Traffic jams to and from work. Mollie Tibbetts murdered by an illegal immigrant. Tuition resuming for both of our children’s fall classes at college. Cable TV yammering 24/7 about whether or not President Trump will be impeached. The air conditioner conked out in my car. And look at this month’s water bill!
You and I deal with hundreds of large and small challenges every day, and usually shrug them off as just part of life. But some of us—especially children—can become overwhelmed by society’s pressures, increasingly with tragic consequences.
Enter Kay Wyma, a Dallas mother of five and former classmate of my wife Lori at Baylor University. After an impressive career that included serving in the White House during the Bush/Quayle administration, Kay became a stay-at-home mom, video blogger and author, whose books have led to interviews on The TODAY Show, CNN, Focus on the family and other national outlets.
But it was the suicide of one of her daughter’s friends that led to her latest—and in my view her most important—volume.
NOT THE BOSS OF US: Putting Overwhelmed in its Place in a Do-All, Be-All World (www.KayWyma.com) grew out of the tragic death of a teenager who was a classmate of her daughter but who felt so much pressure over grades and—feeling she couldn’t “measure up”—made a decision she could not take back. It had a profound impact on Kay.
“I come from a Christian perspective: we live in this world, but we’re not of it,” Wyma told me in an interview. “And the faith message that answers the questions that are plaguing so many people—Do I belong? Am I enough? Do I fit in? Do I measure up?—all those questions are answered in Truth. In Scripture. You are accepted, and you do belong because the path was paved for you.” She adds that even if someone isn’t rooted in faith, “negative self-messaging is ridiculous and robs you of today, which really is the only day you get to live.”
Kay Wyma is not advocating we unplug from society and live quiet Amish lives, but she challenges parents to set boundaries and place their children on a Truth-based path early on. She notes, for example, that the most popular online game among young boys today is called Fortnite. (In existence for less than a year, it already has generated over $1-billion in app sales.) But there’ll be a new hottest game next year, Wyma cautions, and if your child’s world and identity is tied to Fortnite, there’s an emotional iceberg ahead.
“So why not get rooted in Truth,” she says. “You are uniquely gifted by God with a purpose and with passion to do something that’s productive in this world. Every person has that, just like the fingerprints that are unique to them.”
Although technology is omnipresent, Wyma says you needn’t bother to unplug the computer, gather up the smartphones, and take everything electronic away from your child….because the kid next door or down the block has those things. Better to equip them to navigate life’s road than try to manipulate their environments.
And her powerful book echoes the advisory flight attendants offer before takeoff: Put the oxygen mask on yourself first before attempting to help those around you. Make sure you truly believe that you are wonderfully, uniquely gifted. We need reminders in this world that “performance reviews” don’t tell us our worth. And as parents, we need to remember that a child is a person who takes a long time to develop. Lots of ups and downs. So stand on solid ground and don’t waver in your mission to guide them on their walk.
Wisely, Kay Wyma also reminds children and adults of the quicksand that is known as Social Media. “Instagram is fun and fine, unless it is ruling you me and becoming part of our identities,” she observes. “Nine times out of ten, interacting with real people makes you feel good, while by the same metric reacting to Instagram can make you feel bad.”
As Wyma’s NOT THE BOSS OF US subtitle suggests, putting “overwhelmed” in its place won’t eliminate annoyances like biased TV anchors or that noisy neighbor turning his yard into an auto repair lot. But the perspective offered by Scriptural truth will root you in the eternal truths that will matter as much 1,000 years from now as they do today.
And getting to watch her daughter—who lost that close friend—pick herself up emotionally, and now encourage others by saying they are not defined by their grades or points scored on their sports teams gives Wyma—and the rest of us—reason to have faith in the next generation.