Wednesday, 16 March 2016

When Parenting Teenagers, Just Let Love Prevail

I thought having babies, and parenting them, was the hardest thing I would ever do as a mom.
And it was.
Until they became toddlers.
That, was definitely a lot harder.
And then, they became pre-schoolers.
Bump up the difficulty notch.
After that came the school-age years.......
I began to fail more and more as a mom.
Pre-teen years?
Really!?!?  Just shoot me now!
But then came the teenage years.
And I'm telling you. Nothing could have prepared me for them.
There is absolutely nothing in the world, that makes me feel like a bigger failure as a mom, than raising teenagers. Honestly, I just don't know how to do this.
At the moment, I have a 14 year old daughter, an 18 year old son, both of whom are still at home and in school, and a 21 year old son who has flown the nest.
You'd think that after raising one teenager who is now living on his own in a different city, that I would have things figured out.
But, nope.
I don't.
Not even close.
I don't even have the slightest clue as to how he managed to make it out alive.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

I'm really, really trying to do this, but honestly?
I'm not sure I'll receive a passing grade.

The other day, my girlfriend and I were lamenting over the difficulty of raising teenagers.
We were browsing through a box of second-hand books on raising teens that had been donated to the church for our reading pleasure.
We scoffed at the titles.
Titles like,
"How To Raise Grateful Teenagers"
"How To Have A Happy Teen In A Week"
Raising A Teen God's Way"
(These are not real titles. I just made them up. I wouldn't dream of  trash-talking a REAL book!)
We were like, "What the heck is a grateful teenager?!?"
"How exactly, does one have a happy teen???"
"How do you raise a teenager God's way??? I mean, we've tried, but we obviously suck at it!"
We commented on how we'd just like to see a book titled,
"How Not To Hate Your Teenagers".
Or, "How To Love Your Teenagers When They Are Acting Like Jerks".
We'd read a book like that!

Please understand me here.
I'm not, (nor were my friend and I) trash-talking my teens. 
(But let's be honest here. Teenagers do act like jerks! If you can show me one teenager that hasn't acted like a jerk.....never mind....... you know you can't!)
This is not even about them. It's about my crappy parenting skills. It's about the fact that I am desperately afraid that my teens are going to need counseling when they are older.
Look, I have no issues with counseling, (I could use some myself) I just don't want to be the cause of my teens needing counseling. That would truly be a hard pill to swallow.
I want to raise my teens in a positive atmosphere. I want to be able to give them everything they need to be successful..... to be grateful...... to be honest....... to be hard working. 
What I really want, is to be able to raise my teens to become spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy adults.

But I think I'm doing it wrong.

Much of the time, it seems, negativity wins out over positivity.
I'm worried they won't be able to survive in the great big world.
I still wonder "what the heck is a grateful teenager???"
Honesty??? Well, my aunt informed me of Judge Judy's words,
"What's the first thing teenagers do when they wake up? They lie."
 (Hey, not my words, nor my aunts...... Judge Judy's!)
And as for hard working? Look, I can't even go there.

Why can't I get this mom thing right? I just keep screwing it up.
I think my teens hate each other.
I think I might be ruining their lives. (At least, that's what I've been told.)
I'm not sure I'm cut out for raising teenagers.
I would probably have better luck raising goats. (Or, maybe not.)

But then,
My 18 year old son told me he loved me as he walked out the door for school this morning.
And my daughter, after I gave her money for lunch today, actually said thank-you.
And my 21 year old still texts me to tell me he loves me.
So, there's that.

Here's the thing.
While I do not have this parenting teenagers thing figured out, there are a few things that I do know how to do.
  1.  I know how to say "I'm sorry." I've had lots of practice with this one. And, I say it a lot. I'm not embarrassed to say "I'm sorry". I have no problem admitting to my teens when I've messed up.... when I've hurt them..... when my words tear them down, rather than build them up. Yes, I do that. It's one of the things I'm most ashamed of.
  2. I know how to forgive. Look, it's fair to say that I have a hot temper. I freak out rather easily. (Hence the many opportunities that I have to say "I'm sorry".) But, I can also forgive easily. My heart is soft when it comes to forgiveness. I have received so very much Forgiveness. How could I not give it in return?
  3. I know (at least most of the time) how to listen. My teens don't always want to talk. They don't often open their hearts and let me inside. So, when they do, I really try to listen. I really try to hear their heart. I don't always get it right, but I'm getting better. So much better!
  4. I know how to be vulnerable before them. In all honesty, this is difficult for me. I have to work at this one a little harder than the rest. I'd like to act as though I know what I'm doing with regard to raising them, but I honestly don't. This is definitely a learn as I go deal, and I just really believe that it's better if my teens realize that I don't know everything. I want them to know that I'm doing the very best that I can for them, but that I don't have all the answers. I want them to see me as a real, living, human mom, that makes mistakes, but is willing to learn from them.
  5. I know how to have fun. This is important! Look, I'm 43 years old. Sometimes I forget that I like to have fun. Sometimes I get stuck in the mire of being 43, and raising teens, and being a wife, and being a responsible adult, (Who am I kidding here???) and I lose the fun in me. But I know how to find it! Sometimes it's just little things. Like responding to my son's "Mamma?" with singing Bohemian Rhapsody's "Ooooooooooooo", where we both launch into, "I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me............" That's fun! We like to do that! Or, sometimes my daughter and I laugh ridiculously about nothing what-so-ever, which my husband thinks is weird but we don't really care and honestly we like it better if he doesn't have a clue about what's going on anyway! Yes. I do know how to have fun! (Also, sometimes we play board-games. But this not fun. This usually ends in an argument where everybody hates each other at the end. But hey, at least we tried!)
So look. Maybe I'm not a complete failure at parenting my teenagers.
I mean, I definitely have failed many times over the years. And I will definitely fail again. And again. But, I love them. I really, really love them. Even during the times when we all just hate each other.

 My teenagers...... well, that's just it. They are my teenagers.
And in everything I do, even when I mess up, love prevails.

The Way of Love

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.