I want to spend time blogging about being the parent of a teenager. Because I am, despite the fact that I swear to you he was just born.
To be perfectly honest, I lucked out with Carver. He is so easy-going, relaxed, happy, centered, joyful, outgoing, and sweet. I parent the best I can, but each of my children are born the way they are. Their temperaments are there, the way they like to socialize is there, and their predisposition to how they handle life is there. David and I are charged with the task to pray for our kids and lead them and help them navigate the world, and we are charged with helping them improve those parts of themselves that need improvement. Which looks totally different for each of my kids. I'm happy for Carver because he wakes up each day ready for anything. I hope he never loses that zest and spirit.
When Carver turned 12 I cried. I felt like the end of all his sweetness was right around the corner and life as we knew it was just ticking away until he became a teenager. It was around that time, though, that I read a great parenting book. (Not words you will often hear me say because I think most parenting books are a bunch of cow dung... There are some solid ones, but they are few and far between.) This book was basically about raising a child in a grow-up-too-fast kind of world. The author had stated that when the teenage years arrived for her own children, she refused to accept that they inevitable would turn into mean, snarly, disrespectful jerks who did nothing but sleep all day and eat all her food.
I agreed with her.
David and I came up with some non-negotiables for our children as they transition into young adults:
- We are a close family and we spend time together. Just because your friends become more important to you than anything else in the whole wide world, you will still spend time with us.
- Family dinners happen every single night. Yes we juggle activities and David's schedule, and sometimes we are eating late and not the healthiest items... but we eat together.
- Door slamming and eye rolling are not okay. It does happen once in a while (from all of our kids), but David and I immediately address it. I just can't stand the thought of my kids walking away from a situation that angry and that disrespectful. I wouldn't let them do it at age 5, why would I let them do it at 14 or 16?
- We control the technology. My kids already hate us for this, but we are the adults and we say what they can watch, when they can watch it, and more importantly... what they can't watch. And just because everyone else's parents let them watch movies like "Kill Your Mother With A Sledgehammer" or play video games like "Mortal Assassins of All Living Things" or have an iPhone at age 7 doesn't mean that we will. Carver does not yet have a cell phone, but the time is coming when he will. He will not be allowed to have it all the time. I refuse to lose my child to a handheld device. I expect my kids to still look me in the eye and have conversations with me, not stare at their little screens and mumble at me while texting friends.
- When they go out in the world, they represent us. And how they act in public should be a reflection of their character, not what their peers dare them to do. Easier said than done, I know. I know! But we are constantly talking to them about how to say no, how to stay true to themselves, and how to have bigger dreams than just following the crowd.
We are at the jumping-off point of our "teenage years," and I'm sure this sounds awfully Pollyanna to a lot of you. But going into the teenage years without some kind of plan is like going to war without first evaluating your enemy. You have to know what you're up against, what's at stake. What's at stake is our family, and this battle is certainly worth fighting for.
Having a teenager has been so incredibly fun I can hardly put it into words. The adventures we've been on together now that he's older are just priceless. Giving him more responsibility and watching him soar is so rewarding it brings tears to my eyes. And even though little by little I'm loosening my grip on his life, I am so thrilled to know that I'm helping him be the best he can be so that the world can have the very best of him when he's ready.