Over their morning's cup of cold milk and my hot coffee, we have had some hard conversations lately.
Difficult topics and tender subjects: ...fornication, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and human trafficking. My children are growing up and ready to talk. They are hearing things... new things, hard things... and they desperately want to understand.
How does a parent tackle these topics with a 9 year old and a 12 year old? Both curious. Both asking. ...not an easy answer.
Over our oatmeal, or taco soup, or lunch sandwich, my kids have asked some difficult questions. With mouths full of food and lively debate and discussion, we have talked. Though I would tend toward careful words, and even avoidance tactics, my husband believes whole-heartily in straight forward, honest, open communication. We have always told our children "how it really is". And, so far, this path hasn't led us astray. It works for us.
So we talk. We let them ask and we explain, the best we can. Uncomfortable and squirming on the inside, I listen as my husband talks about prostitution, fornication, and explains STDs and the reality of AIDS this morning.
Today, in the car, the questions still come. Why? Mom, why? Why would someone, knowing full well that smoking kills (it is written in bold black letters on the boxes here), why would they still smoke? Why would they drink, get sick, have a hang-over, and then go out the next night to drink again? Why, mom? It makes no sense!!
Animated and lively, passion in her eyes, my sweet daughter is almost yelling these words, "It makes no logical sense?!"
I have to agree... almost with a chuckle... "Yes", I say, "if I knew that the kebab shop on the corner made me puke every time (or just ONE time) I ate there, I would avoid it like the plague!" The half-humor helps bring a bit of a calming to the confusion, the frustration, and the passion of her question.
Why. Why do they do it? my sweet girl...
I don't know. I really don't know. ...each person is so unique. The answers are complex, aren't they? Why do I do the things I don't want to do? (Romans 7)
We talk about cisterns and broken pumps and pipes. We talk about the longings in our hearts for Father God. And, we talk about all that Jesus offers us: peace that surpasses understanding. We talk about the always-available gifts of God's Spirit: joy, love, self control...
And, I try to explain. I try to help them see that those that drink, party, and sleep around are looking for God! They are looking to fill that empty place. They are desperate to have some peace. And, this cigarette and that drink... they bring some relief. These "tools" do bring some modicum of peace and rest; a small taste of relief.
I remind my boy of his question yesterday, "Mom, do you ever just feel sad... for no reason?" Yes, my boy sweet boy, I do.
"Do you?" I had asked him. "Yes, sometimes." "What do you do when you feel sad?"
I remind him of this conversation.
Why? Why do they do these things, my son? I don't know. This is what they do when they feel sad, I guess.
What do I do when I feel sad? You?
...maybe they feel sad, angry, disappointed, confused, worried, lost, frustrated and in pain. And, they need it to stop! They are desperate to have some relief. When they were little, their mom's gave them a cookie when they fell down and scraped their knee; now they need to go to food, to drink, to a cigarette, or a lover... to make it feel better. ...at least for a moment. I don't know.
What they really need is a hug. ...a strong, long, lingering, tender love-hug from Father God.
What they really need is peace... guarding, surrounding, overwhelming and sweet peace from Jesus.
What they really need is joy... deep, lasting, filling, unshakable joy from the Spirit.
Hard, hard topics to talk about. ...hard life lessons to discuss over a bowel of cereal, don't you think?