As a parent of a teenager, I would just like to say …. HELP! I am kind of kidding, but kind of not. The transition from having a child who depends on you and enjoys your company to having a teen who wants to be in charge of their own life and thinks you are a goofball is rough! I keep telling myself that everyone who has ever raised a child goes through this, and all of this is normal, normal, normal. But I have to say, it doesn’t feel normal sometimes.
On Facebook and Instagram, moms of cute babies, toddlers, and elementary school age boys (did I tell you I have a son?) post adorable pictures of sweet notes or crafts their kids made or funny things they did or said. I love those posts! But what does the mom of a teenage boy post? The answer, by the way, is NOTHING! NOT EVER! Because that would be the ultimate humiliation for the teenager. So we keep the funny things they say and do hidden away so as not to be the agent of embarrassment.
And sometimes, when your teenager is struggling with something big, (social challenges abound at this age), you really want to reach out and seek advice. But nobody posts anything like that on social media. Just yesterday, I found myself crying out to God about some things my son is dealing with. I felt helpless and ill-equipped to help him and I really wanted God to just jump in and fix this. Preferably right now.
But I realized, while driving on Hwy 98 in Wake Forest, that this is actually a special time in our family’s life. Our son is growing up quickly! And this time that I am wasting worrying about things that I cannot control, is actually precious time that we can spend as a family. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:27. The fresh perspective that God gave me yesterday has given me new energy for tackling life parenting a teen. It is easy to thank God for the blessings of a precious baby and an adorable toddler. It is also pretty easy to thank God for the awesome adult child you have raised. But those awkward, moody, volatile teen years? Well, God gave us those too! And the challenge is to embrace them and to enjoy the uncertainty and the exploration that all teenagers are living through.
We, as adults, want to be their guides because we have life experience to share. We might be able to help them avoid some of the pitfalls. But, contrary as they are, teenagers don’t want that most of the time. But what they do want, need, crave, and what we, as parents and mentors can easily give them, is a safe place to just be who they are. If they are in a bad mood, they can have that mood. If they want advice, listen more than talk. If they ask you to do something when you are busy, drop what you are doing if at all possible and meet them in that moment. Even if it is at midnight when they want to talk and you crave sleep.
I have been negative about the teenage years, and I am changing my ways! This is a time that God uses to prepare parents to let go and to give teenagers the ability to stand on their own. As Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.” He is with us through this whole process, and that brings peace and encouragement. So to my fellow parents of teenagers, I say press on! And enjoy!!