parenting teens

Parenting Teens: Summer Edition

My husband is at work right now, and I’m sitting in my pajamas feeling all shades of guilt. In theory, I’m home “parenting” the “children.”

But what I’m really doing is “whatever the heck I feel like,” because our kids are now 11 and 14 and they barely know I’m in the house. While Eric slaves away with airplane doodads and gewgaws, I’m drinking coffee in his reading chair.

Look: here’s photographic proof of parenting a 14 year old girl the first week of summer:

parenting teens during summer
That lump under the blanket is a woman-child who could literally survive in this house for days and days without me, provided the wi-fi keeps running and the cupboards have food she recognizes.

Her 11-year old brother just thumped in and out of the house about four times. Where is he going? I have no idea. What’s he doing? No clue. He keeps returning alive, though, so I’m not worried.

This is a remarkable contrast to ten years ago, when every summer day lasted precisely 120 hours. Audrey would wake me up at sunrise every morning, demanding a list of the day’s activities. “Mama, do now? Do now, Mama?” And then Caleb would poop his pants at exactly that moment, all before 6am.

By 10am we’d played every game, splashed in the kiddie pool, and crossed the street to the park. And we still had ten more hours to fill until bedtime. By noon I was praying for the rapture. By dinner time I’d lost the will to live.

Somehow we all muddled through, and ten years later the whole situation is completely unrecognizable. Now Audrey and I have long and loud discussions about whether her ten besties will be allowed to come on our family summer vacation (no they will NOT) and I threaten to throw Caleb’s devices under the back wheels of the van.

The ease of this whole situation has me unnerved. I feel like I should be doing something far more productive with them, but mostly I feel like it’s been a long school year and we all need some time to do nothing. (Except for Eric, who really needs to keep working so we can eat and stuff.) We’ve done algebra until our brains exploded, we’ve made lunches and done chores and completed vocab packets. We played tennis and practiced instruments and drove back and forth to the school a million times. We went to two youth groups and studied the book of Acts until we know the apostles like family.

The kids need a break. Eric and I need time to stare at the ceiling and contemplate our life choices.

And also, the future looms before me. This might be our last summer like this, bored out of our minds together. It won’t be long before both kids are working, driving, and living their own lives. I’ll probably need to get some sort of full-time job to pay for college tuition.

It’s all going to change soon. I don’t fear the changes; it’s time for the kids to experience all life has to offer. They’ll need our support in completely new ways, ways that don’t demand 6am diaper changes or transportation to a friend’s house.

I think we’re all ready for what’s coming, but for now, we have this summer. Negotiating over screen time and whether ten extra teenagers can join us in California in August (no they CANNOT), for three solid months.

I love this time of life. I cherish it. And I hope you cherish your summer, too.

(Unless you’re the mother of littles, then just hope for survival.)

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“Good bye. I love you. Don’t do drugs or kiss boys.”

modesty

“Talk to the children,” the experts always tell parents. “Talk to them about sex. Talk to them about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.” “Open lines of communication are healthy,” they claim.

So I talk to my kids like the experts want me to. Most mornings when I drop my kids (and Abby, our wonderful friend who rides in with us each day) off at the back of the school, I yell, “Good bye. I love you. Don’t do drugs or kiss boys.”

I figure it covers it all, right? I’ve bid them a warm adieu, confirmed my love for them, warned them of the dangers of drugs, and affirmed my desire to not become a grandmother at age forty.

Done, done, and done.

The kids roll their eyes. Well, Abby politely rolls her eyes without actually rolling her eyes, because her parents have raised her to respect other adults. My kids slam the van door and run away, wishing their father could drop them off instead.

Some days I’ll roll down the window and yell it across the parking lot, just to be extra convincing.

They really, really love this.

There’s nothing funner in the whole world than messing with your middle schoolers, I tell you. Pure delight.

These girls are strangers (thanks, unsplash.com) but the looks are exactly the same as the ones my kids give me. Ha!

Now that the children are eleven and thirteen, they can outwit me. “What about Caleb? Can he kiss boys?” Audrey demanded.

“Fine. No kissing girls or boys,” I amended.

“Are we assuming gender? We can’t just be assuming anyone’s gender,” she shot at me recently.

And while I personally will continue to assume gender for every human I encounter until the day I die, I don’t have time for this fight in the middle school parking lot, so I yell, “Fine. NO KISSING OTHER HUMANS.”

And they giggle and run away, off to the relative sanity of the school building.

I’ll be the first to admit that these open lines of communication are about to kill me. We really, really do want our kids to talk to us about anything, especially since we’re a Christian family in a very secular school. We can’t assume that any teacher or administrator shares our beliefs, ever. And while quite a few key adults at the school do indeed share our beliefs and the rest of them have been very respectful, it’s still up to us to make sure we verbalize what the kids need to know.

They are loved. Drugs are dangerous. Kissing is only slightly less dangerous than drugs.

But talking about it can be so uncomfortable. Like, shoulders-up-to-my-ears, full grimace, wanting to die while I¬†explain that every single song by Maroon 5 is about sex and the song “Sugar” is not, in fact, about sugar.

[…brief pause while your blogger takes a moment to watch the video to “Sugar”, which she quite enjoys…]

But at least we hope that one day our kids will be enjoying sex at a proper age, with a nice marriage license and ceremony before God and everyone to sanctify it.

Sex, sure. Eventually. But drugs are another story. We don’t evereverevereverever want them to mess around with that menace. Our mental health is a precious gift. It’s the one thing we have to survey the world properly and then respond in a healthy way. Why would you trade a clear mind for one addled with addiction and despair?

One day, when my kids are at the inevitable party and someone offers them a joint or heroin or the recipe for meth, I want my voice in their ears yelling “Don’t do drugs!” ¬†Trust me, they’ve heard it enough times now that my face will pop into their view even if I’m 800 miles away.



And this is precisely my goal. Listen, I get it. I can’t watch my kids’ every move until I die. One day they will go out into the world and make their own decisions, and they’re already doing that every day. I’m sure I’d be horrified if I knew everything.

But they know they’re loved. They know that drugs and kissing have immense consequences. And they know we’re always willing to talk about it.

But, please. Your father will be explaining the lyrics to “Animals.” I just can’t.

I blush.

 

 

Dear Parents: It’s okay if you’re making it up as you go along

Eric and I are parenting two kids in middle school, so basically we’re making stuff up as we go along. Minute by minute, we literally have no idea of what we’re doing.

This is no different than any other stage of parenting we’ve experienced thus far, but what IS different is that the kids now know this. They no longer trust everything we say or blindly believe we’re geniuses who happen to share a house with them.

 

To be fair, I can no longer help with their math, band homework, or technology. Their lack of faith in me is sort of justified and it’s not like I’ll ever understand negative integers, so I’m going to have to live with it.

Technology and algebra aside, recently Eric and I have bumped into a few situations where our guesses and hopes aren’t enough to cut it. We’ve had to share our concerns with friends (who all have kids the same ages as ours) and ask what they’d do in our situation.

Now, we picked our advisors wisely. These friends have all known us for two decades and are parenting with the firm desire to raise children who love God, know the Bible, and one day go out into the world to make a difference for the Kingdom. Their insight was very, very helpful.

Turns out there is no easy answer

But this is what I’m learning– their insights are gleaned from their own situation. Every family has a particular dynamic that comes from a bunch of individual personalities jammed into one living situation. Every family has different goals, strengths and weaknesses, and hopes for their kids. We’ve chosen different educational options and houses of worship.

This means every family gave us a different answer. This isn’t what I wanted– I wanted one clear, correct answer. A foggy, stressful situation became even foggier.

Until this morning, when I realized there isn’t any such thing as one clear, correct answer in parenting and the fog suddenly dissipated. I’m responsible for these two kids I have. I have to choose their schools, church, and neighborhood because that’s what parents do. What our friends do is great and helpful and often helps me keep my sanity, but in the end, Eric and I get to choose.

We all get to choose

And so do you. You know your kids. You know your family’s needs and hopes and strengths. So you get to choose what’s best for your kids at the end of the day. Pray over it, make the best decision you can, and rest in the fact there will always be a lot of ways to raise a great kid.

Your friends will do some things better than you. Your friends will do some things worse than you. Their kids might turn out great or really terrible. In the end, all our kids will make decisions we have no control over anyway, which means that we can parent them until the end of time and still get totally wonky results. We’re dealing with humans here, not robots.


We’re all making it up as we go (even our kids!), so let’s just do the best we can, support one another, and enjoy long talks over the table where we confess that we have no idea of what to do next.