What I’m writing today is piggybacking off the post Let Them Grow Up so if you haven’t read that one, I recommend you read it first.
My oldest is away at a high school retreat at the moment. Yesterday, I had to laugh when one of my friends, whose daughter is the same age as my son and a good friend of his, posted a few pics her daughter had sent her to let her know they had arrived safely. I laughed because, even though he has a fully charged phone and a charger . . . nothing . . . nada . . . crickets. And I have no doubt I won’t hear from him until tomorrow afternoon when I pick him up. Boys y’all. That’s all I have to say.
The thing is, I found myself totally okay, even amused, with this. There was a time when I would’ve been annoyed, possibly hurt, that he didn’t text or touch base, and yes, there will still be times when I go ahead and text him just to make sure he has arrived where he’s supposed to arrive safely. But yesterday was not one of those times. I often hear moms of younger kids say, “I’m not ready for that”, and that’s fine. You’re not supposed to be “ready for that”, if that’s not the season you’re in. It’s a process not a switch you flip. It’s also really quite ingenious how God biologically created our kids so that they start to push for their independence in adolescence, and we start to look forward to handing over the reigns (and the bills) one day. I also have found that as I loosen my grip a little, I enjoy seeing my kid, my man child, grow into his own person with his own opinions, thoughts, and beliefs. I feel like, with all the things we haven’t gotten right, we did set a solid and firm foundation for him, and now it’s time for him to grow into that. To flesh out, for himself, who he is, and who God created him to be. And y’all there is something very cool and satisfying about being able to have a real conversation with your kid . . . about having an engaging, discussion with this person whose diapers you once changed.
None of this line of thinking is original to me. Not even close. I’m a control freak by nature, and as I’ve said more than once, it is hard for me to let things go and keep my mouth shut. Left up to me, I’d probably be dictating and controlling every aspect of my teenager’s life because as much as he is a good kid, and he absolutely is a great kid, he’s not perfect. He can be more than a little haphazard in his approach to life. He often procrastinates, forgets to follow through and finish things, and is tad bit disorganized and messy, and frankly, those are the things that make me, the OCD queen, crazy. He also does not take well to me trying to step in and direct him . . . not at all, and rather than go head-to-head with him, which I’ve done a time or ten, I’m learning, with a whole lot of help from the Holy Spirit, that yes, there are times, when I have to override what he wants and step in and tell him what to do, but more often than not, I need to step back and let him figure things out for himself.
As parents, we don’t always get it right, but when we do get it right, hooray! And when we mess up (which is often), we have to give ourselves grace, but also, we must apologize . . . as hard and as humbling as that is. We’re all works in progress here. On a practical level, however, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the things that help me with this whole process. Because heaven knows, I didn’t come up with any of this on my own:
The bible and prayer, developing my relationship with God – When I’m not spending time with God, I struggle so much to keep everything else in balance. I also seek the wisdom of others both in what to do but also, in what not to do . . . in learning from the mistakes of those who’ve gone before me. As I’ve mentioned before, Focus on the Family, especially their parenting resources and their Focus on Parenting Podcast, is absolutely invaluable. I’ve also found that Dr. Ken Wilgus has an enormous amount of wisdom on instilling independence in your teenagers, and I have been devouring the Feeding the Mouth that Bites You Podcast. He also authored a book by the same title, and I’m tossing around the idea of doing some kind of book club/group with that book.
Family time and letting some things go – Family time is so important, but if you’re dragging your teenager along, and they hate you for it, you might not be accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Naturally, building in family time and activities, trips, etc., my kids enjoy is really important. Showing interest in the things that interest them, but also, knowing that my teenager may not be there for every single family event is necessary. Case in point, I’ve always been a stickler for family dinners, and I still am to an extent, but I also know that we may not be able to all be here every night for a sit-down dinner. Sometimes, other activities are going to take the place of dinner, and that’s okay too.
Last but far from least, my marriage – Continuing to pour into, to work on, and build my marriage is non-negotiable. This is one thing I will NOT let go. Next to God, my marriage is my top priority, but it’s amazing how very quickly the activities of our children can take over our lives and push our marriages off to the side. I refuse to allow that to happen. No matter what stage we are at in life, our marriage takes precedence over our kids (obviously, there are emergencies at times . . . I’m not referring to those). My kids hear “yes” plenty, and we do more than our fair share of chauffeuring to our son’s social events and activities. But sometimes they also hear “no” because I won’t keep my children happy to the detriment of my marriage, and I think that happens, albeit unintentionally, all too often.
Maybe by the time my kids are 30, and (hopefully) don’t really need to be parented anymore, I’ll have this whole thing figured out. Until then, I’ll keep listening and learning, adjusting and growing, and pushing them to grow into healthy adults the best way I know how.