The Stepmother

by Andy Wood on July 28, 2008

in Turning Points

 (A Turning Point Story)

Stepmother“Reverend Wood?”

I always know two things when somebody starts a conversation with that.  First, something interesting is sure to follow.  Second, whoever it is doesn’t know me very well.

It always feels a little awkward when somebody asks, “What should I call you?”  I never have liked the “reverend” thing; the only time I put it in front of my name is when I’m signing a funeral book.  I once had a reason for that; now it’s just habit.

My Baptist heritage made me “Brother Andy” to most people.  To me, that’s a higher life form than “reverend,” but still felt a bit, I don’t know, dated or preachy or something.

Whenever my wife hears the Abraham-Sarah story, she enjoys calling me, “My lord.”  “What would you like for dinner, my lord?”  She thinks it’s really funny.  I haven’t a clue why.

Since my move to Texas, I’ve been “Pastor Andy” to most people in church.  That’s OK.  “Andy” is even better.  I’ve always liked the simplicity of just being me.  But after watching people stumble over all that title biz for a while, I finally took a cue from one of my college professors:  a simple “Your Majesty” will do.

Anyway, “Reverend Wood” is at the bottom of the list.  And on this day the conversation that followed was interesting, to be sure.

The caller was a stepmother whose 13-year-old stepdaughter had recently come to live with her and her husband.  Kathy was the girl’s name.  Seems that while living with her mother, Kathy had lived a pretty loosely-structured, unsupervised life.  The stepmom didn’t explain all the details, but left hints about things like staying out way past curfew and hanging out with the wrong friends.  So Kathy had come to live with Dad, and they wanted to bring some discipline and structure and the right kind of friends into her life.  And where else to find the right kind of friends than in church?  Stepmom had heard some good things about our church, and thought if I would come meet Kathy and she could meet some good church people, this would help the cause.

I was young and excited and eagerly said I’d be glad to stop by.

Kathy was delightful.  Quiet, pretty.  She seemed rather levelheaded.  And when I met her and her stepmother, the parent began repeating – right in front of this girl – all the mistakes her mother had made and what she and her husband thought Kathy needed.

I began to tell Kathy about all the good things, and good people, who were at the church, and that I’d love for her to join us. Then I summoned up some Brother Andy boldness and said, “And while we’re at it, Mom, let’s get you and Dad enrolled in Sunday School, too.”

She morphed.

Not frowned, grimaced, or pursed.

Her entire countenance changed into this look of horror.  She began to stammer, like somebody who’d just been caught by a jealous lover.  “You don’t understand,” she said with a look of fear that made me wonder if Kathy’s dad was in the next room. “My husband works shift work and I work at KFC sometimes on Sundays and there is no way we would be able to be there.”

I took Kathy for a ride.  I wanted to hear what she had to say when Stepmom wasn’t around.  To my surprise, she pretty much confirmed what I’d already heard.  She was resigned that at Dad’s house, things would be different.

She never came to our church.  I never saw her – or Stepmommy  – again.

Kids do need discipline and structure and boundaries.

Examples are good, too.

Examples trump them all.

How about you?  You got any good or bad example stories?

(Photo by JeffChristiansen)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

carissa July 28, 2008 at 12:01 pm

i wonder when it became so common for parents to think that all the spiritualizing, civilizing education their kids will need will be given to them directly from the youth pastor, via IV or something, and not at all from the parents and the home themselves. when i was growing up i always secretly liked those kids who i could tell were really family-oriented as opposed to peer-oriented like the rest of us — they learned more from their mom and dad than from TV and their peers, they sat with their family instead of their friends during service, they were polite and most of the time they were far beyond the rest of us in spiritual maturity. i think their parents knew how to be good examples.

carissas last blog post..God is great, God is good . . .

Andy Wood July 28, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Oh, some blame the Industrial Revolution, others the Baby Boom, others the 60s, others, well, anybody but themselves. There has always been a temptation among parents to take the support we can receive from the “experts” and allow them to become substitutes for parenting. But there’s a line we can cross, in which we are committed to our children becoming something we aren’t willing to be, and the word for that is hypocrisy.

Oh, and speaking of examples, the other night I had TWO pbj sandwiches, and it’s all your fault!

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