We’ve parented teenagers before. Our 2 oldest daughters were teenagers once. But we never raised them from childhood to pre-teen to full-fledged teenagers. They became part of our family when they were already teenagers. It was kind of like waking up in an airplane and parachuting out without any preparation or advance warning. Sounds fun, eh?
This time around, however, we have raised our 12-year old from age 3 until this moment, the threshold of teenager. My friend is in the exact situation. His daughter will turn 13 very soon as well. He called me for advice yesterday. We talked, shared back and forth, and I gave him some perspectives and what I’ve learned from previously guiding 2 teenagers, to leading hundreds of them over the past 16 years I’ve served as a student pastor.
But later our conversation had me thinking about the necessary and unavoidable changes we all face in life. The reality with everything in life is this- change is going to happen. When it does we have 2 choices: we can either embrace it and walk with it or we can avoid it and continue living in the past. One choice will be difficult but equal growth and personal advancement. The other will appear easier, eventually become difficult, equal no growth, and kill advancement.
Those of us who are parents spend at least 18 years walking through seasons of change. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. Our infants will eventually become toddlers and start walking. Our toddlers will eventually find their voice and start talking back to us. After some time, elementary age sets in and they begin to formulate ideas and perspectives. Then pre-teen arrives and everything we say is stupid and we know absolutely nothing at all.
Jr. High age arrives, we are still stupid and know nothing, but now friends begin to have massive amounts of influence. The formulation of their own ideas intensifies and grows deeper as well. In high school we rest in an uncomfortable 4th place of influence and it’s as if our perspectives and advice fall on deaf ears (even though they do not). The perspectives of friends trump nearly everything we have to say and it seems as if they do not need us anymore (even though they do!).
We blink and find ourselves at their high school graduation, hosting their open house, then kissing them goodbye on their first day of college.
Change change, and more change. If you are on the threshold of this, let me give you a guarantee- it will not be easy, at all! When change arrives (and it will) the only real healthy response is to embrace it, walk with it, of course set your boundaries and hold true to your expectations for your child, but do not resist it and continue to live in the past. That would be futile.
In fact, celebrate the past. Keep pictures of your babies on the mantel or along the wall in the hallway. Cherish every moment you had with them when they were infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers into the teenage years. But walk in step with necessary and unavoidable change. Ride it like a class 5 rapid on a rushing river. Navigate it, listen to the advice of those who have gone before you (as you would listen to a river guide on a whitewater rafting trip), but do not resist it. You can’t.
Here’s an illustration:
I grew up partially on a farm. I say partially because my family actually lived in Southern Ohio but my grandmother owned a big farm in Northern Kentucky. So we would spend a majority of our summers on her farm. I loved that farm. It is one of the few places that I can close my eyes today and still see it clearly and smell it in my nostrils. Here’s a picture of the farm that hangs on a wall in my house:
This is all that’s left. The property was sold in 1997 to a developer. It was time for a change. Recently, I looked up the location on Google Maps and this is what I found:
It’s now a neighborhood. The only remnant of the farm is one of the barns. It’s the tiny silver speck in the lower center of the picture. It doesn’t matter how hard I dream, or pray, or wish, I can never go back to this place. It’s gone. It lives in the past. It forever holds a place in my heart and mind but that’s it. I cherish the memories I had there but I have no choice but to live in the here and now.
The same is true with raising our children. We must walk in step with the necessary seasons of change that are inevitable. Embrace the memories you have with them as they grow. In fact, cherish them. But live in the here and now. You will become a healthier you if you do.
Are you in a season of change? What are you learning from it?