Thursday, January 15, 2009


I'm an ardent user of "Stumble," a simple web based tool that takes you from one interesting or funny website to another. Last night, I stumbled upon a video that seared an impression into me that will likely be with me for some time.

The video begins with a young girl, perhaps 16, setting up the video camera by which you see her and then turning up some dance her stereo. The girl is "dressed" (to use the word very loosely), in one of those Brittney-Spears-inspired whore-style gettups that is purposefully intended to invoke the most prurient of interests in men.

Then she begins to dance.

I probably don't need to tell you that I'm not talking about the Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers sort of dancing. No. She begins to undulate in the sort of ... well, you get the point.

All this goes on for maybe three seconds. And then the real point of the video becomes apparent.

The door swings open and her father steps into the room.

Now, at this point as a viewer of the video, I felt my emotional gears grind from third straight into reverse without the benefit of a clutch. My thoughts of "This is crazy" were suddenly replaced by the shock and anguish that was so apparent in her father's first words:


I'm struggling to try to describe what he was so clearly feeling at that time. Words fail here, but the feeling was palpable. If he had walked in on the act of murder he couldn't have been more horrified. As the girl dove to shut off the music, the father strained to speak. Somewhere in the torrent of confused sentences I could clearly hear him say, "that's not how a young girl is supposed to behave." He was angry, but God bless him, he wasn't violent. When he looked up and saw that she was acutally filming this, more than anything I could feel that sort of crushing anguish of a defeated man.

In that split second of horror, I saw her life flash before my eyes. That moment of her birth and the look on her daddy's face. The nights he sat up with her while she was a sick infant. All those diapers he changed; her first day of school; watching her open Christmas presents. All all those times that she'll never know about: his worrying about bills to take care of his family, his staying late at work in order to provide for them; all the millions of things that a dad does to keep his child safe, and loved, and happy. At that point, he must have been asking himself "How could you do this?"

So I guess I come now to my point of this blog. I ask these questions rhetorically, but feel free to leave your comments:

At what point does a child metamorphasize from that perfect little baby into that person that breaks your heart? What was the fork in the road that leads to this? And most importantly, how can I, as a father, prevent it?

There is a verse in scripture that says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it." That is some reassurance. But I've seen good parents -- great parents -- go through hell with their kids for whom they've seemingly done everything "right." Kids are their own people. Kids will explore their world and try things that they see others do. Each failure, each heartbreak may be solved, forgiven, forgotten, and left in the past. But as I look at the photo of my son on my computer desktop, all I can think is, "Is it possible that I can help you to avoid sin, failure, and pain?"

I can see a baby. And I can see the end product of what I hope and pray he will become. It's just everything in the middle that seems so uncertain, so scary to me. Maybe I'm making too much of this. I don't know. I do know that as a new dad, it freaked the heck out of me.

I'm not sure how this video came to be on the Internet after how it turned out. I can only imagine that maybe someone posted it as a lesson.


Michelle said...

I have yet to become a parent myself, but this is certainly something that worries me about becoming one.

Based on my OWN upbringing, and how my parents instilled life lessons in me, this might provide some reassurance, or at least another way of looking at things.

My parents have ALWAYS provided the basic morales of being a good person, have manners, treat your elders with respect and so on. Even to THIS day, whenever I am heading out for a night on the town, my dad still gives me the Spanish Inquisition - who are you going out with; where are you going; when are you going to be home; don't leave your drinks anywhere....and I don't even live at home anymore!!

I know he does it because he cares. There are times growing up, especially as a teen when I was coming into my own and learning who I was as an individual, I did completely the opposite of what I had been taught. Only to find that there were consequences of the not-so-pleasant variety.

I have learned, as have my parents, that you can instill those values in your children from a young age, but you cannot FORCE them to listen, to abide by them or to use them. HOWEVER, as a parent, you have every right (and my parents loved this!) to say "I told you so".

Parents have been there before, got the T-shirt, learned the lessons, and know the consequences.

Even though there will be some hiccups along the way, you have to let your child make those mistakes, or they will never learn. There are too many parents out there that shelter their children, don't allow them to make their own mistakes, and those are the ones that turn out a little unstable...a little misguided.

These children, whether learned or not, don't intentionally break their parents' hearts, cause them distress, or make them mad...they are just going through one of the biggest changes in their lives. If they have been taught well, they will come out on the other side - maybe a little bruised, but certainly not scarred for life.

At the end of it all, I can't thank my parents enough for helping me to be the person I am. These are lessons that I carry with me always, and will be sure to pass on to my own day....

Anonymous said...

Your heart will be broken. Your child will choose another path. Hopefully with a good background, that path will still be a good one, if different from what you envision. I wonder if you look at the choices you have made, if you have ever broken your parent's heart, yet here you are, proud papa, ready to carry on.
Even the worst of us who stray sometimes come back. So don't sweat the small stuff, and "teach your children well, and know they love you." And let them know you love them.

Anonymous said...

I do not have any children of my own yet, but I am a proud Aunt to my niece thats a start.

I believe that you can do nothing more then guide and instill the life lessons you deem important in your child. I am sure many parents stand back and want to say to their kids, "Look I have been through all this before! Listen to me so you don't reinvent the wheel!" But sadly I believe most children and teenangers must chip away at that block of stone and reinvent that wheel so they come out on the other side with that first hand knowledge.

So yes, your son may one day tell you that you don't know what you're talking about or he may ignore the curfew and stay out all night. But remember HIS wheel still has a few bumps in it. In a few years it will be smooth as silk and he'll be rolling down the road no problem.