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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Parenting teenagers ain't for sissies


If you have teenagers that seem to be sailing through life with every accomplishment, that have it all together both inside and out, the ones with the awards and lots of self control... stop reading this post now.
This is for the rest of us.
Don't get me wrong, I know there are children that are just easier to parent than others.  But many are not, and this post if for the parents of those young adults.

This thing called parenting is not for wimps.

Here at the Crazy house, we've had seasons that have presented extra parenting challenges.  That's the nice way of putting it.  By "parenting challenges," I mean some choices have been made that others (society?) don't necessarily agree with, and the ramifications of those decisions have to be dealt with.
And this is such a season.
Help me, oh Lord, to be strong.  Help me, God, not blow my stack like I did last time, because that so didn't work.  Help me hold it together... again.  My treasure is precious.  Help me know what to say and when and where to ask for help.  Help me.

There are things, many things that happen here in the Crazy house that I won't talk about here.  Talking about poop being smeared on the walls by your toddler is one thing.  But the transgressions of older children is another thing entirely.  Those things should not be broadcast on the world-wide-web for obvious reasons.
Let's just say, this thing called parenting is not for wimps.
Wait... I said that already.
Maybe it's worth repeating.

I remember the days long ago, when I struggled to teach my young children to say please and thank you.  I wanted them to be that kid that just said it all on their own without prompting.  I wanted them to try their hardest to like broccoli   And salad.  I trained them to make their bed.  And see God's beauty in the every day.  And love one another.  And not to use the words idiot or stupid.  I remember it was so hard.  And now I look back on those days and wonder... What in the world was I thinking?!
Now they have grown.
And now it seems even harder.  The stakes are so much higher.

I've been involved in discussion with 3 different moms very recently, and this very subject has come up, the challenges of raising our young adults.  And all 3 times, we moms have kinda sat there in awe that we're not alone.  That it's not just our family or our kid that's falling short.  It feels so lonely.  It feels heavier when you're dealing with things of this magnitude and thinking it's only your family that is going through it.

3 teenagers under our roof at one time.  13 years cumulatively of parenting them.  They are so amazingly different, and it goes without saying that different issues come forth.  1 and you think you've got some of it down.  2 and surely you've covered your bases.  But no.  Number 3 comes along and knocks your socks off with a whole new set of issues that you hadn't even considered yet.  3 different children each with their own unique challenges. And top it off with a drastic shift in the parental support system.  I'm finding that moms really don't want to talk about the struggles they have with their teens.  It's like it is a dirty little secret.  It suddenly becomes really hard to admit in the first place that our family isn't as wonderful as it may look from the outside.  You never know who will judge, and suddenly the implications of the shortfalls are huge!  Your toddler throws sand at the playground, and it's okay to talk to other moms about how to teach him how to stop and how frustrating it can be.   Because that's what toddlers do, right?  They throw sand.  And occasionally they may bite another child.  And maybe even dropped the F bomb once in front of your mother-in-law when you least expected it.  But that's what toddlers do!  That's how they learn their place in the world.  They live in their world and try it out, and nobody (including yourself hopefully) thinks what a bad mom you are when things aren't perfect.  But things are different when your teenager sneaks out the window in the middle of the night to get drunk with his/her college friends.  Suddenly the parents feel the judgement of their own shortcomings.
What could I have done to stop this?  
Where did we go wrong?  
How could I have done things differently?  
When did things start to go bad?  
What do we do now?
They grow up and the transgressions and their natural consequences can be far more serious.

I want to say this part very clearly.
Sometimes our teens are just like the toddler throwing sand in the sand box.   Because that's how some young adults are wired, to try stuff out even when they know isn't what they're suppose to do.  They push the boundaries   They cross the lines.  They say hurtful things.  They don't think, and they do what they know is wrong.  And despite how hard we work to parent them correctly, despite not only our best intentions, but despite really hard work and doing everything right, (and let's face it, that's not even possible!) they can fail to make the best choices.  And that's our job as parents to keep re-drawing the lines showing them what is expected.  We must find every opportunity to tell them how wonderful they are despite it all.  Pray for them.  Respect them through it all.  To redirect their paths, and to love them unconditionally despite the holes they dig.
And that task ain't for sissies.

So what does a parent do when the stakes climb even higher?  What do we do with issues like
Pregnancy.
Aggression.
Promiscuity.
Bullying.
Drug usage.
Lying.
Violence.
Anorexia.
Cutting.
Pornography.
Depression.
Addiction.
Theft...
Talk about it.  You and your family are not the only ones.  Don't judge one another.  Support one another.  Be there for the mom next door just like you were when they threw sand.

There but for the grace of God, go I.

25 comments:

  1. Very well said Nancy! As a Mom of 2 (now) grown kids (ages almost 23 & 26), you've got a great outlook and know what you're doing. I've thought ALL of these same exact things. Now that mine are grown, of course they make mistakes...at times, even make the "wrong" choices in their lives. And, as their Momma, it doesn't get easier. Now, all I can do is "direct" them...I can't "tell them what to do". I can, but it's moot. I tell myself they HAVE to make their own choices/decisions. All I can do is guide & pray, and pray. As long as they have a good foundation (it seems yours do), it will all work out fine. Keep the lines of communication OPEN. TALK, talk, and talk some more. And remember, the MOST important person in their lives is YOU. It may not seem like it right now, but you are. All of the things you teach them now...it may not show in their actions or words, but your advice & guidance is instilled in them, and they won't forget it. I've been disappointed in mine along the way, and at times questioned myself about where I went wrong. Yet, I have to remember...I didn't go wrong with my teachings, it's maybe the path THEY chose. You have a beautiful family!

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  2. Great post! A friend shared this post with me, because we are both just starting on the path of parenting teens--she has years ahead of her because her 4 are spaced fairly widely apart, and I have years to go because I have 7 children.

    You're right that we can't write freely about our teens' troubles the way we can about our toddlers'. Teens are old enough to deserve more privacy than a 2 year old. I've wanted to write and write and write about my teen, but I've held back every time.

    Thanks for your encouragement. :)

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    1. Actually I've written about them and the issues often. I just don't ever push post. It's my diary of sorts. They deserve that respect.
      And another mama of 7, amen sista!
      nancy

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  3. What a timely post this morning... rough night with my two olders... ages 21 and 18. I had a very sad mama's heart last night with some of their choices. It helps to hear that others face tough times too as it is very isolating, even amidst the best of times.

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    1. Sarah---I feel like we should talk. Like all us mamas going through it should have a big ol' conference call and compare notes and share war stories. It's so tough and the issues are big. HUGE!
      I do have a couple women that love me and my children unconditionally, and I know that no matter what I share with them, that won't change. These women offer grace and are my solace often, especially these days. Blessings to me.
      nancy

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    2. Nancy honey, this is one of the reasons I love this blog!!! You let us know we are not alone. I do not have those people in my life and I agree, Sarah, it can be VERY isolating! When our children do not "fit" a mold or make the best choices it is hard and often a lonely place to be as a mother. I have yet to deal with any "huge" teen issues. However, with having several children, I know my time is coming.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Traci

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  4. Oh boy! Oh boy! As the mother of a now 31, 28, 26, 23 and "new mom" of a 5yr old...let me tell you..It is no easy answer!! Each kid is different and yes...IT'S HARD! I've been thru the STORM OF TEEN"ACHER"S and although 2 was rather easy, the other 2...WHOOOAAA BABY!! We weathered the storm and NOW it's almost laughable when we sit down and the conversation starts with "Momma...remember when I did ________ and how you snatched me by the collar and said thru sneered teeth ...wanna taste the back of my hand...TRY ME!!!! or Dad...remember when I tried to buck you and you practically snatched my shirt clean off my body like a magician"!!

    I tell you Nancy...they will appreciate it...but that's LATER in life..probably more than likely when THEIR children IS THAT KID in the sand "throwing sand " and they call you in exasperation. Yes, I will admit I "MUFFLE A LAUGH" and thank KARMA secretly!

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    1. You mean I gonna laugh about this? Get OUT OF TOWN! I can only imagine, but not really that such a thing will happen. Right now all the what if's flood my thoughts. Glad to hear I'm not the only one that has tried some unconventional tactics.
      nancy

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  5. I love this post as well and am thankful that you put this out there. We have two teens (one is graduating tonight!) and they don't always make the choices we would like. I feel like I pray ALL. THE. TIME. And I guess that is a good thing!

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    1. If I wasn't a praying woman before (which I was) teenagers certainly would have driven me to it. Praying ceaselessly it seems some days. I know you know what I mean.
      nancy

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  6. When those toddler's were smearing poop on the walls, I figured that was about as bad as this whole parenting gig could get. Who knew such a roller coaster ride was awaiting us!

    Beautifully written, thank you :)

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•`¤... Jennifer
    Jenn's Random Scraps

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    1. "When those toddler's were smearing poop on the walls, I figured that was about as bad as this whole parenting gig could get."
      Amen! Who woulda thunk it got worse than that?! So so much worse.
      nancy

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  7. I highly recommend the book Boundaries With Teens
    http://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-Teens-When-Say-Yes/dp/0310270456

    to anyone raising a teenager or heading into that time. It is wonderful advice. It helped me with work through issues while I was raising my teenager (he's 19 now) and I'm sure I will refer back to it when my now 5 year old is there. Thanks for the post! I love your blog.

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  8. Anyone else feel like that list of "oh no! We're gonna have to walk that path?!" should have a check boxes next to it? Yep, been there done that, check that box! That one too! Thankfully not that one, WHEW! But wait there's another box I could check!

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    1. Anyone wanna add to the list? So much more I could include!

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  9. You're preachin' the choir sista'! I'm on my third, and final, trip thru the teen years....and God has apparently saved the "best" for last, haha. Holy Moly, I haven't cried so much, or been this stressed out EVER. I just keep telling myself "this too shall pass". And hopefully...it will, with us all coming out stronger and closer in the long run. Good luck to you, and may the force be with ya :)

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    1. I think that's the thing Kathy, we're not really sure if we really WILL get out of it. The stakes are SO high that not making it out IS a possibility.
      One of the moms that I referred to in the post that I was talking to said, you know my goals have totally changed. I used to have such high expectations for my children. Now my only goal is to keep them ALIVE. And she so wasn't kidding. And I GET IT. Is is tough tough indeed.
      And good luck to you to. We all need it.
      nancy

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  10. Our son is 21 now, almost 22. I can honestly say that before we went all the way through the teenage years I was very judgemental about how this was all going to work out and how oh I would never allow that or that will never happen. Ha! They are their own people. You raise them the way that you see as right but they get to a certain point where they have to make their own decisions AND mistakes. You are still there for guidance, even when they may hear you advice but not take it. It became more important with our son to be his safe place. He knows what is right and wrong. He will make his choices based on what he knows. We are here, always, for him to talk to about anything. No judgement. We offer advice if he wants it. We love him for his kind heart and easy smile and tell him that often. I will say though, I like him much better now that he is an "adult" and our relationship has changed from the parent/child one. The teen years are difficult. Bless you and your husband for going through it times three, all at once.
    Lori

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  11. Hi there

    I am coming from the same place indeed! You think you are are the only one going through this.....I have been fortunate to have a brother that has really helped my get through these tough times. He is just now sending his youngest off to college this fall. His oldest was a saint compared to this one..never had to deal with all "the bad stuff"anyway.....My son was a straight A student and very motivated to do well and then as things got harder he got lazier and then he found his "friends"!(that were 1 yr older..never a good thing)......Then is when all the "why can't I stay out?"..."There're going to the concert why can't I"......then comes"I'm leaving!"....talk about the stress! On top of it all.... he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when her was 12 so that adds a whole new "worry" factor...especially if he starts drinking...which he say he hasn't. Do I believe? not really but I can only take what he says as the truth until becomes not the truth. Anyway I have proceeded to find other drugs( because you know you can get anything you want in high school this days). I had a very serious sit down conversation with him and told him that this is your life and please hear me out as to why it is the stupidest thing you could ever do to your life. Surprisingly , he listened and we did come to a mutual understanding about going out, curfew, school work, work and then hanging with friends and then the drug/alcohol thing. So far it has been ok. Definitely a few bumps and curves:) I am realizing going through this....I know I can't watch my kids 100% of the time and that they have to make some mistakes to understand why I said no on certain things. But my BIG realization was that I was trying to control every move he made because until now I have had full control....but I NEED TO RELEASE HIM because the tighter the reins are the more he pull away and the more painful it will be. On a good note....he just recently came to me and my husband and told us that he was tired of fighting and not trusting him that he wanted to have a better relationship with us and that it meant more to him to have that trust and love he wants from his mama:) I am sure that there will be more bumps but it seems to be going in a upward trend! Thanks for letting me vent and Nancy ...THANK YOU for bringing up the UGLY that nobody wants to talk about....

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    1. I think maybe that should have been the name of this post, "The ULGY that nobody wants to talk about..."

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  12. I totally agree with not airing "teenage" issues on the web. It could only add fuel to the fire. keep you head up and don't forget to remember what it was like to be a teenager. It's hard work making mistakes and figure it all out. This too shall pass! Hugs and prayers coming your way.

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  13. Thank you. People don't blog about raising teens. At least, I haven't run across it much.

    My first was "hard" (snort) just because he's my first, and there is a steep learning curves with teens. But he's almost 22 now, and I'm delighted with how he's turned out, and that he calls home of his own free will (he's USAF). I currently have 4 teens at home, and holy cannoli, I'm not sure what I was thinking when I had all those babies so close together! The baby/toddlers years were labor intensive, the middle years were fun, but now? Yikes. We've checked off several items on your list, and a couple you missed (hello eating disorders), and some days, I seriously count down to bedtime. Mine, not theirs, as we all know teens are night owls.

    Whoever said the goal is to just get them through it alive, I hear ya. I so hear you.

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    1. Shecki-I SO just added an eating disorder to the list. Not sure how I let that biggie slip my mind! Ya, our goals certainly have changed haven't they!

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  14. As a teen, I probably covered a good solid majority of that list, but I put up the facade of "good girl" so well. It made my heart so hard to sin. Having it "out there" (within your family), and dealing with it is so much better.

    As a mom, I'm just starting the teen years. Knocking one sleeve off the shoulder... eye roll.... sneaking makeup.... not!!! liking boys.... Oh, may the lines of communication stay open, even when it isn't what we want to hear.
    Maria

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  15. Morning Nancy - let me say it this way...

    three adult kids, 28, 27, 24 - and three littles at home right now. When the 'now adults' were teens we had all the stuff on your list - some of it with each of them (thankfully not one with ALL of it!). Take your pick - I mean I think we really covered it ALL...

    today...two are out of the woods - one is still looking for their way...but finding it slower than the other two - but finding it...

    And I'd trust all of them with your son or daughter (respectively!!) without a moments hesitation.

    Do any of them "believe" the same things we parents do? No - not a one...but all of them are good, honest, reliable, simply trustworthy people.

    It could have turned out way worse...

    I guess what I'm saying is a big part of this is keeping your perspective...

    You arm them with every tool and trick you can think of - but then you turn them loose and simply support them - trusting them to make the right choices at the end of they day...

    And generally speaking they will....maybe not the way you would have - but they will.

    hugs - prayers (and lots of them on this subject!!)

    aus and co.

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