Beautiful Joy with a rose from her garden
A few years ago, Joy and I were laying on her bed and talking. She said, "I am determined not to become the teenager who is controlled by hormones or attitudes! It seems so silly and I don't think I will go through the phases the older kids did!"
Having lived through the ups and downs of her older siblings, Joy, who is very even by temperament, wanted to try to go through the teen years rather smoothly. But there is a passage from little child,--dependent on Mom and Dad, to the place where our teens begin to own their own convictions, exercise their own authority and will. All teens experience the growth process a little differently, but all must go through the growing pains of dependence to independence. Tension is natural when children pull away from childhood to become strong, mature adults.
Joy officially entered this phase, as did all of her siblings. and had to go through her own story of ups, downs and high emotions. I am very blessed because Joy has a great heart and she is patient with her not so perfect or patient mom. All of my children, somewhere in the teen years, (and sometimes a little earlier) suddenly, out of nowhere, started having issues with normal life moments (emptying the dishwasher, fussing over minor things--like who washed the dishes last; tears over chores and every day rhythms of life.
Little attitudes of anger and frustration began bubbling up out of the blue. I am not talking about immorality or rebellion--those are serious issues that many teens experience.
But, out of experience, I have learned a lot from my other three after years of not understanding what was going on or how to bear with the ups and downs.
Hormones are present in boys and girls.
Boys can become emotional as well as girls.
Normally easy-going agreeable girls and guys become moody or different. It is a part of growing towards independence and is a process of growing up. One of my strongest memories was when I asked easy-going Joel to empty the dishwasher. All of a sudden this gentle-spirited young man became a lion and you would have thought I had asked him to give his life as a ransom for the other kids. He went ballistic. "Why does everyone eat so much? They all make messes every day and there is no end to dirty dishes around here--everyone needs to become responsible for their own messes. (couldn't have agreed with him more--but this was just about a 5 minute job of emptying one dishwasher.) Sarah spent many moments of her teen growing up years with teary moments. Joy and Nate are more the extrovert, free with words and attitudes types.
But the mood swings and teen issues and choices make for some bumpy roads. Seems for me that this is when parents get weary of their ideals and begin to compromise on issues. Then there are social media issues-- facebook, cell phones and media. Most kids this age have a lot of pressure to conform and want so much to have friends and community. Often the community of good companions grows smaller than in the elementary years, because it is a time when teens start going off into dangerous areas.
I think it is difficult for moms to remember that their children have good attributes during a hormonal explosion and wide variety of volatile emotional discussion. Talking things through can take hours and hours.
Joy is a great small discipleship group this summer. I went to the mother-daughter component last week. An "expert" on teens talked to the moms. "Don't be surprised at the expression of emotions. Even if they say they don't like you, don't believe them! Love them anyway. Be firm, have standards, but spend lots of time in friendship and conversations!" I agreed with most of what they had to say. Relationship, relationship and investing time--even when you don't think they want it--is very important.
Though Sarah, 25, tells me she is glad that I kept on her about "attitudes" and didn't let her get away with much, she tells me that it was the times we went walking every morning, the personal times of reading a magazine together, the coffee times--that kept her heart close to mine and to the Lord. For the boys, I followed with taking them to breakfast, loving them, talking, lots of chocolate chip cookies and back scratches and pursuing them no matter what they acted like.
My verse for teen years is, "A gentle answer turns away wrath." and "It is the kindness and mercy of the Lord that leads to repentance." In other words, we are supposed to be the mature, loving constant ones--even though we have given our life blood and time for so many years. I am here to say they do come out of it and they do learn to see Mom as the anchor that held their lives together with the grace of God.
Of course some actions require strong measures, but I was thankful for these relational reminders from Joy's group leaders last week. Just thinking about this phase all over again--and here I was hoping that I would just get out of it this time. But I am blessed with my sweet girl and want to love her better through it all and end well. Deep breath. Depending on God's grace again and seeking to walk in His grace. Courage, to all of us who engage in our children's training in righteousness and lives. It is worth the cost of all the time and emotional investment and prayer. These precious ones are our future generation of adults.