Teenagers are kind of breathtaking.
You get glimpses of the fruit that you planted in their infancy and childhood.
It's both encouraging - and terrifying.
So, i'll post here a bit - (knowing full well that i'll look back on this post in 10 years with a house full of different teenagers and laugh at my naivety) - and hope that there will be bits and pieces that are useful to remember and to pass along.
The first bit of advice that i would gently put forward is to make every attempt not to react or engage when provoked. This has been such a great exercise in humility and laying down my own pride. i want my girls to be able to say anything in my presence - and know that they're safe from harsh reactions and judgements. i want them to be able to voice their questions and know that I'm not going to take it personally if they have a different opinion than me. Sometimes they'll insinuate that I'm not doing a very good job... that's ok. Pride would get defensive, but humility would admit that chances are, they're right. Sometimes they'll imply that the things that i hold very dear and precious are just chaff to them. Pride would be offended, but humility is surrendered. Sometimes they'll hold someone else's opinion in higher regard than mine. Pride would be possessive, but humility reminds me to make an offering of my insights - understanding that rejection is a risk worth taking in these crucial years. My girls all talk to me differently - and in differing amounts too. That's ok. Sometimes communication is harder - we talk in the car when we don't have to make eye contact. We talk about song lyrics, current events, relationships - they say things that i agree with... and about things i disagree with too... and sometimes i know that I'm a little too transparent, "Ahhh - haha - mom doesn't approve..." they might laugh at me; but my hope is that our relationship can be one where defensive pride has no power to hold us back from getting into the places where a mama might actually be able to be of use to her nearly grown girls.
The second bit kind of builds on the first; my advice to my own self is to give grace in the moment, but then be intentional about having "the conversation" later. "Hormotional" is a fantastic word that works in many situations. So often we're worked up - and aching for resolution. I've learned (and am learning painstakingly) that resolution isn't up to only one person. You can be as ready as you want, to get through to resolve a heart issue that is resulting in sin - unkindness to siblings, anger or disobedience... but if my teen's heart is still overwhelmed with emotion - or hormones - it's like banging your head against a brick wall. It's so different than dealing with little ones who need instant conversation (because they won't remember having a melt down in 2 minutes let alone 2 hours). Teens might need time. i am trusting God that we planted good seeds and that the Holy Spirit is working in their lives and convicting them at a deeper level than my words ever could. So i let them leave when they need to. But i try to pick it up later - when the heaviness has lifted... "wow, that was pretty crazy back then eh?" Sometimes you get a little farther, sometimes you don't... but that leads me to number three.
Be intentional about dropping things. I AM THE WORST AT THIS. Ask any of my kids or my husband. i feel total rejection when i can't be reconciled. It has been a huge lesson for me in these years to learn to just drop things. (Neil? Is fairly awesome at this most of the time. He was born to parent teens, and i am so grateful that I'm married to such a masterful daddy). What i mean by, "dropping things" is that i can have a tendency to, "flog the dead horse". i notice that when I'm in a conversation with another person about a difficult topic, if they are silent - i often feel the need to fill in the silence with more and more and more and more and more words. I've needed to learn to stop. Have the conversation, let the conversation end... and then drop it. Done. It's finished. i know that so many times i would have been further ahead if i would have dialed back my words - and learned the value of quietness in my response.
And i guess the whole point of this first piece is to state declaratively: nothing is worth the cost of your relationship. So your child has a perfectly clean room and straight A's - if it cost you your relationship, it was way, way too high a cost. So i was wronged. Find me a mama who never, ever spoke in a rude tone to her child (& maybe some do exist, but I'm pretty sure they're more rare than we'd like to realize). We've been caught in that sin ourselves - let's extend some grace to the angry hormones-coursing-through-their-veins teenager who couldn't remember to treat us with common courtesy. i know we're trying to train our children to respect us - but at some point, that can't be enforced with an iron will. At some point, you have to choose the relationship over enforcement. I'm often reminded in parenting that I'm representing my Father to my little ones. And it breaks my heart to look with piercing eyes on the question, "Are they able to see His Goodness in the way that i parent them?"
Oh Papa, these little ones you gave me? i give them back to You. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight...
“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For thir souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
― Kahlil Gibran