As a regular rail commuter, I get to overhear lots of conversations. Some of them are one-sided, as people talk on their mobile phones (the oddest was a young woman shouting at her mother as they arranged the funeral of her brother). Others are between two other passengers, who often seem unaware that half of the car can hear everything they are saying.
Yesterday, two men sitting opposite me were talking about their families. It was clear they are casual acquaintances; maybe co-workers or fellow commuters. One of them was talking about going to a Scout meeting with his son. It soon became clear that he is extremely active in some sort of evangelical style church. I was sorry that my rainbow-Obama button on my backpack wasn't visible, and was perfectly prepared to interrupt him if he went anti-gay. (I admit I would have claimed to be an actual Episcopalian to argue more effectively. )
But the conversation didn't go there, as he moved on to his teenage daughter.
"She was very active in Show Choir in school," he told his companion. "She loved it, and was very good--the singing, the dancing. But we told her that she had to sing in church choir and lift her voice to the Lord, if she wanted to continue in Show Choir. The Lord comes first."
"Really," said his companion. "So what happened?"
"She refused to sing in church. So she's no longer in Show Choir." He sighed. "She's loaded with attitude and very angry at us."
After a little more back and forth, he said to his companion, plaintively, "when does it get better?"
Well, I thought, it isn't going to get better for quite a while. And while I'm very sympathetic to parents of teenagers (thankfully, Stepdaughter and Stepson are past that age, being 23 and 21 this year), I have to say that I think the dad here made quite a big mistake. It's one thing to expect the kids to attend church weekly--I've got no problem with that.
But taking her out of an extra-curricular activity that she enjoys, and is good at, as a punishment for not participating in extra church activities seems mean -spirited and unnecessarily punitive. That's a kid loaded with resentment and headed for trouble. She's not going to see anything in church for her-- it's just a spoilsport. And, frankly, taking a high school kid out of a healthy extracurricular activity that they enjoy is a recipe for future problems. Idle hands are the Devil's workship, and idle teens are a danger to themselves and society.
I contrast this story to the experience of a couple of teens I know at our church, who are very involved. Yes, their parents got them to come, but they've become active beyond simply attending, on their own initiative. And it wasn't by threats or restrictions.
What do you think the dad should have done?