Parenting any age is plain old hard work, but it seems to me that parenting teens involves a constant shift of challenges and celebrations, demands and delights, pain and pride. Some days we feel like we’ve been slapped in the face with a wet fish, and then we remember we are dealing with teenagers. But we survive it all, somehow, just like our ancestors before us. Just like our kids will with their own teens one day (I like to call that payback.)
Now just so you know, this is not going to be all about giving teens a hard time and crying into my Kleenex mourning the loss of my kids’ preteen days. No siree. This momma happens to rather like teenagers. I was pretty determined not to merely survive parenting my teens, I wanted to ENJOY MY TEENAGERS. Maybe not every single day, but at least the majority of the time!
What has brought on this little rant, you may ask? Well it’s my baby’s birthday today. My “little” guy (who is at least 6 inches taller than me) is turning fifteen years old. That means he’s definitely in his mid-teens and I only have five more years of parenting teenagers. A slight bubble of excitement swiftly bursts and is replaced with a feeling of desperation and potential mourning. I really LIKE my teenagers. I’ve already put in 9 years hard time (you have no idea how long that took me to calculate) and it’s actually been a lot of fun. Plus a lot of other un-fun things, but I want to highlight the good stuff. Mainly because most teen rants are somewhat negative, and I want to encourage all those parents of kiddywinks out there that it’s not ALL scary.
Some very cool things about parenting teens:
*They are HYSTERICALLY FUNNY. Cynical? Maybe. Gross? Yup I have boys. But their sense of humour is like no other. It’s risqué, blatant, visual, and makes you laugh. Belly laugh even.
*They can DO STUFF. Like household chores (with some gentle persuasion), mow lawns, they get interested in the kitchen (because that’s where food central is, so why not teach them a few survival techniques lest they should starve?), and once they can drive- they ENJOY running errands! My daughter LOVED grocery shopping (I abhor it) and my eldest son will drive anywhere for anything 🙂
*They are surprisingly PASSIONATE. Now I think this also might be a generational thing, because I can remember being painfully self-centered and clueless regarding the state of the world at that age, but our teens today really CARE. They go on mission trips and do fundraising drives at school and sponsor kids in Africa and want to make a difference. They are globally aware and it’s mind blowing.
*They find things they are GOOD at. Like really good. Their “childhood” years are spent trying out every sport/ extra curricular course/ band instrument/ academic avenue possible, and our job is to ferry them around as chauffeurs and then pay for it all. But when they hit their teens, they blossom and discover things that really make them tick. Yeah, we still pay for most of it. But it’s like a beautiful butterfly emerging from that preteen cocoon of confusion.
My recently-married-and-graduated daughter is now turning 22, and that particular butterfly is absolutely soaring. My eldest son is 17 and just gradded high school, ready to embark upon something remarkable with a passion all his own. And the birthday boy, well he is in the “finding my passion and honing my talents” phase, surprising us constantly. Each of them so very different, each of them utterly amazing. Plus they scrub up pretty well:
We have been blessed for sure, but if I may, here are a few helpful hints that I can look back on and offer into the mix:
*COMMUNICATION. Duh. A no-brainer, and it can be like squeezing blood from a rock with some teens, but keeping those lines of communication open with BOTH parents has been invaluable.
*SENSE OF HUMOUR. I can’t stress enough how much of a lifesaver this can be. And I don’t mean laughing AT your teen when he’s done something brainless, but rather teaching them to laugh at themselves, and to laugh WITH you. Yeah, and they laugh at you, too actually. Have your lighter moments. We all need ‘em.
*PICK YOUR BATTLES. Seriously. You might drive yourself batty if you engage in a war of words with a teen. Sometimes you’ll have to bite your tongue and let them figure out global issues for themselves, and sometimes you simply have to shut that bedroom door and hope the clothes crawl themselves to the laundry room.
CONFESSIONS: Here are some major blunders we made. We also made lots more. We are human.
*Pretended to know what we were doing with the first teen. She knew we were making it up, I’m pretty sure, and we were probably too strict, too paranoid, and too everything. Some humility and honesty would have helped all round methinks.
*Gave a dating age limit. We thought it was a good idea at the time (seeing as how I was a mere 14 when I started dating my husband), so we told our teens no dating until age 16. They heard “As soon as you’re 16th birthday hits, you must date someone.” It was not a good plan. The youngest will not be dating until he is at least 25.
*The age gap thing. That wasn’t the mistake, but it’s challenges were huge- what movies to watch as a family, what activities we could do together, what vacations were cool for everyone, what food we ate… as a result the eldest teen ate pablum-esque food and the youngest boy watched Little Women. It’s a tricky one. The youngest always has to grow up super fast. So we decided this fall we are taking our teen boys to Disneyland to rectify too much sensible, mature stuff. (Please don’t judge us!)
I’m not trying to pretend there isn’t an awful lot of challenging stuff that comes with the teen territory. An empty fridge, gass-less cars, and cluttered bedroom floors to name but a few. Some cause sleepless nights and grey hairs and stomach ulcers, and at times we wonder what we signed up for.
But isn’t that true of every season of our lives? Getting through puberty, then your education, finding a soul mate, landing your dream job, doing the parenting thing, growing old, retiring… it’s all full of challenges. We can grumble our way though in survival mode, or we can embrace and enjoy as best we can. Not always easy and some days not even remotely possible, but life is so much richer when we choose to live fully in whatever season we find ourselves.
Proverbs 3:5-6 have been my favorite verses since I was 11 years old. I stumbled upon this Message interpretation and kind of liked it, mainly because I know the regular version so well I don’t always let it sink in. Here it is:
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.”
It applies to every season, doesn’t it? But if you happen to be in or nearing the teen-rearing season, you might want to keep these words handy. God knows all about teens, it’s okay. And I’m pretty sure He would love us to actually enjoy our teenagers, whether they are our own, our grandkids, or our neighbours.
For the love of teens…