(Here's to hoping the guy this is about doesn't read this—and just in case you think this is about you, it's not)
So my skirt fell off in church a little while ago. And when I say “fell off,” I’m not speaking of I tripped over the hem or it dipped a little bit below the waistline or anything benign like that. No, I’m talking about material in a puddle around my ankles, cool breezes blowing past my upper thighs and full on mooning of the primary children.
When I was telling my husband about the incident, he asked the inevitable: “Were you wearing a slip?” And of course, the answer was no.
Which means my mother would have been so ashamed.
See, all my years growing up, she wanted me to wear a slip—told me it was about decorum and modesty and that this is just what elegant women do. But being the equivalent of an adolescent hop-toad, those words of wisdom were lost on me. All I knew was that slips were only necessary if you were wearing a see-through skirt and your bum might show—which I never did. And in order to exercise my brainless autonomy, it was necessary to stage an open rebellion against “The Man”. Or “The Slip”. Either way, both establishment and both the enemy.
Fast forward to age forty-four—WHAT? YOU’RE FORTY FOUR? OH. MY. HECK. THERE IS NO WAY YOU’RE THAT OLD! YOU LOOK FANTASTIC!—stop it! You’re embarrassing me! Anyway, at forty four, I finally figured out why slips matter. Not willingly and with some innocence lost—I’m so sorry primary children—but now I’m a believer.
They say it is a “slothful and unwise servant” who must be compelled in all things. I think that’s Bible speak for “teenagers.” This is why parents have to get comfortable with the loving push and shove that comes with this line of work. I myself am eternally indebted to my mom and dad for emotionally manhandling me into coercion when it mattered.
Years ago I was dating a boy my parents weren’t particularly fond of. There was talk of “settling” and “ugly babies” and being “likely to dwell in your in-laws basement for eternity.” Talk like that. And when they nudged me in a different direction than him, I told them I had NO NEED FOR THAT SLIP, and knew exactly what I was doing.
One night, I returned home, having spent the evening with him, and my dad was waiting up for me. This is never a good thing. He asked what my intentions were, and I flippantly told him I wasn’t sure, but “Geez, Dad, it’s not like I’m going to MARRY him!”
In a very calm voice, my father said something along these lines: “My dear daughter, your mother and I are stewards over you. We believe that if you continue dating this young man, you will, in fact, marry him. And your life will be very unhappy and almost certainly end in divorce. What would you say if I told you, we want you to break off this relationship?”
Once again, an intelligent, mature response, “Well, I’d say you can’t tell me what to do. I’m 20 years old, Dad. (smug eye roll) I can make my own decisions.”
He looked at me for a moment, then with quiet resolve said, “Then you will need to pack your bags tonight and move out of our home by tomorrow, because if you don’t respect your mother’s and my ability to receive inspiration and revelation in your behalf—to see something you are unable to see because you are too close to it—then we can’t have you living under our roof, and you’ll need to leave.”
Well, you have never in your life seen a girl backpedal as fast and furious as I did that night. I tripped and fell all over myself, trying to undo the damage I’d caused. Truth is, I had no intention of giving up ANYTHING for this dumb boy, but was too foggy to understand that I would eventually give up EVERYTHING for this dumb boy.
And my father had never spoken to me like this—had never threatened me with something so serious, which is why I listened. I guess he’d been saving it for when it really mattered, knowing that one day, I’d be tip-toe dancing along a precipice and would need to be jolted out of complacency before it was too late.
Well, anyway, it worked. I chose a different path. Chose—Compelled. Whatever. Either way, the result was the same—A happy life, a happy marriage, and not an ugly child in the bunch. VICTORY!
So in the end, a few things; first, save your weighty threats for when they count, else you run the risk of becoming white noise to your children. Second, parents are a lot like a slip, ready and willing to protect us from foolish choices, if we’ll only just put them to use. And third, as you’ve probably already noticed, I really do look FANTASTIC for forty-four...bless my photoshopped heart. ;)