The real, simple answer is Get Lucky. All children have to find their own path, their own moral compass. And for some that process involves twists, turns, and hard-knock lessons. Having a child who is willing to follow God's commandments with minimal rebellion is luck of the draw. That said, as I reflect on sending Roscoe out, here are a few things that I feel were key in helping him make it this far.
Fill em with Love
From the moment they are conceived, fill your baby with love, affirmation, and delight. When they're an infant, you can pour it on in huge globbing doses. As time goes on, they can receive less and less, so maximize your chances while they're young.
Link every family rule, every parental instruction--from "Clean your room" to "Use your napkin"--to eternal principles of choice, consequence, accountability, sacrifice, obedience, and charity. Then let them make their own choices and reap the rewards.
Teach the Gospel
Every Sunday, Family Home Evening, family scripture study, and teachable moment is mission prep. Misision prep isn't something best crammed for. Teach the principles and doctrines, and scripture stories day in and day out from the very start.
Have horrible conversations..
Starting younger than you think, have an ongoing series of painfully awkward conversations about things like wet dreams, pornography, girls, puberty, hair. If you are very lucky, make your husband do these. The conversations should start before your boy really has any idea what you're talking about. These early conversations can be vague on the details. Then have the same conversations again when they're getting an idea, and again when they're in the thick of it all.
...and just tiresome ones.
Teenagers do want to talk to their parents. Just usually they want to do so at inopportune moments. And face it, in a busy family, it's hard for them to find a moment to get your undivided attention. If, just when you are finally cracking open your new book at ten o'clock at night, your teenage son plops on the foot of your bed, listen. If, just when you have finally gotten the little kids to sleep, your teenage son wants to vent about his stupid teenage friends doing stupid teenage things at a stupid teenage party, listen. When they are open, you must be open. Because it does not work the other way around.
(Although, you can often create an open moment in which to talk to your teen by whisking them away suddenly for random fast food. We refer to this as "Fast Food Parenting." As in, "Hey, it might take us a long time to get home from that SAT info meeting because I think our son could use a little Fast Food Parenting.")
We decided not to buy Roscoe the cheapest missionary gear we could find. Shipping replacements to Argentina will be pricey and we want him to look presentable, not rumpled and cheap. We bought his suit, shoes, and several other things from Missionary Mall. They guarantee everything for two years. If it wears out, email them a photo and they'll replace it for free. This actually won't do us much good since we would pay the shipping, which as I said, is prohibitive. But this policy has given them both a motivation to sell long-wearing gear and lots of consumer data with which to tweak their offerings. For example, read here about how they developed their shoes with their manufacturer based on missionary feedback. We bought Roscoe several Traveler's shirts from Jos. A. Banks. Again, not the cheapest option, but apparently these shirts Do. Not. Wrinkle. We bought them at a 3 for $99 sale.
Grieve in Advance
I am so grateful for all the friends who told me that dropping their son at the MTC was the hardest day of their life. That prospect scared me to death. The week before D-day, I cried every morning and every night just thinking of the moment I was toDrop. Off. My. Baby. And. Drive. Away. It seemed unfathomable. But by the time D-day dawned, I had processed a lot of those feelings and was able to focus more on the joy and excitement.