Today begins teen week! Hooray!! For one week, we will be discussing teen girls primarily (but moms of boys, I know there will be stuff for you too)-- with people who are involved with producing resources to help us raise them to be godly young women. This is exciting to me and I am happy to have them all agree to join us! Thanks you guys!!
If you submitted a question, I will do my best to post them with the answers throughout the week. Some of them required me to get some "expert" help. Thanks for sending your questions and if you haven't yet, you still can. I will not post your last name, or any revealing information with your questions, so you will remain anonymous. So, in other words, if you still have a question, you can still send it in!
When I first became a parent, I thought that raising babies/toddlers was H-A-R-D! I thought that it couldn't get any harder. And in a way, that was true. Babies and toddlers are labor intensive-- physically. They exhaust you with all the watching and following and tending and cleaning up, etc. And so you set your sights on when they get older because it will get "easier." That's what you tell yourself. And in a way it does get much easier!
A few weeks ago I was talking to my prayer partner at our Momtourage group (hey Erin!) and she asked me what she could pray for. I unloaded all my concerns and issues we were having with our oldest (a teen boy). She has two kids-- the oldest is five. After I finished talking she looked at me and said, "Ok, now that you've scared me..." I felt so bad! I didn't mean to scare her! But the reality is, the stakes get higher-- instead of making messes in your house, they reach a stage where they can make messes of their lives! And you realize that your window of influence in their lives is slowly but surely closing. And so it becomes less physically exhausting and more emotionally exhausting. But just like the toddler years, you deal with it, you get through it, and you learn to rely on the Lord at a whole new level.
I used to go to parenting conferences where speakers would tell me that you didn't have to have a teenager, according to the world's definition of a teenager. That instead you could have a young adult and treat them as such. I believed this and subscribed fully to this mindset. I remember telling one poor woman this as she was lamenting about her teen at a Bible study years ago. (Now, at the time my oldest was all of, say seven?) After she was done talking about all they were going through, I suggested that she didn't need to see her child as a teen and perhaps if she just viewed him as a young adult all her troubles would vanish. That it was the world who had sold us on teenagers and all that goes with them. She looked at me like I was crazy. "Oh honey," she said sadly to me. "It seems you vacation at the same place I do." She paused for dramatic effect. "On the River of Denial." All the other moms who had teens in the room laughed and laughed. I was duly warned in that moment that all my plans about raising teens just might not turn out the way I had hoped! I often reflect on that moment and wish I could back to whoever that woman is with hat in hand and apologize for speaking about something I knew NOTHING about!! Ah, humility-- we all need a dose of it once in awhile.
Don't get me wrong, we still do talk to our teens about the choice to act like young adults or children. And I think that is a great point. And yet, there is also actual scientific proof that brain damage occurs in the brain of a child/teen between the ages of around 12-18. (This article made the front page of the paper about two years ago, but I couldn't find a link to post here-- sorry. If anybody does have that info, please share it.) As a parent you can see this happening. And you just start praying for them to come out okay on the other side!
We have certainly ventured through some "stuff" with our son, and know we have lots more "stuff" to wade through with all our kids. I was sharing with my friend Terri recently that at first as my son began to struggle that I felt that I had somehow fallen down on the job as a parent or he wouldn't be struggling. That all those parenting seminars were obviously right-- so what had I done wrong?? Terri confessed to having gone through those same questions. She has been a great person to just vent to, and ask questions of as she has already navigated through some of this rough terrain. She is a godly woman-- and the fact that she has had teens that have struggled with stuff only makes me feel better.
In short, it is hard to raise teens in this world. They are probably going to have struggles. I used to think that by homeschooling them, we could avoid all that. And there are people who will tell you that is possible. But that was not my experience. Just going to church and living in a neighborhood invites that other "stuff" in, unfortunately. My son didn't have to go to school to find the invitations to the world-- the world came right to our door!
Which is why I am doing this week. Because we just need to vent and cry on each other's shoulders. We need to celebrate those great moments when glimmers of hope appear, too.
As moms it is nice to just be honest about how hard we try and how much we feel like failures at times-- and how much we question: am I doing this right? Did I say the right thing? How much do I push? I am so glad there are folks out there who are willing to share what they have learned, and tips on how to connect with our teens. Resources to help us be better Christian parents-- and to have the opportunity and the privilege to raise these kids to be young people who hunger and thirst for God and offer themselves up to Him. That's my goal at least, in all of this. And I am sticking to it!