I’ve lamented in the past about the lack of blogging by parents of older kids/tweens/teens. As I read blog after blog by dear women in the throes of diapering, teething and sleepless nights, I often could identify with sympathy, but wondered, for my own wrestling mama struggles…”Where are MY people? Is anyone else in this season??”
Of late, I’ve read an increasing number of answers to my heart-cry, and I’m soothed by the fact that they are mostly saying what I’m finding to be my own reality. At least I’m not alone. And apparently, what I’m experiencing is normal. *whew!*
I’m hearing “We’re here! We’re in the trenches too!“. But it kind of has to almost stop there because our kids are basically, like…ya know…‘people’ now. They have thoughts, opinions and lives they don’t want discussed all over the internet. Just like all those bath time baby pictures we once took, which now mortify them…they don’t want their personal lives being fodder for anyone’s amusement, assessment or anything else.
I respect that. I’ve learned the importance of asking before I share a funny anecdote or dinnertime quote, or post a pic that I find endearing or cute. (By the way, the LAST thing middle school boys want to be is “endearing” or “cute”. If you have boys approaching this stage, you might want to just tuck that tidbit away for later.)
I don’t talk specifically about their struggles, their growth, or even (for the most part) their victories or successes. (OK, so a mama likes to brag just a teensy bit every now and then…) I’m not saying I never mention them on Facebook or my blog (obviously), but I’ve learned a LOT about what they are okay with me saying, and when to “zip it” about what’s going on in our lives.
However, that all being said, I also still value every crumb of encouragement that I stumble upon from others who are in the same season. I treasure every little mama (or dad!) voice, like me, sort of whispering “Yup…can’t say what, exactly, but lots of ‘the same’ goin’ on over here!! Stay strong, sister (or bro)!”
And so I thought I’d throw out my thoughts today as contribution to the ‘Anonymous Parents of Emerging People’ group, in hopes that you, like me, will read and say “Oh yes…good, I think/feel/experience that too! I’m so glad I’m not alone!”
I will keep them in very broad, general tones…not saying any of these apply to any specific of my own children… (ahem). ;)
I’m finding one of the absolute keys to this stage of life…albeit a very difficult one…is to stay engaged. I may have said this before (I’m quite sure I have), but it’s something I need to remind myself almost daily. When I’m overwhelmed by schedules, and taxiing, and conversations and decisions…I literally say to myself,
“Stay engaged!! This is critical…just stay engaged.”
Let me explain what I mean by staying engaged.
I mean going below whatever the situation seems to be on the surface. Oh, how much easier (and by easy I mean still utterly crazy-tiring) it would be to focus on all the surface business!! The laundry, the running, the to-dos, the homework. But the real deal of parenting is going on below the surface of each of those things. The character training, the faith-owning, the hurt-healing, the life-lessons….it’s all entangled in things that look like ‘things’.
I’m learning that I could skim by, and we could ‘survive’. We could ‘get through‘ whatever the next thing is…school work, sports seasons, permission slips, sleepovers, chores, friend drama, etc. We can deal with every single thing, on the surface, and as I’m realizing, the years go by (oh so fast) and we have unknowingly completely missed the real opportunities that each of those things contains. They look, on the surface, like all the stuff that life is made of…but really, they are just the shell of the real stuff.
When I’m actually engaging, wow…those things are so much more. They are rich, fertile ground for planting and growing all sorts of lifelong treasures.
Chores are less about getting the toilets and sinks cleaned, and more about teaching them to take responsibility. It’s about teaching/modeling stewardship of things, and the value of some hard work. It’s also about learning (as parents) how to chill out when things aren’t done to our ‘standards’. It’s ok.
Sleepovers aren’t just about watching movies (and us parents being forced to hide in our room as they take over the house!), they are about a natural opportunity to build relationships and get to know our kids’ friends around the breakfast table. We get to learn their interests and see their sense of humor. We get sympathize with their parents over grocery bills. ;)
Drive time to appointments, friend’s houses, practices and games are actually built-in conversation time…so long as I don’t check out, crank the radio, and let everyone slip into their own virtual, iPod world. (Though, regularly, I do find cranking the radio and rocking out together in the car a perfectly acceptable and healthy form of engagement!!)
‘Drama’ with friends, teammates, teachers, etc. is all ripe with opportunity for dialogue about how to deal with conflict, love unconditionally, show respect, and even teaching them to do the very thing I’m trying to do…look beyond the words or reactions, and really try to hear someone’s heart. Seek out the ‘why’. Go deeper.
Let me also clarify…I’m so not ‘nailing’ this. I’m learning it. I’ve already lost some time, and some ground. Thankfully, I’m faith-filled that God happens to love my kids even more than I, and I’m asking Him, out of his goodness and faithfulness to cover my shortcomings, and help me to see opportunities to make up for where I’ve fallen short, and to do better next time.
Because even in my failings, there’s opportunity to engage. I can teach repentance, I can teaching owning our mistakes, and the value of saying I’m sorry.
Nothing is wasted when we are engaged.
So, I’m trying. I’m growing. I’m having some “a-ha” moments, and a lot of “shoot…I totally blew that!” moments.
And hopefully, while I’m trying to find this delicate balance of transparency of my own journey and respectful deference of the privacy of my kids, you might find some camaraderie and encouragement too. Hang in there…from what I hear, we will survive this…and so will our kids!! (I guess we, as former adolescents, are living proof, right?) ;)