I have children.
That’s a big statement, all by itself. But, there’s more. These kids range from 12 to 30. We have encountered almost every aspect of parenting by now. Some things went beautifully, creating lasting memories that we will all cherish forever. The rest made our kids believe their parents were psychotic fruit cakes that don’t have the sense to tie their own shoes.
And, to be brutally honest, most of the amazing stuff came from my wife. The other stuff was me.
In a few short months, we will enter the final tween to teen transition of our parenting years. That wondrous moment in time that make parents question God, like no other time in their lives. When a child goes from being your precious little angel to some know-it-all punk, that is somehow tall enough to look you in the eye. The rapid transition that, in your mind, resembles The Hulk. Turning from a small, non-threatening human, into something that outgrows clothes and yells a lot.
If you haven’t experienced it, yet. Let me inform you about the best part. The one word that encapsulates the early teen years. Ready?
Not the stage and screen spectacle. No. I mean the early formation of their attempts to create relationships. The way kids pick and choose which humans they like, and the ones that they don’t. The need to comment, and form opinions, about every single detail of their life. The way completely random things make them cry or laugh. The need to run down the list of things everyone has said since the dawn of time. The way so many conversation end as arguments, wrapping up with some incredibly dramatic statement and a slammed door.
Yeah. That drama.
Now, my wife, is virtually indestructible. These kids can throw anything at her, and she always knows how to handle it. Want an example? Sure. Daughter. Early teen years. Highly volatile. Boy of questionable humanity involved. Emotions near explosive levels. Tears have formed. Anger surging. Nerves frayed. Every English speaking person, for miles, is terrified. This is fairly normal evening.
Dad gets involved? Advice, suggestions, child explodes, dad frustrated, situation gets worse. Standard procedure.
Mom gets involved? Three Oreo cookies and a glass of milk, gentle hug and a kiss on the head. Euphoria. Child forgets about every negative aspect of life. Butterflies and rainbows overwhelm the known universe. Yeah. That’s about how it works. Dad tries to use logic and reason on a child with supercharged emotions. Mom just diffuses the whole situation and comforts her.
Once that kid calms down, two things are still resonating. Dad is an insensitive jerk. Mom loves me and cares for me. That’s why she will talk about it, with mom, after she calms down. And. Why she still walks a wide path around me later.
For most of my life, I had a chip on my shoulder. Easily offended. Short tempered. Sarcastic and obnoxious. Highly opinionated. Now that I have grown and matured, so impressively, I don’t get offended as easy.
It takes a lot of effort to stay calm when anyone decides to confront me with their opinions. Like when they tell me why my perspective and decisions are more stupid than their perspective and decisions. I don’t do well with people who live and breathe to argue and debate. I have some lingering issues with folks who make ridiculous demands of me and try to order me around. Insanity, like watching someone call a friend to gripe, about the guy who is paying for the phone they are currently using. Craziness, like having someone scream that they hate you, and then ask you for ice cream twenty minutes later.
All this just reinforces the fact that I have produced my most impressive failures, while parenting teens.
The biggest problem, in this house, is the fact that my kids are all super human. They can beat me at everything. Want to go run? I can’t keep up with any of them. Want to hear a joke? Theirs are all funnier than mine. Video games? Not a chance. Stories of the cool things and gestures of excellent humanity? My stories don’t even come close. How about those arguing and debating skills? Ha. My youngest daughter could be a hostage negotiator, working nights as a criminal interrogator. Not a chance. The kid is way smarter than me.
If parenting was about keeping your kids below you, I would fail miserably. It makes it easier to push them forward, when they are already moving that way. I need to see them become great. I want to see them do better than I have. To accomplish more than I have.
Since finding out that my highest purpose in life, is wrapped around my family, things are different. Knowing that I will make my greatest mark on the world, by how I raise these kids and love my wife, changes the game completely. I am still operating on the level of Barney Fife, for the most part. But, the game is definitely changing.
Raising teens will always be a rite of passage for parents. I was told that children spend the first seven years, learning about their world. They spend the next seven years, establishing what they believe about that world. Then, the next seven are spent putting weight on what they believe. At fourteen, those kids are beginning to test their faith and beliefs. That’s where so much of the pressure comes from. Nobody holds up well when their faith is tested. It’s a bigger challenge for a kid.
Go easy on them. Take the focus off yourself, and make it all about them. Make sure those kids know that there is, at least, one person alive who loves them no matter how they act. Dads are supposed to be the one man in the world who loves his kids without expecting anything in return. Learn to love without any expectations. Just love them. It won’t always be easy. You won’t always do it right. But they are always learning from you.
Don’t fail them, when they test the faith they have in you.
And, feel free to try that Oreo trick. It’s a life saver.
Take my 21 Day challenge to get a better understanding of the whole marriage and family thing. Try it.