Our pastor, a dad to three grown kids, has always described the teenage years as glorious. Even when his kids were all teens at one time, he used that description.
It’s not the typical word you hear when people talk about teenagers.
Every time he said it, I clung to the word, hoping it would hold true for my kids when they got to their teenage years… hoping they wouldn’t make some of the same mistakes I made, or do some of the things I did.
As I’ve entered the years of being a mom to a teenager, I’ve held that lens in front of me – the perspective that teenagers are glorious.
And even in the midst of challenges, you know what?
I’m finding that it’s true.
About six months ago, things were especially challenging. It seemed like my sweet little girl had gone from worshiping the ground I walk on to being irritated simply by my presence.
Instead of Mommy, I became Mother.
And as she desperately tried to find new freedoms, I held on… tighter than ever.
“I need help,” I remember praying one day, totally discouraged, feeling like I was learning how to parent all over again.
And not too long after that, when I was at the library combing the shelves for a book on CD for a long drive to Los Angeles, my prayer was answered. For Parents Only – Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid jumped out at me. I checked it out and started listening to it that day.
Before I even finished it, my heart was softened in a whole new way for teens.
Instead of feeling frustrated about my daughter’s attitude, I had compassion for all that she was going through at this age–the changes, the social situations, the tug of war between staying a little girl and growing into a woman.
The book (and this is not a book review or paid endorsement in any way; this book just really impacted me) opened my eyes to how my daughter must be feeling, and it reminded me all over again of that time in my life–a time when so many things are new and exciting, yet scary and intimidating.
A time when all you want to do is fit in and be accepted.
It opened my eyes to my responses to her too–and it made me realize that I was being more strict than understanding, more impatient than compassionate, more critical than supportive.
So I decided to take her out to dinner and talk to her.
We picked a table and sat down…
and I apologized.
That’s how I started the conversation – acknowledging that things had been rough between us for the past few months, and apologizing for my part. I shared that, just like becoming a teenager was new to her, parenting a teenager was new to me.
Her eyes softened.
Her defensive posture dissolved.
And she looked at me, hopeful…
I told her how proud I am of her– of who she is,
and who she is becoming.
And instead of pointing out things I was frustrated with (which I felt like I had been doing so much of), I told her all the things she was doing well in – her grades, her choices with friends, her good work ethic, the way she helps people.
We talked about other things too: the reasons behind the rules we have in our house and making sure she had a chance to ask questions and fully understand why the rules exist. I asked her for feedback on things she was frustrated with and it opened new doors for discussion.
It was a great conversation.
And somehow, in that hour, a healing took place.
Maybe it was because she felt understood. Or maybe it was because she realized I’m learning right along with her. Or maybe it was simply because I said sorry.
Whatever the reason, later that night, as I told her goodnight and was about to leave her room, she stopped me…
“Mommy?” she said in a soft voice.
I paused by the door. “Yes?”
“I love you.” I could see her smiling in the dim light.
“I love you too,” I said. And I left her room with a lump in my throat, knowing that what our Pastor said really is true.
Teenagers are glorious.
Sometimes, they just need to be reminded that they are.
p.s. Thank you to those of you who have emailed me and told me you haven’t been able to comment on my blog. I apologize! I have not been able to figure out what is wrong yet; it started happening after I updated Disqus a while back so if anyone else is familiar with any issues with that, I’d appreciate any information. Thanks! I hope to have it resolved soon!
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