(I also had the permission of the skaters below to post their pictures.)
We've been taking the boys to the skate park in town. It started by accident. We originally were just taking them to ride their bikes along the trail by the river. But one evening when we were going by the park another dad had his young sons there and so we figured we'd let the boys try it too......aaaand the rest is now history. It is now their most favorite place in the entire universe and the number one place they ask to go.
I like it for a few reasons. I love that it's growing in them a sense of adventure and courage. And they get braver every time (much to my heart attack's non-delight).
But I also love that it lets them (and us) interact with a different "culture." I don't want our boys growing up thinking there's an Us and there's a Them. There's just a We. We are all people loved by God, innately sinful from birth, in desperate need of the saving grace and forgiveness of a Savior, Jesus Christ. And I don't want our boys thinking otherwise.
Do I think about the fact that sometimes they're inhaling second-hand smoke? I can't help it. Do we tell them to step back or go someplace else? Nope. Do I love that they occasionally drop the F-bomb within the boys' hearing? No. Have we ever asked them to watch their language? Nope. We're on their turf and if the boys should ask us what those words are, we'll take the opportunity to explain words and language and, hopefully, ultimately point back to the heart.
(Now, I have told teenagers to watch their language when they were curse-happy at a playground. But that's because it was a playground. Kind of goes without saying.)
Matt and I love talking with the skaters when we're there. Matt usually hangs out at the top of the bowl (or whatever they call that thing) and talks with the guys and I usually find a place along the wall to sit and watch them. And we've found the most interesting thing. They gravitate towards us. I've had several times of sitting there, all 19 1/2 months pregnant of me, and had teenage boys come over and sit right next to me wanting to converse. I tell them how awesome they are and I can't believe they can do those things and before I know it, they're back on their boards doing tricks right in front of me. They do the same with Matt. And we're lavish in our praise. Dude! That was awesome.
Because for some of these kids it might the the only time they get a word of encouragement that day. Or week. Or month. Or year. You never know what kind of life you might be speaking into someone's heart.
And we know there's a place for being wise and believe me, we're on it. We're not going to be foolish and put our boys in situations that they're not ready to handle yet. But we also don't want to raise them in Bubble-Wrap Landia.
When Micah says, Mom, look at that girl's pink hair! I say, I know, isn't it so pretty?
So while it's not the primary reason we go by any means (we go because the boys love it and have a blast), I love that it gives the opportunity to show love and kindness to a "different" group of people and for our boys to do the same. It makes my heart so happy when I see Asher ride his bike within inches of a group of them and say, Hi! Watch me!