Teenagers. I remember the way my mom would say that to another mother and they’d smile. As if there was some secret message they were exchanging. I never did understand it.
Now, I find myself a mother of … teenagers. Teenage girls to be exact. I find myself wondering just how on earth my mother kept her sanity. Our lives are wildly swinging from laughter to frustration depending upon the weather, the time, the day or some mysterious source I can’t figure out.
I do have to admit that I find myself enjoying these teenage years. For some reason my kids are quite opinionated and do not hesitate to let me know what’s on their mind. They must get it from their father.
As a homeschooling parent, I enjoy the opportunity to spend more hours in a day with my children than the typical parent. I keep thinking that at some point they will run out of questions or at least they’ll realize mom’s answer is always “Look it up on Google.” How our world survived before Google, I have no idea!
Then there are those questions. The one that I hear and then ask myself, “Did I really just hear that?” The one where I know that the awkward factor is rapidly multiplying and there’s no way out without either looking foolish or well … foolish. For some reason they always happen when we are trapped together in a moving car. It’s as if they realize that the best way to get mom to talk is to give her no way out!
The girls attend a local youth group. At first we were hesitant considering we don’t actually go to a church, nor do we have plans to in the near future. Yet we realized that our teens were not getting much out of a bunch of adults sitting around a table trying to decipher between Greek and Hebrew. We find that fascinating; they do not. Every week they go down the street to hear the gospel on the level of a teenager. It’s been amazing to see how much it impacts their lives.
If you want the poster couple for youth ministry, the pastor and his wife are it. He is amazingly funny, down-to-earth and has an ability to draw kids out of their shells. In the couple of months they’ve been going, he’s managed to engage Bella … something even family members can find to be a daunting task. He’s sort of a celebrity with the girls. Every week I get “Did you know what he said? Did you know this? Did you know?” It’s really cute actually. I met his wife finally and she’s just as adorable as he is. Together they are an amazing power couple. And they have my girls complete attention.
Apparently they shared their dating/wedding story recently. It’s rather sweet. They saved their first kiss for the moment they were pronounced husband and wife. The girls loved it and were sharing the story with me. I should have seen WAY ahead where this was leading…
Bella lead the discussion, as usual. “Hey mom, was dad your first kiss?” It’s a good thing I was focused on driving. I feigned innocence. “What?” Bella was not deceived. “You know, like pastor, did you kiss dad before you married him?”
At this point my brain is going CRAZY. They don’t tell you how to answer these type of questions in the “What to Expect” books. How on earth do I handle this one? So…I just hoped for the best and decided to be honest.
PLEASE take that for an answer. PLEASE Bella don’t let your brain go to the next obvious question. Bella is not good at listening to my silent pleas for mercy.
“So, who was your first kiss?”
At this point the Boy is looking at me with that look on his face. The one that says “You know, you’re the one foolish enough to entertain this conversation.” I am beginning to feel outnumbered. Why don’t they do this to their dad?
So I told them the truth. About the time I was dared to kiss a friend’s brother in truth-or-dare. About the boy who liked me and I didn’t like back. About my first real boyfriend. And about their dad. And that led to questions. Questions about love and dating and what did we REALLY do. And I just decided, despite all the people who told me to never tell my children the true story, to tell them the truth.
As I shared with them the truth of their parent’s love story I was left with regret. But at some point I realized, there’s no reason to regret something that has brought me much happiness, even if it was masked for a very long time.
So they don’t have parents who saved themselves for one another, who had the dating story from a romance novel or a picture-perfect marriage. What they do have are two very real people who are honest enough to admit that they need a Savior. Honest enough to realize that they made mistakes but that forgiveness is better than living in shame and regret. Honest enough that they can share their story with their children and realize that it may not be Hollywood worthy but it IS their story.
I understand the girl’s reaction to their pastor’s story. I wish that there was that much innocence and love in our story. But there’s not. And that’s ok.
So we had the awkward conversation. I told them how you can make mistakes and Abba restores. I told them that we didn’t make the best decisions and we had to deal with the consequences. I told them that sometimes despite your best intentions you do things you never planned and when that happens, forgiveness is always the answer. I told them how much we love them and want them to have the best design Abba has for their lives. I also told them that we expect they will make mistakes. That when that happens they can always come to us. They will always be loved.
I received advice as a young parent. “It’s not wise to tell your children all the bad things you’ve done.” As an older parent I strongly disagree.
Teenagers are not as smart as they think they are and smarter than we think they are. They are able to handle much more than adults think they can. They don’t want to know the truth so they have license to do whatever. They want to know if they can trust the adults to tell them the truth about life. Ultimately, they want the same thing they have always wanted from the moment they were placed into their mother’s arms: they want to know that they are going to be okay.
I left the car grateful. Grateful that I have the opportunity to be available for these moments. I never want my children to endure heartache, but I know that’s not a reality. I want them to live authentic lives.
The conversation reminded me that my parenting days are not done, not even close. Sure I’m not wiping runny noses or spending hours listening to the same Disney song but I’m not sure that answering questions about life are any easier. The days when life could be made better by another musical number are gone. It’s harder when you have to tell them that life sometimes isn’t changed unless you fall to the bottom.
Parenting teens is definitely not easy. But I wouldn’t change a single thing.