My son has done the unthinkable. He has done something I could never have imagined, and honestly – I don’t even know how to respond.
Connor now claims to be a Dallas Cowboys fan.
I know, it’s pretty serious. And the really hard part is that it seems to be lasting. This isn’t like one of those moments that happens when he is just trying to get under my skin. This whole “Cowboys” thing seems legit.
And for the first time in the eleven years of his life, he doesn’t like the same team as me. I’m a Bengals fan, our family has always been Bengals fans. Through the good times (there have been a few) and through the bad times (more of these) we have cheered for the orange and black.
Of course, there is a certain amount of humor in my opening remarks. The deeper truth remains the same; my oldest is getting to stage in his life where he is going to do what he wants. He isn’t the little kid that he was when he just followed me around, and now he is making decisions about what he wants.
This leads me to an important realization: His mom and I are no longer the only voice he listens to in his life.
Several of his friends are Cowboys fans, and I would be naïve to think that part of his conversion didn’t have to do with them. What does that mean? Well, in terms of football teams I don’t think it means much, but in the larger picture it means that the influencers in his life are changing, growing more powerful, and he is making decisions based on friends rather than just his parents.
I don’t think any of this is bad. Actually, I think all of it is good, this has to be part of the maturation process, but I guess I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly. Eleven years went by so fast, and I guess I’m not ready to let my little boy go.
As with many things in the world, time does not care what I want, and so we move forward with new questions: How do we influence him now? How do we use all approach avenues to make contact with his heart? How do we still help him make good choices?
The answer comes with something they tell us in the Orange Curriculum: In the middle school years, parents have to be more strategic and relational.
I was reading something the other day that said most middle schoolers will use their phone more in one week than they will attend church in a year. Again, just a reality of the life we live in, but it does mean that I now have to simplify my message.
It means that I don’t get the entirety of his brain space. Instead, as a parent, I can only give him one message, and pray that he holds on to that one message. In a lot of ways, it feels like we are heading into the fourth quarter of the game and it has quickly become crunch time. If I wait till he gets to high school it will already be too late.
Now is the time for strategic and simple messaging.
So, in light of all of that, I’m going to let the Cowboys thing go. He can have them. The message I’m going to give him is much more important than that;
Be nice, I love you, God loves you.
What message will you give to those around you?