Last week I enjoyed a conversation with a woman at church I hope to get to know better. Her children are younger than mine, so we were talking about the youth group/teen years.
One of the things I shared was I took the “Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light” that I remember from the Stranger Danger era and applied it to those years.
Green Light meant our child was going to a place or event that I had no qualms about. It was a trusted place and I didn’t expect any problems. They were allowed.
Yellow light was a situation where I had concerns. It might be a new place or person. It might involved people who had disappointed us in the past. We’d talk it out, pray, and if we felt it as okay for them to attend, I’d label it a yellow light. They were allowed, but if at any time they felt unsafe or the situation was changing, they would call or text me yellow light, and I’d be there.
Red light was a place or people I did not feel was safe and I clearly said no to it. It meant if they went to that place, they were disobeying. However, I’d still make myself available. If they called or texted red light, they were over their head and needed help. I promised I’d be there. I would pick them up and make sure they were safe. The next morning is when we’d discuss the consequences.
Our son is 23 and I’m blessed to say that we had way more green lights than anything. In fact, he had zero reds and one yellow. God love him, honestly, his yellow came when friends started playing “Ding, Dong, Ditch.” He watched them ring the doorbell on elderly residents and all he could picture was his grandmother. So he texted me a yellow.
I’ve been writing about our daughter a bit, and that’s because she’s in a season where a lot is before her. It’s her senior year so there are the lasts. Last homecoming. Last midterms. Yet, as she explores what comes next, there are firsts. First college tours. First job. It’s a little more complex because of her health. Few know how ill she was as a baby and that there are small delays she has from that time. She also still struggles in ways that her peers don’t.
With that, we’ve had yellows. A lot of yellows.
There was a graduation party where I knew no one. She was younger. They were in student council together and I had to believe after prayer that it was okay for her to go. She stayed in touch and had a good time.
There was an overnight that I was unaware of. I was out of town and her dad was unaware of the concerns I had. I felt the friend ran a little fast and I didn’t know the parents. He gave it a green light where I would have at least said yellow. The praise was she texted me once there and admitted she was nervous. Although it all worked out, she spiritually discerned it wasn’t a happy home and next time things might not go as well. She on her own gave it a red for the future.
Then there are the people who say one thing and then turn around and do another. And then want our child to hang. As someone who God molded through rejection, I dread these situations. Because teens are never going to act perfect any more than I will. But when activities play out like my show from the old days, 90210, where one day the group were all besties and then an hour later, one of them was out, I want to throw down a red light and keep her home. Forever.
Homecoming was a great learning lesson for us as parents. At prom she had a date we trusted and looked out for her. He’s a great friend and continues to watch out. However, he didn’t go to homecoming and everyone else had a date. One person in that group wanted to make sure everyone was included in not just homecoming, but after.
It was a bright yellow light. We didn’t know everyone and weren’t sure how she would be treated. Although we knew the one would be intentional to include her, would that extend to the rest?
We prayed and prayed. I dropped her off and prayed some more. Let her know if anything came up, just text and I’d be there. And I went home and waited.
The text came in.
There was no yellow. It was, “I’m having a blast.”
Parenting is hard and I remember the biggest shock for me was when our son was a senior. All the things he was going through was so much harder than pre-k. That’s where all the resources were. The mom groups. The support.
Yellow lights are complicated. Zoom through or stop?
Just like when I’m driving, I always pray before I leave.
And that’s how I’m navigating this parenting thing.