August 23, 2015

7 Reasons I Love Being the Mom of a Teenager

A couple weeks ago, I posted "8 Things Moms of Young Daughters Have to Look Forward To (Really!). (It was also very kindly published by Mamalode.I loved hearing from several moms of girls who said my little list encouraged them not to dread the teen years quite so much. (There also seems to be a lot of shoe-sharing anticipation going around.)

Which is fabulous, because there's plenty of that dread out there. 

Search "parenting teenagers," and all sorts of results along the lines of "How to Survive Having a Teenager" and "What To Do to Get Through the Teen Years" and "Help! There's A Teenager in My House" come up. 

Words like "nightmare" and "brutal" and "alien" pop up with rather alarming frequency.

And maybe understandably so: between school schedules and interpersonal relationships and hormones and fledgling independence and that tricky not-yet-fully-cooked-teen-brain thing, being the parent of a teenager is not for the faint of heart (or will or mind or stomach).

But, as I tried to prove in my earlier post, having older children is something to look forward to, not fear! It's a season to anticipate, not avoid! And because I think this applies whether you're parenting sons or daughter or both, here are a few more joys I'm discovering about mothering someone whose age ends with "-teen."



Witness the passion. No, I am not talking about teenage dating...that, surely, is a subject for another list. I am talking about watching your teen do something they love and possibly are somewhat good at.

When my girls were younger, they dabbled in the usual sorts of activities many kids try out at some point: gymnastics, cross-country, choir, basketball, piano lessons, dance and band. All along, I waited for them to hit on The Thing that would make their hearts happy. The Thing that they would want to do even when they were tired and grumpy and overloaded with homework. The Thing that they might even be a little gifted at. 

For both my girls, that Thing ended up being dance. And also, band. These Things fill them up. They motivate and inspire them. They are their passions. And I love to watch my daughters do these Things because that passion shows on their faces while they do them.

When you have the joy of watching your child do something they love to do, that they have worked hard to do as well as they can, you get a gift.

I know some kids find their Thing far earlier than the teen years. And I know some teens (and adults!) still haven't found theirs. But when it happens, it is beautiful to behold.

Who's driving? Eventually, not you for a change. Okay, let's just jump right into the thick of it. Yes, having a teenage driver is rather terrifying. You simply cannot think too much about it. I'm convinced God invented teenage drivers as a clever trick to get parents to pray more.

But beyond the anxiety, there is this: it's great! it's handy! 

A couple weeks ago, my daughter wanted to go to a local lake by way of a friend's house. My other daughter needed to be, well, not there. Normally, this would have required about 17 trips by me back and forth. But no: my new driver took herself off, went to the friend's house, went to the lake, came home...okay, she took a detour at the end of the day to the busiest commercial stretch in our area to go to a consignment shop, which her father approved because she couldn't get through to me. But still. I did not have to do those 17 trips. Yes, I filled my time with intercessory prayer. But I did other things, too. 

And then, just recently, both my girls were offered the huge honor of being student teachers for a preschool dance class at their beloved studio. Said class is on Saturday mornings. I said, "Sure, you can do it!" Because, hello, I WILL BE HOME EATING PANCAKES IN MY PAJAMAS while they drive off down the road. Real maple syrup, anyone?

I'll be taking a nap now, thanks. The other day, I told my girls I was going upstairs to lie down for a while. (I'm still trying to catch up on my 700 hours of sleep debt accrued during my girls' respective first two years of life.) "Okay," they mumbled, not even looking up from whatever it was they were doing. 

And that's the thing: I didn't really know what they were doing, and it didn't matter. It was a lazy summer afternoon, and they weren't engaged in anything illegal, immoral, or dangerous, so what did I care about the specifics? Nor did they care that I was taking a break, so long as dinner eventually materialized. 

Remember those days (maybe you're living one right now) when you put your baby or toddler down for a nap and then hit the bed yourself, praying you didn't hear anything resembling crying for at least 20 minutes? Well, this isn't then. This is full-on, REM-cycle napping if you want to do it and if the rest of life permits, because your teens DO permit.

And it's not just about taking a nap, you understand. It's about doing any number of things you want or need to do on your schedule, and having your teenagers not really care because they are occupied with their own stuff. It's quite lovely. And no, no, no, I do not feel "unneeded." 

Into the deep. There is no doubt you can have serious, weighty discussions with a 2-year-old. I often wrote down the uncensored, unfiltered things my girls said when they were younger. (See the paragraph that starts "I'd love to hear from you" way down at the bottom of this post for one of the most memorable examples. Which I did not need to write down to remember. For obvious reasons.) But all along when you are raising little ones, you're preparing them to think for themselves. And when they get to the teen years, you get significant glimpses-- or, once in a while, full-on views--of that. 

Sometimes, you get to hear what they believe. My husband and I have tried to write faith in God on our girls' minds and hearts. Now, we have the regular joy of seeing what is etched there and to witness them making our faith their own. When my girls tell me they want to do in-depth Bible studies or start a "Girls of God" Facebook group or that they're working on one fruit of the Spirit every day, I am stunned and thankful and amazed and humbled and convicted. I've tried to teach them in the past, but as they get older, I am more often their student.

Can we be friends? When my girls were small, I understood I needed to be their parent, not their friend. They had friends; I was the mom. I had to establish my authority for their own good. Getting them to like me was not my job (although a steady supply of secret-recipe chocolate-chip cookies over the years did help that cause significantly).

Now, though, I'm seeing the beginnings of a shift. Make no mistake about it: I. Am. Still. The. Mom. But I also get glimpses of sweet friendship, especially with my teenager. A few weeks ago, I took my tween to a movie. (Inside Out. Loved it. And I do not like "kids'" movies. If they make a "Sadness" stuffed doll, I want her. And I do not like stuffed stuff. Anyway.) My 11-year-old took her friends; I took my 16-year-old. We sat apart from the middle-school set and had a great time. She's also my companion when her sister "hangs out" at the mall or the beach and I need to be "around" but not really "there." 

I'll say it again: I am still The Mom. I still have to discipline and lay down the law and be un-fun. In the midst of this, though, I regularly catch glimmers of the friendship my daughters and I are building together...a gift now and a source of hope for the future.

Here's what they really think of you. Was that a cringe I just felt reverberating across cyberspace? Oh yes, I feel you. And to any parent reading this who's ever heard "I hate you" or "I don't like you" or "I don't love you" or something much, much worse, I'm cringing on your behalf. 

But there is also the other side, and it hits deep, too. 

Unlike the wonderful, blissful, unconditional love of a younger child ("I wuv you, mommy"), "love" as it is expressed out loud from a teen can be very conditional. Because of this, when you hear it--and when it is not an affectation connected to getting the keys to the car or a curfew extension--you know you are getting something true and tested and borne from experience. My 16-year-old has seen me at my best and my worst. So when she tells me, "I'm so thankful I have a mom I can talk to...you always make me feel better," I know I'm on the receiving end of take-it-to-the-mom-bank reality that has passed through the filter of all the times I didn't make her feel better. 

The fruits of your labors. "Do you need help with that? Do you have everything? Are you ready to go? ARE YOU READY TO GO!?" Remember the last time you uttered one of these mom-standbys? Oh, right: "Yes, and it was about 30 seconds ago!"

So the thing about teenagers is that sometimes--sometimes--they do this stuff ON THEIR OWN. Not always. In some cases, not often. But, for instance, last week when we were on vacation at a family lake cottage, the inflatables needed to be, well, inflated. My teen got them around, hooked up the air pump, and went to work. From our chairs on the beach, my husband and I yelled, out of habit, "Do you need help?" To which she calmly replied, "Nope! I've got it!" Nice. 

This is also the girl who came into the kitchen the night before band camp and told me, "I've got my instrument and my flip folder and my music and my water bottles and my sunscreen and my Frogg Togg and my lip balm and my tennis shoes." Which pretty much took care of my requisite "do you have...?" inquiry. Very nice.

Here again, do I feel unneeded in the face of all this self-sufficiency? Are you kidding me? Please. I mean, no...but thanks for asking! Moms of teenagers are still absolutely, desperately, regularly needed. All I'm saying here is that sometimes you just don't have to blow up the darn floaty whale and you get to sit by the lake instead. Which is also very nice.

I can't close out this tribute to teenhood without going on the record again about something very importantI know many, many parents have stories of teenage years they are just trying to survive or did just barely survive. I am truly so sorry for you.

I know my husband and I have been protected from much heartache and that, but for the grace of God, we might well go where other parents have gone.

And I know teenagers come in all moods, temperaments, personalities and dispositions. I'll be the first to admit that if my in-house teen rep hadn't inherited a significant dose of her father's wiring, I'd be writing a very different kind of post. "How to Parent a Teen Who is Exactly Like You When You Can Hardly Deal With Yourself," maybe?

Also, we are so very not done yet. We have miles to go before we sleep. Anything could happen. 

But this far in, we are not just surviving the teenage years. We are loving them. 

And if these years are still ahead of you, know this: for all the reasons I've mentioned and so many more, there is a very good chance you'll love them, too.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Are you looking for more insights into the deep, dark mysteries of the adolescent brain? Here are a couple other sources to check out...

Are you the parent of a teenager? What would you add to this list? 

Are you the parent of a child who will one day be a teenager? What are you looking forward to? Because mama, I know your answer isn't "nothing"!




25 comments:

  1. Here's a fabulous add-on from my friend Tamera, who has successfully navigated the teenage years with both boys and girls! :) She is a testimony to the joys of having adult children as well. She says, "I would ad Girls' Day Out to the list. Love my daughter-dates where we do all the things that dad is happy to miss out on. For example we save "chic restaurants" like Panera, Yopa (frozen yogurt, because dad says that is so not ice cream), and Biggby. We love the atmosphere of these places and it often brings out great conversations! Throw in a mani/pedi or a walk on one of the local trails and you have a perfect girls day!" Love it, Tamera...thanks for sharing!

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  2. Thanks for sharing this great post with us at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

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    1. Thank you, Terri...I'm so thankful for Good Morning Mondays! :)

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  3. These are great points! I am the mom of an almost-two-year-old and the nap thing sounds....lovely :) I taught junior high for two years before I had my baby and I was surprise by how negative people were when I told them about my job. "Oh, teenagers, yikes I could NEVER do that!" Teenagers are awesome! They are smart, funny, and honest. I love my toddler but I'm excited for what the future holds.

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    1. Aw, thank you, Claire! I wish that you might get a nap long before the teen years! ;) I admire you so much for teaching junior high and LOVE your fabulous attitude. What a wonderful teacher you must have been--and still ARE now to your toddler. Blessings to you as you enjoy the now and look forward to the then! :)

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  4. The nap part does sound nice! As a mother of a two year old, that seems almost unfathomable right now! The driving part gives me heartburn already ;-) I am looking forward to getting to know more about him though. I can't wait to see what he is in to!

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    1. So much for you to treasure now...so much to look forward to enjoying in the future. Thank you for taking time to read and comment, Carlee! :) Very glad to have "met" you!

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  5. I'm that parent to preschoolers, but my sister-in-law is 15. There are definitely days I'm glad I'm not parenting a teen....but I didn't get to make the decisions that make her who she is right now either. I have made some parenting choices for my boys based on things I would have changed about her upbringing. Teen boys are quite different from teen girls in many respects, but I'm hoping our hard work now will allow us to have some great teen years. I know they'll be here before I know it!

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    1. Keep on keeping on, mama! I firmly believe that what you do today makes a difference down the road. When our younger daughter was a "trying" 2, I told my husband, "We've got to hunker down and win this fight NOW." I remember thinking she'd spend a lot of time in the principal's office. Which she did...to receive stellar student awards and have lunch with the principal, etc.! :) I have great hope for you that you will LOVE the teen years with your son. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Such a positive, great post! Thank you so much for this! Your humor is just the best! I feel like you're in my head! I have 15, 12, and 9 in my house, and I'd say you sized up the benefits of teenhood (as far as I've experienced it) very well. I also really appreciate your heart for those who haven't had an easy go of it. Beautifully sensitive and grace-filled. I hopped on over here from #CoffeeandConversation not knowing it was you when I first linked and then was so excited when "Guilty Chocoholic Mama" popped onto my screen! I knew it would be great! Tweeting and pinning! Blessings from #EspressosofFaith!

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    1. Oh, Bonnie, YOU are just the best! Thank you so much! I dearly appreciate you taking time to comment and add your very encouraging perspective as a fellow mom of tweens and teens. I'm SO glad you didn't read my list and think "what is she talking about?"! :) And I truly appreciate your feedback on my attempt at a caveat that I know many parents of teens have experienced or are experiencing dark days. Thank you again, Bonnie...you are a precious blessing in my blogging and mama life.

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    2. Good stuff, Elizabeth! Truly! Such a great post in a world that wants to sell our 12-and-up kids short and lower the bar, assuming chronic sin and rebellion are inevitable. Some will rebel, yes. But they are like us...prodigal children with a Father who runs to greet them. I think this piece will ease the minds of those about to enter this phase and give those of us in the middle of it pause to recalibrate our viewpoint, focusing on the positive and not the forceful independence days when they push back. For anyone out there overwhelmed by teen rebellion or a teen in crisis, absolutely no shame in getting help. The best parents are often still handed harder kids to raise. Help can make all the difference in the way your teen views his/her future. Blessings!

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    3. Thank you for your sweet words and your mama wisdom, Bonnie! Fellow moms, for more "shots" of Bonnie's tender and time-tested insights, visit her at Espressos of Faith...like caffeine for your mind and soul! :) http://bonnielynsmith.com/

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    1. I am, Andi! And so, so grateful and humbled. :)

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  8. Love this! I am the mother of two teenagers. And through the frustrations there is so much greatness. You see glimpses of the wonderful person they are becoming once the know it all teenage years pass. And I totally agree friendships start to blossom and it's wonderful. Thank you for sharing this and reminding me!!!!

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    1. That is so good and affirming to hear from an experienced mom-of-teens! :) Thank you for stopping by...I was JUST on your sweet site! ;)

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  9. Elizabeth, this post ministered to me right in the middle of my coffee-needing, groggy morning. I'm very much in the thick of parenting littles. (My post today is entitled, "Dear Children, You ruined my plans.) I struggle between wanting them to grow up so I can have some time to, you know, breathe and wanting to freeze time so they never get a day older. Thank you for sharing your heart here. And for this laugh, "I said, "Sure, you can do it!" Because, hello, I WILL BE HOME EATING PANCAKES IN MY PAJAMAS while they drive off down the road." :)

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    1. Well, Kelsey, bless your sweet mama's heart! (I'm off to read your post a.s.a.p.!) I well know the struggle, and believe me, I do sometimes miss "the littles" days. But I am also loving these older years and want to encourage parents that all the fun doesn't end when the hormones kick in! And honestly, the teen-driving-herself-thing is FABULOUS. I worked out a deal with my daughter: I put gas in her car once in a while, and she runs errands and takes her sister places for me. Possibly my best mom idea EVER. Not sure what that says about my mom wisdom, but who cares? :) Blessings to you, Kelsey!

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  10. I've always loved the teenage years with my kids, except for one thing - it meant them growing older and less dependent on me, and closer to the time that they would begin their lives on their own.

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    1. Oh, my goodness, yes, Beth! I feel that tug myself already. But, I'm trying to enjoy my girls now and hope with confident expectation that there will be new joys in that new season when we get to it! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  11. This is so encouraging! I do think about the teen years with some fear and trembling, so I'm glad to know that there are some things to look forward to! Thanks!!

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    1. Thank YOU, Lauren! And yes: LOTS to look forward to! :)

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  12. You have the most encouraging blog ever!! My son is getting ready to turn 12, and my parents always said that when we hit 12 we became "somewhat" difficult, and that they always wondered where their sweet child had gone. I'm starting to see glimpses of that in my oldest. So thank you for focusing on the positive side, because there definitely are good sides to the older kid set.

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    1. Aw, Jamie, YOU are one of the most encouraging mom-bloggers ever! You are such a sweetheart...how you must bless your family day after day with the kind of encouragement you give me. Thank you so much! I want to be perfectly honest and say that I have to agree with your parents about the "12 thing"--because we are THERE with my youngest (who is, appropriately enough, 12). And, in the interest of truth in advertising, I also have to say we are navigating some uncharted territory right now with our teen now that she has entered the dating world. (If it tells you anything, I'm working on another post called "10 Things It Is Safe To Say To Your Teen Daughter.) But, but, but: there truly is so much about having older kids that is wonderful and surprisingly delightful and worth looking forward to! No doubt you will have challenging days with your son--but also so many moments when you think, "This older kid thing is AWESOME." Not unlike the rest of parenthood--or life, for that matter. :) Keep me posted on how things are going...and thank you so much as always for taking time to stop by and fill me up with your kind words!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!