You have goals as a family. You set expectations for your children. You hope that they will make the right choices and decisions based on examples that you’ve set. But for all of those goals and expectations and examples, let’s face it, raising children is a crap shoot. It’s hard. No matter how many books or blogs you read, you never really get it right. You get close, but never 100%. You never get to lay back with your full glass of wine and confidently say, “Yeah, I’ve got this.” Each age you think, “How could parenting be any harder than this?” And then they grow up without permission and it does just that. It gets harder.
We have just passed through the threshold of teenagerhood. Our oldest is 13 and an 8th grader in junior high. He’s moody. He has braces. He just recently started to roll his eyes at us. Talking about girls embarrasses him. He has an Instagram account that we have to monitor and occasionally tell him to take something down. He has a Facebook account that he never uses but a YouTube channel that he’s very proud of and works hard on. He is every bit of a teenager. It’s hard and this is just the beginning.
But for all of his moodiness and braces and eye rolling, underneath this boy has a heart for others. I’d like to take credit for it. I’d like to say that it has been through our encouragement and fostering the importance of giving to others. But I can’t take credit. It is really who he is. He has volunteered at Special Olympic events and at their office. He has stood outside of grocery stores asking for donations for our local food bank. He has walked for Cystic Fibrosis, shot basketballs for orphans, and put together hygiene packages for kids in Uganda.
A couple of weeks ago I read in an email that our church youth group would be participating in something called Box City. Box City is a fundraiser that raises money for a non-profit called Family Promise that gives support and shelter to local homeless families who are trying to get back on their feet. At Box City, hundreds of people raise money and sleep in cardboard boxes at one of our local parks for an evening. You’re not only making a difference financially, but also getting a small sense of what it must be like to be homeless.
When I approached my teenager about participating with our church, I wasn’t sure what his response would be. Even with all of his past volunteer work, a surely teenager is very temperamental, and asking someone if they’d like to spend the night outside in a cardboard box to support a good cause is kind of a big ask. I’m not sure I’d choose to do it, but I’m not a teenage boy with a huge heart for others.
On September 26, Bentley will be sleeping at the park on the ground instead of his soft bed at home. He’s excited about it actually! He will hear from families who have been supported by Family Promise and what a difference it has made in their lives and I know will come home changed, even after one night.