the porn use doesn’t have to be going on NOW to have these effects. A boy who grew up on porn in his teens, and then managed to stop watching it in his twenties (with occasional relapses) will still suffer from many of these things.

The good news: There is healing! You can rebuild those chemical pathways to arousal. But first we have to understand 10 ways that porn affects the brain, and thus wrecks many couples’ sex lives. And so today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share:

Top Ten TuesdayThe Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Sex Life

And remember–women use porn, too! While some of these apply just to men, many of them apply to both genders.

1. Porn Means You Can’t Get Aroused by “Just” Your Spouse

Do you remember reading about Pavlov and his dog in Psychology? Pavlov would give the dog a nice juicy steak, but right before he did he would ring a bell. He conditioned the dog to associate ringing the bell with getting great food. Eventually Pavlov took the food away, but kept ringing the bell. The dog kept salivating at the bell, even though there was no steak, because the dog associated the bell with the food.

The same thing happens when we see porn. Porn stimulates the arousal centers in the brain. When it’s accompanied by orgasm (sexual release through masturbation), then a chemical reaction happens and hormones are released. In effect, our brains start to associate arousal with an image, an idea, or a video, rather than a person.

When you don’t watch porn and save yourself until marriage, then all of those chemicals and hormones are released for the first time when you’re with your spouse, and it causes you to bond intensely (and sexually) to your spouse. But when you spend a ton of time teaching your brain to associate arousal and release with pornography, your brain can’t associate arousal and release with a person anymore. Either you have to fantasize about the porn, and get those images there, or you have to watch porn first. Often people can “complete the act”, but it’s not intense for them the way porn is. You’ve rewired your brain, and now you’re salivating at the wrong thing.

2. Porn Wrecks Your Libido

It’s only natural, then, that many people who use porn in the past, or who use porn in the present, have virtually no libido when it comes to making love to their spouse. The spouse is not what turns them on, and so the natural drive that we have for sex is transferred somewhere else. I get so many emails from young women in their twenties who say, “my husband and I were both virgins when we married, and I thought he’d want sex all the time. But after our honeymoon sex went to maybe twice a month, and that’s only if I pressure him. He says he just isn’t interested.” With so many men growing up on porn, this is just to be expected.

3. Porn Makes You Sexually Lazy

In porn, everyone is turned on all the time. You don’t have to make any effort to arouse someone; it’s automatic. There is no foreplay in porn. And so if your spouse isn’t aroused  you start to think that it’s somehow their fault. There’s no expectation that we will have to “woo” someone or be affectionate and help jumpstart that arousal process. It’s almost as if we approach sex as two different beings and we’re just using each other, rather than thinking of each other. And thus we never learn how to please the other or become a good lover because we’re always thinking that the other is somehow “frigid”. Sex is about getting my needs met; it isn’t about meeting someone else’s needs or experiencing something wonderful together.

4. Porn Turns “Making Love” into a Foreign Concept

Those arousal centers and pleasure centers in our brain are supposed to associate sex with physical pleasure and a real sense of intimacy. But the intimacy doesn’t happen with porn, and so the pleasure is all that registers. Thus, sex becomes about the body, and not about intimacy. In fact, the idea of being intimate isn’t even sexy anymore; anonymous is what’s sexy. We may call “having sex” “making love”, but in reality they aren’t necessarily the same thing. Someone who has used porn extensively often has a difficult time experiencing any intimacy during sex, because those arousal and pleasure centers zero in only on the body.

God made sex to actually unite us and draw us together; He even gave us a bonding hormone that’s released at orgasm so that we’d feel closer. But if that hormone is released when no one is present, it stops having its effects. Sex no longer bonds you together.

Making love and having sex are not necessarily the same thing.

5. Porn Makes Regular Intercourse Seem Boring

An alcoholic drinks alcohol for the “buzz”. But after a while your body begins to tolerate it. To get the same buzz, you need more alcohol. And so the alcoholic begins to drink harder liquor, or drink larger quantities.

The same thing happens with porn. Because porn teaches us that sex is all about the body, and not about intimacy, then the only way to get a greater “high” or that same buzz is to watch weirder and weirder porn. I think most of us would be horrified if we saw what most porn today really is. It isn’t just pictures of naked women like there used to be in Playboy; most is very violent, extremely degrading, and very ugly.

“Regular” intercourse is actually not depicted that often in porn, and so quite frequently the person who watches porn starts to get a warped view of what sex really is. And often they start to want weirder and weirder things.

Now, I’m not against spicing things up, and I do think lots of things can be fun! But when we’re wanting “more” because we’ve programmed ourselves to think “the weirder the sexier”, there’s a problem.

6. Porn Makes it Hard to Be Tender When You Have Sex

It’s no wonder, then, that people who use porn often  have a hard time being tender when they have sex. Sex tends to be impersonal, rushed, and “forced”. I’m absolutely not saying that all porn users rape their wives, but porn itself is often violent. There’s no foreplay. There’s no waiting to arouse someone. It’s just taking what you want.

Being tender means to be loving. It’s to give and to express affection. Because these things aren’t paired with sex in the porn users brain, tenderness and sex no longer go together.

7. Porn Trains You to Have Immediate Gratification and Have a Difficult Time Lasting Long

With porn, when you’re aroused you reach orgasm very quickly, because porn users tend to masturbate at the same time. Thus, orgasm tends to be very fast. The porn user hasn’t trained his body to draw out sex so that his spouse can get pleasure; his body is programmed to orgasm quickly. Many porn users, then, suffer from premature ejaculation.

Some porn users go to the other extreme when they start suffering from erectile dysfunction. They have a difficult time remaining “hard” enough during sex because the stimulation isn’t enough. In their case, orgasm can take an eternity, if it’s possible at all.

8. Porn Gives You a Warped View of what Attractive Is

Sex is supposed to bond you physically, emotionally and spiritually with your spouse. But if porn has made the chemical pathways in your brain go haywire, then sex becomes only about the body. And porn shows you that only certain body types are attractive. It’s not about the whole person; it’s just a certain type of person.

If a woman gains even ten pounds, then, she’s no longer attractive, and the porn user has an honest to goodness difficult time getting aroused, because he associates only a certain body type with arousal.

9. Porn Makes Sex Seem Like Too Much Work

All of this combines to often make sex with your spouse too much work. You’re not aroused; you find your spouse not attractive; sex is blah; and sex requires you to make an effort for your spouse, while you’re used to immediate gratification.

Thus, many people who use porn retreat into a life of masturbation. Even if the porn use stops, they often find it easier to “relieve” themselves in the shower than to have to work at sex.

10. Porn Causes Selfishness

All of this causes a spiral of selfishness where the person ignores his spouse’s needs and is focused only on getting what he wants, and getting it instantly. Often this manifests itself in other areas of the relationship as well, where the spouse becomes annoyed if they have to wait for something, or if they don’t get what they want. Porn has sold them the message: you deserve pleasure when you want it. You shouldn’t have to work to get what you want. Your needs are paramount.

It’s no wonder that shows up in other areas of your relationship.

People who think that porn is harmless and simply helps people “get in the mood”, or “relieves frustration”, are kidding themselves. The chemical processes in our brains are really complicated, and when you start messing with them, it’s really difficult to develop a healthy sexuality again.

However, it absolutely can be done! Later this year I’ll be working on an ebook about it, but for now, this post may help:

Marriage Recovery after a Pornography Addiction

Dayspring My Chains are Gone

Also, let’s remember: too often we tell teenagers not to use porn because it’s a sin, and they’re not supposed to lust. I think we need to start telling them these ten things. If you want amazing sex when you’re older, don’t use porn now. If you do, you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt. Ask teenagers, “who wants amazing sex when you’re married?”, and pretty much everyone will put up their hand. Then tell them: Use porn now, and you’ll make that almost impossible, without a major work of God in your life. Tell them the truth.

Covenant EyesAnd make sure that in your house everyone–girls, boys, women, and men–are protected from temptation. I’m a big supporter of Covenant Eyes. No, we can’t rely on it alone, and yes, we need a work in the heart. But if we need to reduce the temptation so that God has time to work, I think that’s worth doing. Covenant Eyes sends emails to people of your choice to tell you when someone has accessed an inappropriate site. If kids know their parents will get an email if they try to find porn, or if men and women know their accountability partners will get emails, they’ll be less likely to surf inappropriate stuff.

Show Grace

One last word–please show grace to those who have been ravaged by porn. Especially if the associations in the brain happened when they were young, these people often want to change the most, but it seems really helpless. Rather than pointing the finger in blame, join together to fight the problem together!

Porn is serious. It wrecks people’s sex lives, it makes people selfish, and it ultimately wrecks marriages. Let’s spread the word, and fight against it!

UPDATE: I’ve been asked in the comments and on Facebook to provide citations, so I’ve created this infographic with a few. There’s tons more research at Fight the New Drug, and many other sites.

Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Marriage and Sex Life: Click through for tons more information and explanations.

When Are You An Adult?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week let’s talk about what it means to be an adult. This week we’ve been talking about how to raise great kids, and my own daughters have chimed in with my 16-year-old explaining why she’s not dating in high school and my 19-year-old explaining why she didn’t rebel as a teen. I thought this was a good way to finish up the series.

When are you an adult.Canadians rejoiced loudly last week when we were victorious in Olympic hockey. Facebook was taken over for 48 hours by a constant barrage of “Way to Go, Canada!” while #WeAreWinter surged on Twitter.

In the midst of the revelry, though, an American story about freestyle skiing halfpipe gold medalist David Wise caught my attention.

Wise is 23-years-old, and has been married for several years to his wife Alexandra. They have a two-year-old daughter together. NBC reported on his win like this: “David Wise’s alternative lifestyle leads to Olympic gold.”

Being married with a child in your early twenties is now an “alternative lifestyle”, and the statistics actually bear this out.

According to Stats Canada, the average age of first marriage in Canada is now 29 for women and 31 for men.

Even more telling to me, though, was that NBC also added this line: “At such a young age, Wise has the lifestyle of an adult.”

The lifestyle of an adult when you’re 23 and–how shall I put this?–an adult! The fact that we can be so surprised that a 23-year-old is behaving like an adult makes me a little sad.

I was married at 21; when I was 23 I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, who is now studying in second year at university. I raised my kids while I was in my mid-twenties, and still in great shape to lug babies and strollers up flights of stairs in the subway system in Toronto. When Keith and I were first married we started saving like crazy. We budgeted well and managed to scrounge together enough for a small downpayment on a house when we were in our late twenties. It wasn’t a large house, and back then neither of us had very well paying jobs. But we figured out how to stretch our money, and we made it work.

When we announced our engagement back in 1991, many were a little incredulous. How can we be so sure when we’re that young? You need to live more, see more of the world, try more things before you settle down! In fact, “settling down” was portrayed as something bad, as if life ends once you make a commitment. Yet for me, that was more when life began. In fact, happiness studies show that satisfaction comes not from living a carefree lifestyle, but instead from finding meaning and belonging while also feeling productive. Maybe younger people have trouble “finding themselves” because they’re looking in the wrong place.

I’m not arguing that people should get married younger; most people, after all, really aren’t ready.

But maybe that’s the root of the problem: we are raising people to not be “adults” until they reach thirty.

That’s become the culturally accepted norm.

Instead of the teen years being the decade in which you grow up, it’s now the twenties. Is that healthy for a society?
I always believed you were an adult at eighteen, but for that to happen an 18-year-old has to be ready to launch into the adult world. That means they have to know how to maintain a household, including knowing how to cook and clean. They have to know how to manage money. They have to be employable (or at least in school to become employable). They have to be responsible. And few 18-year-olds can accomplish all that unless we as parents start raising them to be adults earlier.

I’m not sure we’re doing favours by extending childhood until people are thirty. Perhaps we’d all be better off if we expected people to act like adults once they were, actually, adults.

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Why Do Teenagers Rebel? Thoughts from a 19-Year-Old Who Didn’t



Why Do Teenagers Rebel? A 19-year-old explains how it doesn't HAVE to happen!Why do teenagers rebel? Is it automatic? And can you do things that prevent teens from rebelling? I asked my 19-year-old to help us answer that today!

“All kids will rebel, and my job as a parent is to be there to help catch them when they fall.”

I’ve heard Christian parents say that to me time and time again–strong Christian parents, too. But the Holy Spirit does not have an age limit. The Holy Spirit is with ALL Christians, young or old. And so if we can expect ourselves to act appropriately, we can certainly expect our teenagers to as well.

I’m a big believer in this philosophy, and I’ve written about these two different approaches to parenting before. This week, I thought I’d let other people speak about how to raise kids to make good decisions. We started on Monday about how to raise kids who won’t date too young, and then on Tuesday my 16-year-old chimed in telling us why she’s not dating in high school.

Today I’ve invited my 19-year-old to share her thoughts on why teenagers rebel. I said to her, “can you just write something explaining why you DIDN’T rebel?” She sent me this. It makes me tear up to read it.

Hello. My name is Rebecca Gregoire, and I was the perfect teenager.

Obviously I’m saying that as a joke, but by most standards, I truly was pretty perfect. I never drank, never smoked, never partied, never dated, never even swore. (Honestly. I didn’t swear until I was 18.)  I may have been moody, but I always had a good job, and was extremely involved in church and volunteered in childcare and youth ministries. I didn’t rebel at all–I walked the straight and narrow all through high school, and am continuing to do so now that I’m living on my own.

I’m not saying all this to try and make myself look great–I’m saying it to make a point. I’m saying it to destroy a myth that has been hovering over Christian circles for way too long.

Teenagers do not have to rebel.

I am living, breathing proof of that statement. And so are the three girls I live with, and my best friends at our university IVCF group. We didn’t rebel.

Before I continue, let me tell you something else about myself.

I am not demure in any sense of the word. I don’t like listening to authority, and I often get frustrated when I’m told what to do, or how to do it. I like to question everything. I’m naturally extremely proud, a challenger of authority, and extremely stubborn.

Why am I telling you this? To prove that I’m not “naturally predispositioned to submit”. I’m actually the complete opposite.

Whether or not teenagers rebel isn’t contingent on their natural personality, and kids aren’t “guaranteed” to rebel. Obviously teenagers aren’t guaranteed to NOT rebel, either, but there are things you can do that make it less likely.

My family had two children who were complete opposites, and neither of us had a rebellion stage. So it has to be something about the family, not our natural dispositions.

So why do teenagers rebel? And why do some teenagers never rebel? I’ve tried to pinpoint what kinds of things my parents did that helped my sister and me not rebel (though, of course, there are never guarantees that a teen won’t rebel), and here’s what I’ve come up with:

5 Reasons I Didn’t Rebel as a Teenager

My parents instilled in me a sense of family honour

Often teenagers feel distant from their families, like they’re part of it by blood, but that’s it. In my family it was never like that. My mom and dad would make decisions on their own, of course, but they always talked everything over with my sister and me. Even things that we weren’t directly impacted by–we’d discuss everything over the dinner table.

My family is the kind of family where everyone is involved–it’s a team experience. A result of this is that I received a huge sense of family pride, dignity, and honour.

Family honour has been lost in our culture. We are so focused on ourselves, and have become extremely selfish. And I think a lot of that is that parents put their children’s wants over the family’s needs. In our family, Katie and I never went without. But we didn’t get everything we wanted–I wanted an X-Box when all my friends were getting one, but because that would cut out of major family time my parents said no. A small example, I know, but it shows the worldview my family had. No matter what, family comes first.

When your mindset shifts from “me” to “we”, your behaviours and your actions aren’t just going to affect you–you begin to see how what you do affects other people. What I do when I’m in my free time reflects on my family, whether good or bad. And for me, that was a huge incentive to be responsible and make my parents proud.

Dayspring House Full of People I Love

My parents were extremely encouraging, but also demanding

There needs to be a middle ground. I cannot stress this enough.

So many parents I see are all about the encouragement. Their kids can’t do any wrong in their eyes, and they just constantly pour love and affection and butterflies and rainbows into their children’s life. And then other parents are the opposite–they don’t pay any attention to their kids unless they do something wrong and then they blow up. Or, even if they don’t explode in anger, they only ever criticize and never praise their children.

My parents had a happy medium. We weren’t coddled, but we weren’t picked on, either. My parents chose their battles, and also encouraged us when encouragement was necessary but didn’t lie and tell us we were great at something when we weren’t. For instance, my parents never would have told me that I should go for a career in gymnastics, because I am not flexible in the least.

We always knew where our parents stood, and through that, we always knew that they were honest and had a better understanding of who we were.

My family talks about everything

Open communication was big in our family. My mom and dad always made sure not only that they had time to talk to us, but that they had a specific time and place to do it, too. When I was younger, we talked before or after reading bedtime stories, or at the dinner table when we were eating together. When we got older, that spot moved to the hot tub we had in our backyard and car trips to and from the grocery store, friends’ houses, etc.

The biggest part, though, was that we didn’t just talk about school, work, and the like. We talked about whatever was going on in our lives–whether I was thinking about a new blog post idea, how Katie was doing with her skating, or what movie we really wanted to see–anything that came to mind. Our parents became our confidants, and that built a level of trust.

Moreover, our parents shared things with us, too. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a line here. But in our family, my parents simply humanized themselves to us. My dad would tell us about his favourite movies growing up, my mom would ask our opinions on knitting patterns. She’d even tell me when she had angst over commenters on this blog!

This built a partnership between us. A partnership where one was the parent and one was the child, of course, but nonetheless, a relationship where the actions of one person directly affected the other. Because of that relationship, I never felt like I needed to rebel to be heard, to be understood, or to get my way. I knew that if my parents said no, it was for a reason.

We were never expected to rebel as teenagers

My parents never encouraged any idea of teenage-hood rebellion. They never joked about us rolling our eyes, acting exasperated, or having attitude at all. Rather, they actually made us think that teenagers and the whole rebellion process was stupid and unnecessary. I always figured that I would grow up straight from child to adult, with no “silly teenage stage” in-between. You may think that this is no fun, or that kids need their time to be silly and make mistakes.

But what kind of message does that send the teenager? If kids expect that when they hit 13 they’ll start wanting to go to parties, or go out with boys, or watch inappropriate movies, then they will grow up to fulfill those expectations. On the contrary, if they are raised to believe that those are all optional, and actually unnecessary and somewhat frivolous, they won’t want to disappoint or seem silly, and so are more likely to make positive choices and act like an adult. This doesn’t mean that we miss out on a childhood, or miss out on teenage years–it just means that we use them for training for adulthood, and have fewer regrets when we’re through it all.

Also in this category is that we had very few rules. My parents never needed them, because they didn’t expect us to break them. When parents have a lot of rules it always seems to me like they’re trying to control their kids, and if you have to control them, you’ve lost the battle already. My parents always assumed we’d pick up on their values and make good decisions. Through our close relationship, heart-to-heart talks, and–when necessary–confrontations, we learned their expectations, they learned our points of view, and our family worked together instead of parents trying to reign in their children. Now, I only think this worked because we grew up in such a structured, close, and trust-filled family, but that was a big thing for me. I never felt stifled, so I never felt a need to rebel.

God was centre in our home

Our home never revolved around work, sports, school, or activities. It didn’t even revolve around other people–it always hinged on God and his plan for our family. Growing up in that kind of an environment shaped my view of my actions, choices, and the effect I had on others. When you’re used to basing everything on God’s will and God’s plan, suddenly the parties don’t seem as important. It isn’t as tempting to lie about who you’re hanging out with. Smoking, drinking, and the like just doesn’t really have any appeal, because they don’t help with your ultimate goal–to become a person God will use for great things.

So many times I see families who drop everything for good grades, or who don’t go to church if it’s a busy week at work, or who choose extracurricular activities over youth group and the like. My family, however, was the opposite. If we were tired, too bad. Get in the car, we’re going to church, because that’s what God’s called us to. If Mom and Dad had a hard time with work, we went to church because that’s a place of rest. If I was struggling with school and needed the day to study I didn’t have that choice, because it was my decision not to study earlier.

God came first in everything. And my choices were shaped because of that worldview.

As for Me and My House Wall Decal

I honestly don’t think there’s any one way to make sure your children don’t rebel. Every child is different, and every family contains unique people. But all I know is that for me, this worked. In my family, the trust, communication, and centrality of God in our home made my teenage years one of partnership with my parents rather than a constant battle.

So don’t give up hope–the teenage years don’t have to be war!

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Life as a Dare

You can find Rebecca at her blog, Life as a Dare, where she writes about her quest to simplify faith, relationships, and life in general.

 

 

 

The Talk(s)If you’re wondering how to foster a relationship like this with your kids, what Rebecca writes about sounds a lot like what Barrett Johnson is teaching us in his book the Talk(s) ! He really emphasizes keeping open communication with your kids. It’s the best book I’ve read about how to talk to your kids about sex, dating, and relationships, and it’s my store here! Or you can order it in paperback here.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

A 16-Year-Old Explains, “Why I’m Not Dating in High School”

A 16-year-old explains 5 reasons why she's not dating in high schoolDating in high school: will all kids automatically do it?

Will ALL kids automatically have sex, get their hearts broken, or do things they regret afterwards?

No, I don’t think so at all. And it makes me sad when I hear parents say,

“well, I know they’re going to mess up, because all kids do.”

I’m in the middle of a week where we’re talking about how to encourage your kids to do the right thing and make good decisions. It all started when I saw some commenters on some old posts saying things like, “The quickest way to make your child do something is to tell them not to,” and then explain why they don’t expect their teens to do the right thing.

That made me sad, as it sounds so horribly defeatist.

But rather than arguing my self, I thought I’d let my daughters do it for me! On Thursday my 19-year-old will tell us why teenagers don’t need to rebel. Today I’m going to let my 16-year-old explain why she’s not dating in high school. These are her words, not mine, and her arguments, not mine. I show you just to encourage you that it IS possible to raise a teen who won’t want to date in high school, and to tell those of you, especially those with younger kids, to encourage a super close relationship with your kids, teach them to love God, and then EXPECT them to do the right thing.

Here’s Katie:

 

The Talk(s)Wondering how you can encourage your child to choose not to date in high school? Barrett Johnson, who guest posted yesterday, has a great new book out about having the Talk(s) with your kids! It’s the best book I’ve read about how to talk to your kids about sex, dating, and relationships, and it’s my store here! Or you can order it in paperback here.

 

I know Katie would appreciate her video being shared as much as possible! So please hit the Facebook Share buttons and Pinterest buttons below!

Reader Question: When Should You Allow Your Teenager to Date?

Reader Question of the Week

Every Monday I post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. This week, though, we’re going to do something a little bit different. We’re going to take a whole week to answer this question:

How do you raise teens who will make good decisions?

Lately I’ve been noticing a bit of a disturbing trend in some of the comments on older posts. Whenever I talk about setting limits for teenagers, especially when it comes to dating in high school, someone invariably comments with something like this:

The quickest way to make sure a teenager does something is to tell them they can’t. To me, maintaining a good relationship with my daughter is the most important thing to me, so we haven’t told her she can’t do things. We just trust her, and we’re there for her, because as parents, that’s all you can do.

I find that a very defeatist attitude. And so I’ve been thinking and wrestling with how to tackle it, and here’s what I’ve decided.

Today: I’ve asked Barrett Johnson, the author of the amazing book The Talk(S) (about having continuing talks with your kids), to share about when you should allow your teen to date.

Tuesday: Rather than talk myself about teens and dating (since I’ve done that already), I’ve asked my 16-year-old daughter to join us on the blog and guest post.

Wednesday: I’m jumping in to talk about how to model a good relationship with your kids.

Thursday: I’ll wrap up the series by asking my oldest daughter, who is now 19, to write about why it is that she never rebelled.

I think hearing from my daughters on this one is likely better than hearing from me!

This is going to be our “You can do it, parents!” week. You CAN have a great relationship with your kids. Your kids WON’T automatically mess up. It is possible to raise kids who won’t date too young. And so today we’re going to ask the question, “when should you allow your teenager to date?”

Here’s Barrett Johnson, author of the AMAZING book The Talk(s), guest posting. I read an early version of his book, which is all about having ongoing talks with your kids as they grow so that you can steer them in the right direction when it comes to relationships. He explains it so well, and really helps to empower parents!


When Should You Let Teenagers Date“If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

Every parent has used some form of that line before. I’m not sure it has ever worked to change anyone’s behavior, but we use it anyway. It’s our attempt to convince our kids that what our world practices as normal behavior is often severely skewed and even badly broken.

I believe this definitely applies to typical teen dating habits. With clear evidence found in the horrific divorce rate and with rampant sexual sin in both married adults and young people, we cannot assume that our current western system is working. Wise parents will both realize this and then be deliberate to equip their kids accordingly.

There is not a clear directive of exactly what that looks like for each particular family. Instead of looking for that ever-elusive formula, it is our responsibility as parents to prayerfully seek God’s leadership regarding how it will look in each of our unique situations.

That is why I don’t think it is wise for parents to give their kids a set age (as in “wait until you are sixteen”) when they can begin dating.

A strict line like that is full of potential disastrous complications. Telling a boy who is 15 years and 11 months old that he cannot have a girlfriend and then a month later telling him he can (and giving him keys to the car) is too much freedom preceded by too little practice. Not much good will come of that.

While there may not be a firm recommended age where every teenager should be given the green light to begin dating, one study clearly makes the argument that it is wise to put it off as long as possible. This is especially if we desire to help our kids to remain sexually pure leading into marriage. A number of years ago, USA Today reported the shocking correlation between the age that dating begins and the percentage of those who had sex before graduation. Here’s what they found…

When Teens Date Young it has Repercussions

Age Began Dating and Percent Who Had Sex Before GraduationThe takeaway: we are free to encourage our 6th or 7th grade sons to have girlfriends and to let them “date” within the context of our homes. We have every right to drive our 13 year-old daughters to the movies with their “boyfriends.” It seems innocent enough, but don’t be naïve about this research. We can assume that this won’t happen to our kids, but the evidence strongly suggests that the earlier a kid starts dating, the more likely he or she is to become sexually active. Blindly sticking our heads in the sand and insisting that our kids are different and that they will somehow beat the odds is irresponsible in light of the data.

You’re going to have to tell you kids that they may not be allowed to date until well after many of their peers. Beginning these discussions when your kids are far away from any interest in the opposite sex is ideal. For here is the mistake that most parents make: they do not start setting parameters on dating until their kids start exploring their first relationship. If a young teen is already there and her parents start dropping rules on her for the first time, it may get ugly.

Think about Your Guidelines for Teen Dating Early

For this reason alone, it is not a bad idea for you to begin considering guidelines for dating while your kids are still in diapers. If you don’t begin to show them at a very early age what will be normal in your home, they are likely to assume that their “rules of engagement” are identical to everybody else’s.

If you haven’t told them any different, why wouldn’t they think that?

The Talk(s)Barrett Johnson is the husband to Jenifer and the father of five great kids (including four adolescents). He serves as the Family Minister at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church outside of Atlanta and his blog, INFO for Families, gets more than 40,000 hits a month. He has just released his first book, “The Talk(s): A Parent’s Guide to Critical Conversations About Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables.” It has been created to help every parent to equip their kids to make wise choices in a sexually-charged culture. Find out more at www.infoforfamilies.com. Get the ebook here, or the paperback here.

Tune in tomorrow for the second in our series, when my 16-year-old daughter explains why she’s not dating in high school!

Why Do We Have Middle School Dances Again?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I tackle the ridiculousness of middle school dances.
Middle School Dances are Ridiculous on so many levels. Read on...

Love is the Air.

Drug stores are selling boxloads of cards so that 8-year-olds can tell all 23 kids in their class, “You’re special!” Flyers are reminding men that they had better show up with a gift. Engagement rings are selling like hotcakes.

Yet perhaps love shouldn’t be in the air for everyone.

When it comes to middle schoolers, for instance, love is definitely better off waiting.

In fact, a study reported in USA Today found that the age that kids start dating is highly correlated to the age at which they first have intercourse. Ninety-one percent of kids who started dating at 12 had had sex by high school graduation, compared with just 20% of kids who started dating at age 16. Delaying pairing off pays off. And a huge 2012 University of Texas study found that delaying sex until your twenties meant better romantic relationships later. People who wait for both dating and sex tend to end up happier.

It’s not just happiness, though, that improves if you wait. It’s also academic achievement. Kids who remain virgins throughout high school are one third as likely to drop out of high school and twice as likely to graduate college. Other important findings: kids who remain virgins in high school are less than half as likely to suffer from depression and less than half as likely to go on welfare as adults.

If you want a society with predominantly productive citizens in stable relationships, then, we’ll want to encourage kids to wait to have sex, which includes encouraging them to wait to date. Whether you’re looking at it from an economic standpoint, a moral standpoint, or a public health standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense to encourage kids to date at early ages.

All of this leads me to ask: why on earth, then, do we have middle school dances, all put on by our Boards of Education?

Are we out of our collective minds? We’re taking kids as young as grade 6 and holding dances during school hours. Why encourage kids that young to pair off?

I got my first “boyfriend” because of a middle school dance in grade 7. I’d never even thought of dating him before, but he asked me to dance, and all of a sudden we were “going out”. Looking back it was embarrassing, but then all I felt was pressure. All the girls were wondering, “is anyone going to dance with me?” And all the boys were wondering what the girls would wear. Kids who had never thought of “asking someone out” suddenly got fixated on it.

Ask a school principal and they’ll likely say they only hold these middle school dances because parents insist on it, and that’s probably true.

Too many parents think “it’s so cute” when little Jenny has a boyfriend at ten.

But even if this starts out as clean fun, the younger kids start to date, the more they’ll experiment as they age. Do you really want your child going down that road?

Maybe some parents want middle school dances, and likely a lot of the kids do, too. But that doesn’t mean other parents have to stand for it. You could suggest a square dance caller instead. You could offer to host a party with hula hoop contests and limbo contests instead of a traditional dance. You could pick up your kids early and take them home that day. Or better still, you could ask at the next PTA meeting “what advantage are we getting from asking 12 and 13-year-olds to pair up?” Because unless you can tell me the benefit, I’ll never believe that it will outweigh the potential harm.

The Talk(s)Do you want to open up conversation with your child about dating? I’ve got a great resource–Barrett Johnson’s book “The Talk(s)”, about how to keep those conversations regular and natural. Get the ebook or get it in paperback. It’s the best book of its kind that I’ve seen!

Have your kids attended middle school dances? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Are Kids’ Sports Teams Worth It?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. I know a bunch of you are going to want to throw tomatoes at me when you’re finished reading this column, so I’m prepared.

Scared of Reaction

I don’t know why I write stuff that I know will get people riled up, but I guess I was all riled up myself on Monday when we wrote this, because we’ve had snow like you wouldn’t believe here. The major highways have been closed. There have been tons of accidents. And still people are driving their kids to sports tournaments. It just seemed so unsafe to me, and so I went off on a tangent.

I know that there are good things about team sports, but I do sometimes wonder if it’s all worth it. I’ve written about the usefulness of some of these extracurricular sports before. But believe me, I know some families who balance it all wonderfully.

If that’s you, I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m not saying you’re a bad parent. Please believe me. But I still wonder, when I look at the time and money commitment (let alone the safety issues in weather like we’ve been having) if it’s always a good idea.

So I wrote this column.

You can commence throwing tomatoes now.

are kids sports worth itI’m the wrong one to write a column called “Are Sports Teams Worth It?”, because I was the kid who hyperventilated whenever we played soccer in gym class. I hated team sports; other people would be looking at me and relying on me.

So when I see parents in my social circle spending most weekends on the road to sports tournaments, and forking over huge amounts of cash in the process, I just don’t get it. It’s almost like I’m watching a foreign movie without subtitles. It doesn’t compute.

Once upon a time, of course, sports were easy.

In the 1950s, my father-in-law and his friends would lace up their skates on a pond and play hockey all day. Soccer was just kicking a ball around in the local field. But now everything is so regimented and expensive and complicated. And instead of being just a fun, informal thing, it becomes a Very Big Deal.

Certainly hockey is the Canadian birthright, and one shouldn’t question it, but have you ever done the math? If you have your child in a hockey league, it can easily cost $3000 a year per child. There’s the hockey equipment and the team fees, which can often be $1000. But the real kicker comes with all the travel. Driving to games, paying for hotels, paying for food and grabbing a drink while you’re out really adds up. Even a relatively cheap sport, like soccer, can run into several thousand if the kids have to go out of town for games. Then, to add to the indignity, the clubs spend their lives fundraising, and as a parent you’re stuck selling 100 chocolate almond bars or bags of Florida oranges to everyone you work with.

But it’s not just the cost. It’s the time.

I see families with two or more kids on different teams, and almost every weekend they’re heading out somewhere, often separately. Practices and games eat up multiple nights a week. When do you have dinner as a family? When do you do homework? When do you just relax?

I was at a friend’s fiftieth birthday recently where a bunch of grandmas sat around the table comparing stories. One shared about her daughter and son-in-law’s schedule with three boys in hockey. She was flabbergasted at how much money they were spending (they’re just racking up debt, she said), and how their lives were so chaotic. I asked her, “When do the parents get any time together alone?” “They don’t,” she chuckled ruefully.

Then last weekend the skies opened up and dumped so much snow on my community that I can hardly see over our snowbanks. Police warned motorists to stay off the roads. There were over 1700 collisions in Ontario on Saturday alone. And yet I know of several local sports teams where parents drove their kids to out-of-town tournaments–and all the kids showed up. Facebook was littered with, “It was a really stressful drive, but we made it!”

Really? Parents risked their children’s lives in the worst weather we’ve had all year, with highway closures and whiteouts, just for a game? And the organizers didn’t cancel? I can understand heading out if your job depended on it, or if it was a major life event.

But perhaps we’re taking this too seriously.

That’s the only explanation I have. I know parents who do a great job with sports, and they love it, and the kids are thriving. It certainly can be done. But when I look at the financial outlay, and the time commitment, and the fact that you have so little time at home, I just find it hard to think it’s worth the cost. Maybe I should relinquish my Canadian citizenship for even daring to suggest it, but I don’t get it. Am I the only one?