Drawing a line

June 22, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 13
Melissa Miller |

The decisions we make as parents have long-term implications. This obvious reality made itself even more clear to me one night recently when we hosted our young adult son and several of his friends. The topic under discussion was wrestling, the made-for-arena-over-the-top-kind, that drives fans to squeal and non-fans to ridicule or bemusement.

One young man gleefully defended such wrestling as playful entertainment, a farce-like re-enactment of the big themes of life: good and evil; struggle, defeat and victory; sex and all its drama. He acknowledged that his parents did not share his passion. Our son agreed with him, to my surprise, saying, “My parents wouldn’t let me watch wrestling when I was young.” Immediately conscious of the audience—and wanting to appear cool in their eyes—I protested, “Yes, you were.”

“No, Mom,” my son replied. “I was watching TV with Craig one day. You came into the room and saw it was wrestling and made me turn it off.”

A memory clicked into place and I explained, with some energy, “It was that guy who carried the life-size head of a female doll into the ring with him! I was protesting violence against women!”

“It wasn’t really violence against women,” the wrestling fan defended. “It was just a gimmick.”

For the most part, his friends disagreed with him. For them, the gimmick was too extreme and seemed to promote negative attitudes toward women. The conversation moved on, and I was left to ponder the awesome responsibility of raising children.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Along the way we need to make a multitude of decisions, often without the simplistic clarity of a wrestling world, where right and wrong are neatly defined by the cheers of the crowd. (As an aside, I learned there is actually a Christian Wrestling League, based in Georgia, drawing on biblical themes. At the end of a match, God and Jesus are portrayed as making harsh decisions on Judgment Day, with only one righteous soul making the trip to heaven.) The wisdom of Proverbs 22:6, to “train children in the right way,” is not always readily discerned.

We want our children to grow into responsible, mature adults with the values that we hold: Christian faith, compassion, kindness, respect for others and peaceful responses to conflict. We raise our children in a culture that does not always share these same values.  Entertainment—movies, sports and music—is often the flashpoint where the values clash and parents find themselves unsure where to draw the line and where to bend.

My parenting decisions were certainly shaped by my parents. My father, for example, insisted that the volume on the television be muted whenever a beer commercial came on. He wanted to send a cautionary message to his children of the dangers of alcohol. No doubt he took this stance because of his brother’s death in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. As a youngster, I thought his prohibition was a little odd and likely ineffective. (Probably similar to how my son viewed the wrestling ban.)

I learned to respect my father’s boundary. I was glad that he took a stand, that he communicated his values, that he declared, “Some things aren’t right.” It’s important for children to hear and see their parents’ values, even if it leads to an awkward dinner conversation down the road.

Melissa Miller (familyties@mts.net) lives in Winnipeg, Man., where she ponders family relationships as a pastor, counsellor and author.

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