Parenting has been hard. Honestly, we’ve been doing this gig flying by the seat of our pants. We had no long night talks about how to parent through the crazy moments. There was no consensus on whether to use spanking or time outs or nothing. When it came time to make decision about our children’s daily lives I just made a decision. Often it turned out ok. Other times, it would bring World War III into our home. In those moments we would realize the lack of wisdom in parenting without a vision. Still we did nothing…because nothing was at least something.
Parenting toddlers is easy; parenting teenagers is not so easy. Now if you’re a parent in the middle of the toddler years don’t string me up! I remember those days. They didn’t seem easy then. They were exhausting. They were physically taxing and emotionally grueling and mentally impossible at moments. As a momma who survived those years, you have my deepest empathies. However, facing the issues of parenting teenagers leaves me longing for the early days when just being a kid didn’t have serious consequences. When you could distract them from a harmful situation by something as simple as a sticker. When you could just say, “Because I said so.” and that would be that. When the questions were as simple as why and had answers. When a band-aid and momma’s kiss could make everything all better. If I had a problem, I only had to consult a book. Because toddlers, even in their intensity, are quite simple creatures.
Parenting teenagers takes your breathe away and sometimes your sanity. It’s a balance between holding on and letting go. The questions are harder. The situations are stickier. The outbursts more intent. The consequences to mistakes bigger than just a boo-boo that can be covered by a band-aid. It’s frightening and exhilarating at the same time. And there’s no way out except going straight through these years.
My son is going to be 17 in 11 days. The questions about dinosaurs and why birds fly and can I please have a cookie have been replaced by questions that leave me scratching my head. One day he’s talking about quantum physics (I have to remind him his momma only took Biology in high school) and whether there is life on another planet. The next day he’s explaining to me how Rome fell and who the craziest emperor was and why I should even remotely care. And then there are those days where his questions take me to my knees, reminiscent of the day his very presence took me to my knees as he tore his way into this world. Questions about life and death. Issues that I struggle with. Questions about faith and religion and a God that he’s trying to understand. Things that I thought and wondered about as a teenager, he’s voicing out loud to me. And I’m sitting here. Struggling. How do I give him an answer when I don’t have the answer to the very same question I’m asking? I listen to him in silence. I can’t answer. Because. I. Don’t. Know.
He is seeking answers to help him make decisions and I stand here helpless. And a wise friend, who walks this journey still with her now adult son tells me, “He still needs you to make those decisions. He needs boundaries. He needs to know you are there.” It’s all about balance. The husband and I have been parenting with two polar opposite ideas on this transition. The weight of it all is heavy. And we are unfairly putting the weight of it on a 17-year-old boy who is not quite yet a man and who wants to tell us he needs his parents but doesn’t know how to say *that*.
My heart has been mourning and weeping the loss of my son, which is crazy…he’s still my son. I may not have his heart’s affection, I now share it with a girl who I pray will not break his heart nor he hers, but I still have his love. I am still his momma and he still wants to know what I think about the things of this life that matter. He still wants to know if I would choose the death penalty for someone (there is NO manual in the world that tells you how to have that conversation with your child) and how I can say I love people and vote to deny their constitutional rights. He still wants to know why I talk about Jesus and Abba and faith and grace and sin and won’t step foot into a church. He wants to know why I believe what I believe. Why I do what I do. Why I love who I love. Why I am who I am. He wants to know…because he’s trying to decide those things for himself. And I want him to decide for himself. But I can’t leave him flying without guidance. Without help. Without a safe place to land when it gets too much to handle. He’s still my son and he still needs his momma.
I only know to do what I’ve always done. Fly by the seat of my pants. Pray. Apologize when I’m wrong. Forgive when he’s wrong. Extend grace and mercy and hope for the best. Always parent the way that my Abba parents me. Yes, the husband and I should sit down and get our heads together before the next crisis arrives. Yes, we probably should have had this conversation about 17 years ago. But when you live by faith, you walk in grace, you learn that it’s never too late to do what’s right. My son isn’t going to reach his future if we let go too early nor will he reach it if we keep him trapped to his past.
And once we figure this out…we have two teenage girls to raise.