My mother's sex-ed discussion was three-words long. I can remember as though it were yesterday. I was drying and putting away the dishes and somehow, "Good girls don't" blurted from her mouth. In silence, I continued putting the dishes away, and thought of all of the girls in school who did, and knew that she, in all her wisdom, missed the mark on this one. I thought of all the girls I knew who were on the Honor Roll, often with all A's. I thought of the cheerleaders who were good at throwing out cheers. I thought of girls who sang in the choir and put on the appearance of piety and respect. All of these girls were sexually active. And in honesty, this act did not make them what I'd consider to be bad people. In retrospect, they were good people who had liberal moral ethics, to put it politely. They had open relationships with their mothers and were provided birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies. And yet, even though my mother gave me those three words to ponder through the years, I chose abstinence as my birth control, well into my 20s. The key word here is chose. I was taught the Word of God from an early age, and knew this was against God's plan for unmarried people. I saw what these active girls had to endure when relationships fell apart. I saw what missing a pill could create. As a border-line germaphobe, the thought of contracting a disease was more than I cared to risk. I chose abstinence because I wanted to get a degree more than I wanted to change diapers. My mother had a child later in life, and that was as close to motherhood that I wanted to get as a young teen. I enjoyed being an aunt; but, motherhood was not on my radar. I enjoyed my life and I didn't panic if my irregular cycle didn't show up. But, I truly don't believe sex-ed has to be taught, as much as it has to be lived. Having two adult children of my own, I didn't have a sit-down-and-talk lesson with them. I had an ongoing, as the occasion put forth, dialogue with them. If I saw something, or heard something immoral I didn't hesitate to point out why that was ultimately destructive to their well-being. I made clear from the start, that music with vulgar or offensive lyrics would not be welcomed in my listening field. I made clear that any songs on the PC that I didn't like the title would be deleted without warning. I knew that I couldn't stop them from listening; but, I could, as the owner of the PC decide what was on it. This understanding started when they were still moldable. I learned through the years that they modeled my behavior. If I enjoyed a certain genre of music, they began to enjoy it, too. I made it clear that Nintendo games that had violent overtones wouldn't be welcomed. I made it clear that I wanted to live a God-centered life and wanted that for them as well. I taught them that sex outside of marriage was not God's best plan for them. I told them of the costliness of parenthood and let them know that as long as they couldn't take care of themselves, they shouldn't consider trying to take care of someone else. The bottom line on this discussion is that parents can't be alcoholics and think their children won't grow up with beer cans in their hands, too. A mother can't bring men in and out of her bed and think that her daughters won't grow up with this promiscuous lifestyle as well. It's said that an apple doesn't fall far from the tree. What you believe is okay, your kids will believe is okay. If you don't have clear ground rules set, step by step, then they will adopt the ground rules set forth by Hollywood and music entertainers. Let's face it, leaving television and MTV to teach our youth morality is irresponsible and equally risky business that will most likely leave them on the losing end of what God's best plan for their life is. My children will never be able to come to me and try to justify living with someone outside of marriage, or being involved in a pre-marital affair; because, they know from the word go where I stand on these issues based on my own personal lifestyle. I've taught them that playing with fire will eventually burn you. And I've never been shy about giving them real-life experiences to prove my point. And the bottom line on this topic always is: You can't alter God's commands and expect Him to be okay with it. It's not going to happen. He has a Divine Order: Marriage first; then sex. Anyone who says that's not realistic should talk to God about that.
Some things are just off limits. Older adults who criticize teens who are inevitably trying to grow into their own skin is one of those things. I can't imagine what it must be like to grow up in front of cameras that catch every angle allowed. I can only shake my head. I think back to my teen years and can remember how the most insecure of youngsters would say and do things that attempted to make the most secure teens question their sureness. In the past few days, I've watched Miley Cyrus on several talk shows promoting her new movie and thought how difficult it must be to maintain a young teen's image while minute-by-minute growing into real-world young adulthood. Admittedly, from what I've observed, she's handling it well. I couldn't help but think of other celebs who grew up in the lime light and along the way derailed from the illusionary "straight and narrow path" they started out on. I thought of how, like idolaters worship their gods, the paparazzi would flock around them every chance they got as though they might just puke golden nuggets or something. To these vultures every photo taken was a potential jackpot. But, the public is to blame because of the obsession to believe the falsehood that these people do anything differently than the pauper on the street. They may do it more lavishly; but, not much, if at all, differently. But as I thought of the most recent celebs who have crashed and burned emotionally, I could only pray that Miley would stay above this destructive fray. But some questionably age-appropriate poses done professionally and unprofessionally can only leave one to wonder what the next few years will do to her seemingly stable demeanor. Anyone who has lived through those tumultuous years knows well that no one escapes them error free. In fact I don't believe any decade of life is free of a blemish here and there. But to end this piece, in peace; just as I sat to write this blog I overheard Jamie Foxx offer an on-air apology to her. I'm sure she'll gracefully accept it. But the truth is, the damage is done. I didn't quite get the gist of his joke. And being a comedienne does not give you license to be ignorant. The best comedians have humor that most often derives from his own personal experiences. On reading of his insult, my first question was, "Who is Jamie Foxx that he is in position to be critical of any one?" The bottom line is that parenting is difficult enough. Growing from adolescent to adult is a difficult transcendence. Many have battle scars for life because of the mean spirits of others. No one needs the help of the outside world to make these confidence-building feats more daunting than they already are.
I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason. I applied for grad school recently. It was my plan to apply for scholarships and grants to fund this endeavor. Before most organizations will consider you for funding, they require that you complete a financial aid package with the federal government; presumably to be assured that you're not deliriously wealthy, thus not needing assistance. Within weeks of submitting the documents required I received notice that I qualified for $10K in student loans per semester. That equals to $20K a year, and probably even more for summers if I showed good standing with the university. Strictly for emphasis, I was simply flabbergasted. I am one person. That means that most young people fresh out of high school will get grants, and still be eligible for student loans. That is a frightening thought. An 18-year-old, eager to get from under the roof of parents, has no genuine concern for what $10K a semester over four years is equivalent to. If my math is correct, that's $80K, plus interest! In some parts of the country this money would buy a modest home. I am concerned that the government is setting a debt trap for its unsuspecting citizens. Forfeiting on a student loan is not the equivalent of forfeiting on the dreaded credit card. A student loan stays with you til you pay it off, or die; whichever comes first. A recent conversation with some of my 20-something daughters left me frustrated for them. Either they have graduated, or at the threshold of graduating; and, most of them have student loan debt in the five figures. Fortunately a couple of them are seeking teaching certificates and have plans to work with a district long enough to get their loans paid off. At least that is a plan. But I can't help but wonder if they will be like many who never became certifiable because they couldn't pass the state exams; and went on to be full-time substitute teachers making a fraction of what contract teachers make. No matter how you dice it, a five-figure student-loan debt is a new car or a down-payment on a home. And this is what one must ponder before signing on the dotted line to attain funds to pursue a degree in, let's just say, film production. What young people must realize is that, unlike a grant, a loan will come due, eventually. It is very apparent that students are not leaving high school with significant knowledge of real-world education. They should not be measured on how well they know calculus or geometry; but instead, on how well they know the checks and balances of Student Loans 101. Ninth grade classes should include Family Planning 101. Failing an exam in the course would mean walking around with a battery-operated infant for a week, with a built in monitor to make sure it's in a certain parameter of the student involved. But to stay on task and not digress, Congress needs to query its constituents for alternatives to this current government-funded student-loan free-for-all. I believe that this reckless doling out of funds is indirectly to blame for our economic collapse. Recently, I read that 60% of people who have student loans are either delinquent or in default. That is alarming. And while listening to a radio talk show I heard conversations of people coming out of college and non-chalantly talking of having student-loan payments set up for 30 years! Thirty years; as in three decades of one's life? That would make the average person who paid faithfully, at least 50-something before they got out from under this debt, presuming they had no financial crises along the way. I'm reminded of the Bible verse that warns us that the borrower is slave to the lender. What a prime example this is! I have come to the conclusion that the only way to reap the most from the college experience is to pay as you go. For most that will mean going straight from high school to full-time employment. That will mean taking six hours at the local community college for the core courses and staying at home with the parents a bit longer. That, perceivably, is not a bad thing. The money saved by paying a lower rent, if they require it, would be well worth the leash on your potentially unhealthy party-habits. I calculated it once, and a student who took six hours each semester, summers included, would graduate at approximately the same time as someone who went to school full-time at an average of 12 hours a semester, excluding summers. I'm deeply concerned that the student loan crisis is taking our young people on a roller coaster ride that won't return to the exit station until paid in full. If the truth was told, most 18-year-olds don't have a clue what they want to be at age 25. I think the laws should be rewritten, to where only students seeking licensure should be eligible for loans. People wanting degrees in film production need to pick up a cheap camera and prove their worthiness for such a "fluke" of a degree; forgive my harshness. I think dropping classes, or doing poorly in classes, should make one ineligible for loans. I've heard too many conversations of students who have accrued debt, like water in a bucket. But unlike water in the bucket, student loans don't evaporate. If you are the parent of a teen who is about to graduate from high school, I suggest that you firmly stand against letting your soon-to-be 18-year old adult-child, begin digging this somber pit for himself. Since public school probably has not taught the lesson on the consequential deep abyss of student-loan debt then it is your obligation to do so in love. It's possible they might just listen. A few days ago, I broke down the deferment lesson to one of my daughters who recently graduated. She is eager to return to school to begin her graduate studies, and has chosen to defer her loans. She breathed a sigh of relief when she learned that the government would allow her to pay only the interest. She thought the $63. payment would not be so bad. That was until I enlightened her that over 12 months that would equate to over $700. And that the interest-bearing nightmare wouldn't end at 12 months; but instead, like a hamster on a treadmill, the lifetime of the loan. Suddenly, going to grad school on student loans no longer seemed reasonable; and even less so after I told her what that $700. would look like if she took this money and put it in her 401K for 30 years. America, it is time to wake up and get off the delusional gravy train. Very few things in this life are really gifts. Yes, God can use rare vessels to bring His Plan to fruition; but I place an emphasis on the word rare. If you want a college degree, and your only option is student-loan debt, get a job and pay as you go. Remember that the bottom line is: Colleges are merely another form of big business. They get paid up front when you pay to attend their classes. Once they deposit your funds, you are on your own with what you do with the classes you take. They are eager to advise you while you are a student; but be forewarned: Once you graduate, you're on your own for finding a gig. You'd be very wise to get a degree in something requiring a license. In this case, you'll earn a decent-enough salary to pay off any debt and sustain yourself. Use the rest of the hours pursuing whatever artistic passion you have until like a kite, you can get it to leave the ground, and soar on its own. Who knows? You may be like the thousands about to graduate and not have a clue what studies you really want to pursue. Remember, there is no law that states college must start the fall semester following graduation. There's no shame in taking core courses just to stay in the game until you get that glimmer of light of what you'd love to become. You may just want to become an artist. But at least if you pay as you go, you won't be burdened by the dark cloud of debt that looms for far too many, six months past graduation day. Sadly, I know of some who simply stay in school, and ultimately never graduate, in an attempt to put off the real-world reality of getting a job and going to work. That only lasts for a brief moment; because, be assured: The piper will get paid; whether monetarily or in denying you the precious luxuries of owning a home or a new car. Be wise, be prudent, and weigh the ultimate price. Is digging this somber hole of debt what you really want to do? It used to be said that college is for the wealthy. Thankfully there are sufficient government grants for undergraduates that take the teeth out of that truism. Attending college on just grants may mean not living on campus. Or it may mean living on campus and taking fewer classes. I'm not sure how that works. But I do know that student-loan debt is not for foggy-eyed children which is what 18-year-old adults are. Nor is it for people with the wisdom to know that paying five-figures for a piece of paper that may or may not cash in is far too financially risque.