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What Do Adult Children Need?

theend

What do they want from me? Sometimes our youngest will gush about how cool someone’s mom is, or how much money somebody’s parents spend on a friend’s wardrobe and I can start to feel anxious about the way I am viewed by our daughter and her friends. If I’m not really careful, I can feel like a failure because we don’t go on fabulous cruises with our kids or know all the latest jargon. This past week my daughter was very amused at my complete inability to take a selfie and at the fact that my phone is always at less than 10% charged. Always.

What do my adult children need from me at this point in life? Obviously, they are very capable in most arenas; they can get themselves from place to place, cook their own meals and hold down jobs while attending school. They have relationships with each other and with other people without needing me to referee, and each can stand up for themselves without needing my approval or permission.

So as I am quickly working my way out of a job, what is my role at this point? It has taken me some time to answer the question, but I think I have it now. My job is to remain consistent. Whenever possible, I need to be accessible to my children, available to answer the many questions that are asked about establishing credit, how health insurance works and if a check is written today, do I still have money in my account? I need to be consistent in my values, so when my young adults are questioning their own, they know they can rely on their parents to be true to what we have taught them. I need to be consistently open to new ideas and perspectives, so our children know they can voice theirs to me and not be shut down or judged harshly. My children need me to be their biggest cheerleader, ready to throw a big party in their honor. And I need to consistently love my brood, whether they disappoint, frustrate or thrill me, they need to be able to rely on the fact that their mother is crazy about them, no matter what.

I may not be everything that my children would like, but I can say that I work hard to continue to be what they need. In my opinion, it’s cool to be consistent.

 

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Handle With Care

bubble wrap

Feeling a need for bubble wrap today. I want to take a huge roll of the stuff and start it at my core and spin around multiple times, I’ll need a helper with some strong tape to secure it tight after I’m snug in there. Maybe some headphones first, alternating between smooth jazz and the sound of waves crashing, then bubble wrap. Can you see through several layers of it? Sunglasses too, just in case.

That’s how fragile I feel, like nerve endings are standing off of my skin. Our son moved into college over the weekend and our oldest daughter is moving across the country to start her schooling later this week. The baby of the family? Yep, just left for her first day of senior year in high school. I have been working myself out of a job for years, knowing full well that this day would come, and yet I am completely unprepared. I don’t recognize the landscape anymore.

I actually woke up mad at Jesus Saturday morning, reminding him that I thought we had an agreement that He would come before I had to endure all of this! Fortunately, He can handle my anger. And my ache.

A friend of a friend reminded me of something over the weekend: lament is an appropriate form of worship. In fact, more than one third of the book of Psalms are laments, cries of fear and suffering and unjust. God wants us to bring our joy and anguish to Him, He wants every bit of it. So these days I am handing him my puffy eyes, deep sighs and crying jags that sometimes come out of nowhere. I’m going to try to go easy on myself and feel all the feelings that go with this parenting deal, so if you see me staring into space or trying hard not cry, feel free to pretend not to notice, and maybe check to make sure my bubble wrap is staying in place, will you?

 

 

 

Do Not Feed

fearsAs our children grow up we look for signs of normal growth; is Junior getting taller than his sisters, is little Princess coming out of her awkward phase. Those are physical characteristics, but there are other signs of being a normal teen that we as parents can get stuck on. I know this one personally, and now that I’m several years into it, I can see the conflicting messages I was sending, and a little bit of crazy thinking.

In the past I have found myself questioning our children’s behaviors; why isn’t she interested in dating anyone? When is he going to ask that girl out? When I was this age I was never home….

Now, I don’t view myself as a worrier at all, I’m just not wired that way. But I do notice a lot, and hear what other kids their ages are doing and when my teen isn’t, it makes me question, and need to understand. I will tell you that I have rarely received an answer that I understood. I have actually pushed my kids in the past, encouraging them to move into what society deems as normal teen behavior. Here’s the crazy thinking part: as soon as they take me up on the very thing that I have encouraged, I get concerned about a whole new list of things!

What if this is the one? Now we can never leave him home alone again. What is she doing when she’s not at home with us?

Parents, this is so unfair, and even detrimental to our children. First of all, let’s all relax a little and stop pushing our kids into something they are obviously not ready for. Believe me, the time will come. Too soon. Secondly, when it does come, trust your child to make good decisions, rest in the years of investing in these treasures you’ve been given. Obviously, don’t place them in situations that can foster bad behaviors, but can we keep the conversations with them, and prayers for them, going and trust that they are moving along at the pace they should?

Fathers (and Mothers), do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Colossians 3:21

 

Left to Our Own Devices

phone

Our son is in love. He’s been dating a wonderful young lady for about six months now and it has been fun to watch him care for and protect someone other than his sisters. I have no idea where this relationship will go in the future, it’s not my job to know these things, but I am seeing a mature high school couple navigating adult emotions and situations, and doing it quite well. In fact, they  could probably teach us a thing or two.

Recently Coleman got a new phone, one with fingerprint identification so he doesn’t have to put in a code to use it. We were teasing him about adding his parents’ fingerprints to it and he told us that his girlfriend has authorization, and he does on her phone, as well. I don’t see this as a red flag, a sign of getting too serious or being controlling. I see this as showing transparency in the relationship and being open to accountability with each other. Each person can pick up the other’s phone and use it for convenience, and scroll through it and see what the other has been viewing and texting. How many married couples do you know who do not have this kind of access? Why is that?

In so many ways technology is a wonderful thing, but it can also be very isolating. The fact that we all have computers in our pockets, able to access any thing at any time, creates a whole world that no one else is invited into, unless you welcome them in. Left to our own devices (pun intended) we are all one or two missteps away from really messing up. Giving someone else the key to yours communicates that you trust them, but also that you trust yourself. Who do you have in your life who has full access to your phone and/or home computer? If no one, what needs to be done so that can change?

 

Handled

niceLately I  have had the ‘pleasure’ of driving our teenage daughter to the chiropractor three days a week after school. She is a serious student, so for years now her mood has depended on how her school day went, how much homework she has and any looming projects in mind. I am accustomed to treading lightly, easing in to test the waters, but with the addition of an appointment right after school most days, the mood is grim because she is not to the point of the visit helping her pain yet, just calling more attention to it. Each day as we are walking into the office my girl hisses some remark about how much she hates being there. It’s all emotion, and she seems much more relaxed as we leave, but I have come to dread the whole process as much as she does.

Recently I was texting my guy, lamenting the fact that I am subjected to this over and over again and do you know what he said? “Keep pressing forward. Thanks for taking the crappy attitude.” That’s it. He didn’t try to fix it, or talk me out of feeling what I felt. He noted my frustration and thanked me, helping me to see this as something I choose to do for our girl, even if she doesn’t appreciate it. He handled me, and I love it.

So often all we really need is some empathy; an acknowledgement, thanks or encouragement at just the right time can inspire us to continue pressing on. Who needs to hear your words of encouragement today? Don’t try to fix or placate, just love on someone with kindness and understanding. Maybe I can work a little more of that into the car ride….

Great and Terrible

great&terribleNot so long ago we had a tough year in our house. We had teens that were struggling, but who were not talking to us about it. The result was that one got into a pretty big mess and pulled others into it, as well. I won’t go into detail because it’s not my journey, although as the parents, we were greatly affected. For a few months, I was receiving phone calls from concerned parents, relaying information that I did not know about my child; details that made me question if I had ever known this person at all. There were nights when I would walk past my teen’s closed door, on the way to bed, and not want to stop. I just wanted to let it slide for a night. But each night I would knock, and go in and face the truth. After a time of confrontations, confessions and consequences the behavior eventually was back on track, and I am happy to say that we have all come out of this stronger, and closer than we were before.

I don’t think I realized how hard it had been for us until recently I received a phone call from one of those parents and when I saw who it was, I froze. Questions and accusations came screaming at me all over again, I did not want to know, I did not want to answer that call. But I did answer, and it was a benign request for a fundraiser. I could barely speak I was so relieved and I sobbed after we hung up. It occurred to me that I had been holding myself very tightly for months, just waiting for another call.

Hard things come when we don’t expect them, and rarely do they go away quickly. It’s bad enough when it’s the result of our own mistakes, but when it’s your child, it can feel particularly hopeless and very isolating. I’m not writing this to bring attention to my child, but to the fact that we all make mistakes sometimes. The best that we can do is pray, drawing closer to God as we hand over the issue, and continue to do the hard things.

Teen Time Out

super-nannyWhen our children were little, a time out was the symbol of trouble, somebody had pushed Mom past the point of understanding and they needed to take a break. Truth was that break usually as much for me as them.

These days my teens still take time outs. Some more often than others, depending on the need and their individual personalities. For example, our oldest daughter was away at college last year and every few weeks would have a strong need to come home. We would be tempted to make plans to go do fun things, but she just wanted to be home, hearing the music that plays in our house almost constantly, resting on the couch while I cooked dinner. She needed a time out from the stress of college, some home cooking and to be reminded that she is loved.

Last week out youngest daughter texted me while at school, middle of her morning and said she was struggling with friends and that maybe she should come home for the day. I picked her up at lunchtime and took her out to lunch. Just the two of us for less than an hour. We talked about school and Homecoming and plans for the evening, and a little about what was bothering her. I dropped my girl off at school in time to get back to class and she had a great afternoon. She just needed a time out for fresh air and a sandwich, and to be reminded that she is loved.

Later this week my guy is taking our son on a trip to New York City for a long weekend. He’s off to a great start on the school year that is normally known for being a stressful one, and this will be a time of refreshment and bonding with his Dad. He just needs a couple of days away in a city he’s admired for years, and to be reminded that he is loved.

In our family, a teenage time out can be a late lunch at a downtown restaurant, a quick trip to the a favorite store for a special skirt, or just a walk with the dogs through the neighborhood. The trick has been figuring out what works with whom, and making the time to do it. I love having big kids for many reasons, but one of them is because I actually enjoy their time outs these days.

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