Over the past few days, I’ve had the privilege of watching two teenage boys interact with two teenage girls: my daughter, a brother and sister my daughter has known for as long as she can remember, and a new friend (but you never would have known it from the way he jumped right in!). Thrown into the mix, and also relevant to my observations, were four younger siblings.
I watched them closely, because I was curious what their interactions would look like over the course of our five days of togetherness. And I loved what I saw. First, I saw full-fledged interaction. The teens never separated themselves from the younger four. I look back through pictures and see full and precious integration of all eight children, from oldest to youngest. They truly enjoyed each other.
But, I also saw complete respect and comfort between the four teenagers. In a culture where we would expect the boys to be acting all macho to attract the girls and the girls to be giggling and making themselves crazy over the boys, I instead saw friendship. Respect. Conversation. Play. Fun.
I started pondering why all of our children automatically knew how to interact well with one another. True, all but our new friend have known each other for years. But, we’re talking teenagers, people. Need I say more?
Respectful interaction is not something we verbally hammered into them. We didn’t give them a pep talk on Wednesday saying, “This is how you need to interact while you are all together this weekend.” If we had, their interactions would have been stilted and awkward instead of natural and delightful. So, what happened?
I want to be careful when I say this because I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn. But, I firmly believe our teenagers could interact freely with one another because all their lives they have seen friendship modeled by their parents. All of those kids have parents who highly value solid friendships, starting with the friendship shared between Mom and Dad. Yes, marriage involves romance. Yes, marriage automatically results in a different kind of friendship. But, our children know that each marriage represented was formed from a friendship more than from a flashy romance.
They also see that Dad and Mom are friends with others. Our children watch us intermingle with other men and women and know how important those friendships are.
So, it’s no surprise that they would, as a result, make friendship their priority as well. True, honest-to-goodness, unadulterated friendship.
Some day, each of those teenagers and their siblings will experience the deepening of friendship into something more. Maybe even with each other. (I wouldn’t complain!) And maybe thoughts of future possibilities did flit through their minds over the weekend. But, for the most part, they’re leaving that to their future. They’re trusting. And they’re building a solid foundation in the meantime.
They’re not doing it because we’ve drilled into their heads that they aren’t allowed to date or that they have to pursue relationships a specific way. They’re just mimicking what they’ve seen. They’re doing what comes naturally to them.
The bottom line is that the whole weekend served as a strong reminder that our children are watching closely. They pay attention to what we are modeling. They watch how we interact with one another in our marriage. They watch how we relate to friends. And they mimic those interactions.
It’s humbling, because I know how many times I’ve screwed up in the relationship department. I know how often I fail to be the wife and friend I should be. But I also know how I want to be. I know what I strive for. And I know that my goal is to exemplify Christ. Period. So, maybe through all of my blunders, He truly is shining through.
And they see it.