I’ve found myself saying this to younger moms quite frequently lately:
Don’t dread the teen years. They don’t have to be filled with angst. You can have so much fun if you spend the years leading up to that building healthy relationships.
I’d like to say I just knew that from the get-go and was smart enough to raise these teens to be respectful, strong, thoughtful, and caring without any outside advice but we all know that’s not how this parenting thing works. We need others who have gone before us to give us their best tips and I believe God orchestrated our time just-after-college to prepare us for where we are now. Yes, I believe God used Matt’s first “real” job (youth pastor) to give us insight we’d utilize throughout our kids’ lives so that they’d reach (and walk through) their teen years as gracefully as is possible.
Matt and I watched very closely several sets of parents from Floyd’s Creek Baptist Church. We watched how they raised their teens. We watched their relationships with their teens. We watched them and sat at their kitchen tables and gleaned all we could from them. (Oh, how I miss sitting around those kitchen tables… those mamas knew how to cook!)
When Matt joined the Army one of those teens-turned-college-student introduced us to Facebook and that incredible blessing allowed us to watch the kids grow into young adults, marry, and now many are becoming parents themselves. And we’re still watching. We saw the advice those families gave us work for their own families and we’ve seen it in our own children.
I personally believe it’s worked because it’s Biblical. Those incredible parents, who were not perfect people and were willing to share their mistakes and brokenness with us, taught their children the following:
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
We have utilized their tactics and we are seeing great results in our own teens.
I’ve given credit to the parents who helped us learn how to parent teens. Now I must give credit to our own parents – without us realizing it, my parents and Matt’s raised us with these same tactics, but it wasn’t visible from the teen perspective. Looking back, it’s totally obvious. And finally, I want to give credit to my teens, because no matter how “good a job” Matt and I do, each of our kids has free will. They each have to make their own decisions. Rebellion is an option and each are making the decision to follow Christ in their own unique ways.
Boys, you are incredible. You are strong and resilient. You are willing to have hard conversations in preparation for real life. We are glad you are our sons! We are SO, so proud of each of you.
These thoughts come to you today because it’s Hayden’s 17th birthday. All the other birthdays seemed like normal birthdays but seventeen just seems so old. I believe it’s because that’s the age Matt and I were when we met. We felt so adult. So grown up. And now our first child is that age.
*Note: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again… we have issues that I don’t write about here because my teens are teens. When they were younger I could write about whatever problems we were having – I knew that as they grew up they would look back on those stories and be fine with the fact that I wrote them; they’d think those stories were cute. I stopped writing the details of our struggles when they got to an age I felt they’d be embarrassed if I shared certain things. When I knew their friends could read this. So please don’t read this post and assume that my teens are perfect. They. Are. Not. They irritate me and are often forgetful (chores, anyone???), they sometimes use sarcasm when they should not… but all of their shortcomings do not mean they aren’t great kids. We take those moments as learning moments, for myself as well as for them (don’t you love when you hear yourself coming out of their mouths?!?). I am happy to chat privately about the challenges of raising teens but I won’t write publicly without their approval.