I have three incredible teenagers. I am sure they will love that this is the photo I chose to use for this post, but what this photo represents to me are the many times late at night that my kids show up just before bedtime to chat. This particular night, they stood at the end of my bed and made me laugh harder than I had laughed in a very long time. Other times, they pour out their hearts, reveal their struggles, share the questions that they have about life, or just talk about the things that are important to them.
Parenting teenagers is hard work, but if you are a parent of little ones right now, it does not have to be something you look forward to with fear or dread. Parenting at every stage of the journey has its own set of challenges, but each stage can also be filled with incredible joy!
I have a dear friend who is a mentor-mom of mine who refused to call it “The Terrible Twos,” but instead she called it “The Terrific Twos.” Were her two-year olds perfect? Nope. (I was their babysitter and I can assure you they were not.) But what she had learned was that her joyful approach to parenting them, choosing to see the wonder and mystery before her in her children lives, even in the midst of temper tantrums and potty accidents, allowed her experience with her children to be TERRIFIC indeed!
There is so much negative stigma attached to raising teens. They can be moody, they can be lazy, they can be irresponsible… the list goes on. But they can also be hysterically funny, wonderfully kind and loving, creative, feisty, thoughtful, deep, and mysterious. I love my teens. The years I spent pouring into them when they were “Littles,” allowing them to feel safe, loved, guarded, and hedged in with loving discipline, have resulted in teens who trust me to guard their heart, share with me when they are hurting, respect me as a voice of wisdom in their lives, and turn to me for guidance, nurturing, and support.
When Nick was a “Little” he was frustrated because I had said NO to him yet again and he replied, “It’s like I don’t even have a mother! I feel like an orphan!” Last night I stood behind his chair, stroked his head and kissed him, reaching around for a big hug, and he said, “Mom I love you, I was just talking to someone the other day about how blessed I am to have you guys as parents.”
When Isabelle was a “Little” she was livid that I wouldn’t buy her a treat in the check out line and she declared, loud enough for all of Walmart to hear, “YOU ARE A BAD, BAD MOTHER!” Yesterday, as she lay on the couch burning up with fever, she called for me. I put my hand on her very hot forehead, and she said, “Momma no one knows how to take care of me the way that you do. I love you so much.”
I am far from a perfect parent and I haven’t raised perfect children. There are times I throw up my hands and feel like a total failure, as though nothing I have tried is working, and like I have no clue what to try next. I know what it is like to have days that feel hopeless and moments that feel beyond what you have the strength to walk through. So please take this as lessons learned from one who has failed plenty of times.
Parenting with Joy in your heart is possible. Loving and enjoying your children in the midst of their failures, and your own, is possible.
Today my heart filled with joy as Aiden walked in the house with leaves covering his clothing from head to toe, hands literally coated in mud, and evidence on his mouth that the muddy hands had been there. Yes, the house needs to be vacuumed again, and I’ve chosen to believe that the mud will boost his immune system.
Today I listened to children argue, helped them work out their issues, and gave lots of big hugs knowing that one day the three “Littles” will be more than just siblings, they will be friends, and they will need to learn to talk out their issues and work through their feelings on their own.
Today I encouraged one of my teens to trust his heart and work out some relationship issues that have been bothering him. I told him I believed in him and that I was proud of him for being real.
Yesterday I totally lost it with one of the Littles and reacted out of exhaustion and frustration until I caught myself, took a step backward and allowed myself to have a do-over. It’s really ok to tell your kids that you’re sorry. It’s ok to let them see you correct yourself and do the right thing.
“Parenting” is a life-long course. You don’t get a syllabus or a textbook because everyone gets a custom designed course. Mine’s not like yours and yours won’t be the same as mine, but we all get to learn and we all get to grow. Parenting has changed me forever and has probably brought more growth into my life than anything else, except my marriage, but that’s a story for another day!