The exclamation points behind this word would lead one to believe there is a sense of frustration when saying this word. And ten years ago, that is exactly the emotion I thought I would have right about now. But, I am pleased to say that I don’t feel that emotion at all. I love having a teenager in my house. Actually, I have found them to be like roaches… where there is one, there are lots of them. So, my house is frequently full of these creatures. They are full of life. That generally energizes me.
Now that my son is a high school senior, we parent him differently than we did when he was seven. I was thinking about the different ways we have parented him throughout his life. And I realized that we have reduced the level of actual parenting as our influence in his life has grown. I would say that at this point we simply guide him from time to time and make ourselves available for consultation when needed. (Typing that makes me feel like he should be sending us monthly checks.)
I would probably classify these years to be from around 6 months old to around 8 or 9ish. These were the years that we were always instructing and correcting. And with Josh, there was a lot of correcting!! (Love you, son!) It seemed like we said the same things over and over. We controlled the influences in his life, like friends, tv, music, and books. We tried to give reasons for our no’s. But, honestly, there wasn’t always time. While we were in the early years, we weren’t sure we were doing anything right. I just thought that if I could keep him out of therapy, I would count that as a success. Kidding!! It was a challenge raising a kid whose brain (and limbs) never stopped moving.
During this time, we also tried to get to know him. Who did God create him to be? What are his passions? What are his strengths? Who is this little person who lives in my house and what am I supposed to help him do in life? There were times where I thought I was the one in need of therapy. Above all, we wanted him to have a relationship with God. So, we took time to point him in that direction on a regular basis.
From around age 9 to age 14 or 15, our methods shifted from instructing and correcting to monitoring. By this point, he understood what the rules were. He knew what he was allowed to do and not do. He knew our expectations. This was a time where we let him venture out more on his own. He stayed at friends’ houses, etc. We didn’t micromanage the influences in his life. We had developed a trust and respect for each other. He knew we were the parents. And we trusted him as long as he continued to obey our rules. We spent more time talking during this time about the reasons why we made the choices we did. Our goal was to train him how to think. We pointed to examples of others’ consequences when they were available. You usually don’t have to look far to find people making poor choices. We worked on our relationship with him during these years. We built memories and had fun.
These years were full of different kinds of frustrations. They weren’t the same as the early years. Mostly, we just wondered if he would ever “get it.” Trying to figure out what motivated him was always a challenge. But, we were starting to feel a little more confident in our parental strategies. Though it was slow progress, it was still forward momentum and that was encouraging. Still, the horror stories of the “teen years” that we heard from others made us wonder if all of this was going to work in the long run.
Full Blown Teen Years
Age 15 through, well, now have mostly been a pleasure. Was this what we were afraid of? I’m a little afraid to exhale, I think. The boy is making great choices. He has made great friends. He has his own personal relationship with God. I would say that we are now parenting mostly through influence. We’ve taught him how to think and as many life skills as we could think of. Now, it is his time to test out his own theories and see how they work.
Our struggle now is in letting him make his own mistakes and not rescuing him from consequences. I’m still Mom. I want to protect him. I birthed the boy, after all. But, we feel that it is important for him to learn from his own dumb choices while we are still footing the bill for his everyday needs. Let’s face it, most of us learn the hard way. So, the sooner he learns some of these life lessons, the better.
He now comes and goes according to his own schedule. And, we take advantage of any time he has to spend with the family. He keeps a pretty busy schedule and isn’t home a lot.
What’s to come next?
I expect that he’ll make some good choices and some bad ones too. I’m hoping that we don’t freak out if his life doesn’t fall into our predefined mold of happiness for him. Actually, I think we should just throw out the mold and stand by his side through the good times and bad. He’s a great kid. And even if he makes some really dumb choices that have some terrible consequences, he’s still a great kid. And he will always be our great kid.
I expect that he’ll do just fine. I can’t wait to see how he charters his own life and where he chooses to go. One thing I’m sure of, he’ll have a lot of fun along the way.