“Father, Your Son Was Smoking in the Restroom! And He Was Trying to Get the Gym Teacher to Join Him!”


Recently, with a mixture of tenderness and sarcasm, I once again listened to a conversation between young parents holding a one-year-old girl and a grandmother (one of their mothers):

“Well done for taking Liddochka to church every Sunday,” said the grandmother, admiring her ruffled granddaughter. “She’ll grow up to be a good, faithful girl. She’ll get married and have children. Unlike this modern youth. They come once, for no clear reason, like that one... And they sleep... You can tell right away they are not churchgoers...”

She made a hand gesture towards someone.

I followed her gesture and saw that it pointed to my second daughter, Sonya, who, yes, was sleeping on a bench at that moment but was practically born in the church. She never missed a single Saturday, Sunday, or holiday service. She was always dressed in ruffles, pink outfits, headscarves, prayer ropes, crosses, and icons. She evoked Orthodox admiration and tears from all our parishioners.

Then puberty hit! In the midst of it, my daughter, after significant protest and a break, decided to come to church for Communion. Yes, she dressed like a teenager. Yes, in black, “anime” style with a hood. Yes, before the service, I went around to all the grandmothers and priests, asking:

“Please, don’t say anything to her... Please, don’t say anything...”

Yes, Sonya slept through half the service! But she came! On her own! And she slept in the church, not somewhere else.

And here it was: “You can tell right away they are not churchgoers...”

“Nothing, nothing, we’ll wait,” I muttered under my breath behind that family. “You are not the first, and you won’t be the last... Let’s see what you will say in ten or twelve years.”

And I rubbed my hands with glee, I confess!...

“But our granddaughter,” continued the grandmother, “reaches for the icons, kisses them, tries to cross herself... An angel, not a child... And it will always be like this—you’ll see.”

I rubbed my hands even more gleefully...


When I was young, naive, and not as wise from experience as I am now, I also thought that my girls would always joyfully run to services, their hair flying back, and would eventually run to monasteries, icon-painting and choir schools, Orthodox retreats, or become the wives of priests and have lots of children. No worldly life lying in evil! And even while temporarily forced to remain in this world, they would behave as true believers, ascetics, and confessors. Not all this secular, improper, and mischievous behavior.

How could it be otherwise?!

During all my pregnancies, I confessed and received communion every week, prayed, read all the existing Akathists, and anointed my belly with all the consecrated oils I could find. We baptized our daughters immediately after leaving the maternity hospital, put them to sleep and woke them up to Orthodox hymns, and did not feed them without first administering prosphora and holy water. Their cribs were always surrounded by icon stands and various prayers against the evil eye, curses, sinfulness, and for all good things against all bad things.

We read them all the existing Children’s Bibles, Gospels, and Orthodox children’s literature. We visited all the monasteries and dipped into all the holy springs with them. We didn’t miss a single Sunday Liturgy with them unless they had a fever over 40 degrees. As soon as they could speak, they already knew the Creed, “Our Father,” “Theotokos and Virgin Rejoice,” and “O Heavenly King.” Sitting down to eat without a prayer, as well as going to bed, waking up, going outside, or doing anything else was impossible, unthinkable, and not our way.

As soon as they learned to walk, they toddled to the icons and kissed the crosses. And at home, they kissed the icons. They kissed them everywhere! So what did that grandmother surprise us with?

My eldest daughter, by her own will, stood through all the services and, at three years old, flooring the already barely breathing church elder.

“Child, have a candy,” the elder murmured.

“Thank you! But I’ll eat it after the fast...”

In general, the most pious piety paled in comparison to us and our girls, and saints secretly wiped away a tear of emotion, looking at us from the icons. They probably even thought it might be time to give us their place.



And one day the eldest child said:

“Mom, you and dad came to the faith consciously, but we were brought to the church! I also want to understand everything myself! And today, I don’t want to go to the service!”

This was the girl who once dreamed of becoming a nun!

I nearly fainted; there were tears, talks with my husband... And now she attends services only on major holidays—to not upset us... And thank God for that at least! I pray:

“Lord! Just for the fact that she still listens to us, count this to her in Your heavenly chancery.”

What else can I say?..

“Lena! How can this be! You are an Orthodox writer, your husband is an altar server... And yet your Sonya chatted with her friend through the entire service. And she was wearing jeans!”

Or this:

“Lena! You are an Orthodox writer (it’s like a label), your husband is an altar server (again)... And your two middle daughters fought during Confession in front of the icon stand... And the priest was very displeased...”

As if I was very pleased. But we didn’t teach them this, honestly. We took them to church every day and raised them in faith. We thought they would forever remain little angels in ruffles.

“Lena! How can this be! (I’ll skip the rest, you get it)... One of your daughters spat at the priest!”

Well, yes, it happened! She was about two years old, and the priest called her to order. That’s why he suffered this mockery. Luckily, he had many children himself and wasn’t easily surprised...

“Mom! I don’t want to go to Confession to Father N!” another daughter declares. “He violates my boundaries, my personal space, and my freedom of choice!”

What? Boundaries? Where did they get this from?!

Will living in the world, will they confess, preach, missionize, and behave like girls from an Orthodox boarding school?

“Elenа Alexandrovnа! This is the schoolteacher! The children are scared, the parents are clutching their hearts! Your daughter is writing everyone’s names in the ‘Death Note’!”

“It would be better if she wrote everyone’s names in the Book of Judgment!” grumbled my husband when I ran to him screaming about the horrors happening. It turned out to be some silly game they were playing...

“Elena! This is your neighbor! Did you know one of your daughters and her friend are throwing water balloons at passersby from the window? How could you, Elena?! You are believers! I never expected this from you!”

Do you think I expected it?

In this sense, my only hope is now on Masha with Down syndrome. And even here:

“Mom! Church—no! Walk!”

She, by the way, was also practically born in the church, and already knows how to cross herself and pray. And everyone assured me that such children are angels. They dream of never leaving the church!

“Mom! Walk!” Masha repeats and stamps her foot. Then, in protest, she simply lies down in front of the altar. And the young priest gives me a stern look. I give him an even sterner look back. His first child was just born, so he doesn’t know life yet!


“Lena, don’t worry! We’re not the worst case,” my husband comforts me.

I agree, we have wonderful girls.

“Mom, it’s just a phase,” my daughters themselves reassure me...

What else do they say about believing families? Oh, right... That the children of clergy, for example, are immediately recognizable! How could it be otherwise? These are the holy children of holy people, growing up surrounded by all that is sacred! All bad things are immediately struck down by grace before they even reach them...

“Father! This is the school principal, Maria Ivanovna! Did you know that your son smokes in the restroom?” a priest we know was once told over the phone.

A priest who, by the way, had come to that school a couple of times to talk, saying, “Bring your dear children to church, and everything will be fine!”

“And your son was trying to get the gym teacher to join him in smoking...”

“What? My son? An altar server and Sunday school honor student? My firstborn, pride and joy?”

The boy was really good. Never caused his father and mother any problems. Only brought joy. Until he hit puberty. It was as if he was swapped with someone else! It seemed as though with the first teenage pimple, something clicked in his brains and other places, triggering a red button that started screaming. And that was it! The mechanism went out of control.

Well, among other things I won’t mention, he decided to smoke e-cigarettes with his classmates in the school restroom. They couldn’t find a better place. They could have at least consulted with older, more experienced people.

“Lord! How did the Gym teacher get involved?” groaned the priest into the phone.

But as it happened, at that moment, a young man decided to visit the restroom. He looked like a high schooler—small, skinny, and seemed like an easy target.

“Want one?” the priest’s son casually offered him a cigarette. “Or are you scared?”

“Why not,” the “skinny kid” replied.

And suddenly, he twisted the priest’s son into a hold before the boy could even squeak and took him to the principal. It turns out he was the new gym teacher, on his first day at work. Who knew? He looked like a kid.

“Father, don’t worry,” Maria Ivanovna herself became concerned. “They all smoke at this age.”

“But he’s mine, mine! I’m a priest, and I myself said, ‘Bring your children to church, and everything will be fine!’”

“Well, that’s how it goes... It happens.”

What the priest did with his son afterwards, history does not tell... Probably prayed... Well, I hope so...

Smoking is some sort of plague among teenagers. Here’s another story.

A church-going family. The mother paints icons, works in the church hall; the father is an altar server and sings in the choir. The children are believers, all attending an Orthodox gymnasium. Practically saints. An example, a model, and all that.

“Hello! This is the police! We caught your twelve-year-old son smoking near the metro! Come to the station to pick him up!”

“I can’t come right now! I’m singing in the choir!” the stunned father whispered into the phone from the service, immediately mixing up all the notes, chants, and prayers.

“And his mother?”

“She’s preparing a memorial meal.”

“Understood! Blessed ones! Well, we’ll bring him ourselves.”

What happened next, I don’t know. But it seems everyone survived.

My friend Fr. Yevgeny’s teenage son was once put in a holding cell. Puberty had snuck up on him as well. He had been such a good boy. The church grandmothers used to cry tears of joy looking at him, and even the priest secretly did the same. He was a miracle of a child. Then one day, he got into a fight on the street and broke a store window.

It’s not that the priest was completely shocked. He had been surprised earlier when his angelic son, who used to play at being a monk and incense everything that hung around, suddenly had something click in his head and declared, “I’m tired of your church. And anyway, I’m a free individual searching for myself!” And then it all started. The holding cell, in principle, became a logical end to these searches and the wanderings of a young, fragile soul.

Still, having a priest’s son under arrest in the police station was too much. Moreover, in a small town where everyone knows each other, when they called him from the station, chuckling, to deliver the news, Fr. Yevgeny was justifiably outraged.

His first instinct as a loving father was, of course, to give the rascal a good spanking. The second was to go and rescue the defenseless child in trouble. Especially since the priest himself was a former cop. That’s another great story.

He knew firsthand what the local holding cell was like. It’s not like foreign prisons, which resemble resorts. There are no amenities, and the crowd is not the most glamorous. You could bring home lice, among other things, and damage your soul overall.

But after praying and thinking it over, Fr. Yevgeny decided that the scoundrel should sit there for a couple of days to learn his lesson. The main thing was to restrain his kind-hearted wife from rushing to save the boy and giving in to her maternal emotions. And not to give in himself, for that matter. He’s only human.

So, after praying and thinking it over, Father Yevgeny decided that the scoundrel should sit there for a couple of days to learn his lesson. After waiting the appropriate time, he went to get him. He nearly cried when he saw his precious child, who looked more like a plucked chicken. But he didn’t resort to scolding or lecturing. He simply gave him a meaningful and threatening silence, which was even worse.

Then he was overjoyed when the police secretly told him that his son had started praying from the shock of being in the holding cell. He even preached to the homeless and drunks, telling them it wasn’t Christian to live such a life. They should stop drinking and loafing and turn to God as soon as possible.

In general, the priest’s educational trick worked. It worked so well that the son is now studying in seminary. He wants to become a priest. Shock therapy...


Recently, I had a conversation with a new father who dotes on his little daughter, covering her with kisses, proudly and tenderly taking her to communion, dreaming of braiding her thick hair once any starts to grow on her bald head.

“I can’t even imagine a brute coming along someday to take my princess away,” he said to me with genuine horror in his eyes.

“Brute” meaning a man, apparently... Well, well...

“I’ll be very picky about choosing suitors for her,” he continued. “Not even a mouse will get past me.”

“Or your daughter won’t even ask you,” I shot cruelly and unceremoniously at his naive, pure fatherly soul.

It seemed like he was about to faint in my arms at the prospect.

And I remembered a story on the occasion...

Once upon a time, there was a priest. Good, kind, righteous, with many children. A shepherd of all sorts of sheep, as he was. Wonderful sons, daughters in headscarves. The eldest was a sight to behold. Smart, beautiful, daddy’s favorite. Eyes like lakes, a long blonde braid, a gentle nature. God did not deprive her of anything.

The priest father dreamed of seeing her as the wife of a priest. He closely monitored her behavior and chastity. And she did not disappoint. Eyes down, “yes, daddy,” “yes, mommy,” “God bless you...”

Her parents were meticulous in choosing suitors for her. They visited all the priests in the city, checked out all the priest’s sons. They chose the most promising one. Tall, stately, genuinely devout, with a beard starting to grow despite his young age—a sign of future priestly dignity. And a straight part! Just like in the pictures. All that was left was to slick it down with some pomade.

“Here, dear, they will soon come to court you,” said the caring father.

“But why, daddy! I already have a boyfriend!”

And the father sat down as if struck by lightning. From his beloved, gentle, and obedient daughter, he did not expect such stubbornness and statements.

The next day, the priest’s daughter brought her suitor home.

“Just don’t worry, don’t worry,” the mother waved at the priest with everything that could be waved. “Talk to him first. Maybe he’s a normal person. So what if he looks like that... It happens.”

But such a suitor could not be normal by definition. Black leather jacket, roaring motorcycle, earring in his ear, a bold and defiant look, rude speech. And he didn’t cross himself at the icon corner.

What was their daughter, who listened to nothing but Orthodox hymns, and what was this rock musician?! “Daddy, mommy, this is Gosha! He’s a rock musician.” “Where did you meet?”

“At a rock concert.”

Everything that could be waved had finished waving...

But, thank God, it didn’t end in murder. Priests, as you know, are not allowed to kill, otherwise... And the daughter showed such determination (“I love him, I can’t live without him, if you don’t bless us—I’ll run away”), that the unfortunate parents had to give in.

But the guy turned out to be good. Even wonderful. And the most interesting thing is that over time, he took off his metal, put his electric guitar on the top shelf, parked the motorcycle in the garage—and became... a priest. So, the priest’s dream came true, albeit with some accompanying upheavals.

On holidays, in a warm family setting, the son-in-law still sometimes takes out the guitar. And after a glass of church wine, he plays some songs. But that’s okay... The father-in-law forgives. And even sings along. Well, what can you do? he’s only human.


On a more serious note, returning to the beginning...

Of course, children should be brought to church; who would argue with that? But life shows that it’s not a cure-all for all sorts of adolescent and child antics. It’s not a guarantee that a child won’t one day say, “I don’t want to go to your church!” Or show up all in black, with blue hair and tattoos, scaring the grandmothers. Or fall asleep during the service, just to make a point!

And it doesn’t mean they won’t start acting out or searching for themselves outside the Church. It’s painful, it’s scary, but it’s... normal. Yes, we fervently hope they won’t repeat our mistakes. But just as my own mother once asked me:

“Lenochka, maybe you shouldn’t? Don’t do this!”

And there I was, all in black, with three earrings in one ear, six in the other, and a nose ring, searching for my own path. I made all the mistakes and eventually found my way.

Our children will make their own mistakes, unfortunately. And then they will ask their children, “Maybe you shouldn’t?” And so it goes, generation after generation.

So now, I simply pray:

“Lord! Do not abandon our girls! Forgive them everything! And forgive us! Fix all that I’ve messed up with them! Because I have messed up. Reveal Yourself to them! Only You can reveal God to a person! Let Your will be done!”

And yes, I “gleefully” rub my hands when young parents in church admire their angelic babies, thinking that nothing like this will ever happen with their child. God bless them.

But I know that years will pass, and they will whisper in church just like we do, as parents of older children:

“Did yours come?”

“No, she doesn’t want to.”

“And mine said, ‘Only for Easter!’ And thank God!”

“But mine came, came…”

“Mine took off her cross…”

All that’s left to do is to pray, wait, and love. And to allow God to act! He won’t abandon them! I know this for sure! Time will pass, mistakes will be made, and our children will return! Absolutely! Because where else can they go? A person has only one path—to God!

Elena Kucherenko
Translation by OrthoChristian.com



sherlock_holmes7/4/2024 9:35 pm
Finis coronat opus ! Wonderful... and a beautiful prayer.
Anna7/4/2024 4:49 pm
The moral: lower you expectations. Limit your dreams for your child. If they never do anything they realize is wrong, they will never learn to repent, and will live in delusion of perfection. Falling is important.
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