This blog was written a few months ago and I am just publishing it now. I needed to let it percolate and seek the okay from family members, because it is real and a bit vulnerable…but hopefully encouraging to you as you know you don’t walk this parenting journey alone.
I do my best processing of life on airplanes. There is something about being confined to my own little space with no distraction except the occasional beverage cart or turbulent air pocket. I am trapped and it is blissful.
Out in the wide open world I have trouble containing myself. There is so much to see and do and be. I am constantly pursuing and being pursued in wonderful friendships, pouring time into my family and my relationship with the Lord. It too is blissful. Yet my heart and brain are so busy and full that I don’t find much time for quiet reflection. Which is why, right now, I am writing, almost 40,000 feet above the earth, traveling over cities and farmland and lakes, but in my own space of solitude with a blanket on my lap and a soda on the empty seat next to me.
Today I am thinking about parenting. We are in the throws of teenage life.
My husband took me to the airport this morning, he taking his own flights, me on another route, and we will meet up in New Jersey tonight and spend the day in New York City together tomorrow, just the two of us on a little 24 hour vacation. On the early morning car ride I brought up a sensitive topic—one of our children and how to navigate a promise we made to him and that we don’t fully agree on the appropriate reward at the end.
It is just one of the places we spend a lot of time lately-navigating our different opinions on parenting our teenager. Me from my background, my husband from his, we circle the issues over and over, slowly, slowly coming together in the center. It is taking time. It hasn’t been easy.
Up until our teenager parenting years we were always on the same page as mom and dad. A unified front. But what I have realized is that teenagers will peel back all the layers of ourselves, down to the tender core. The stakes feel high. We can see the clock running out on their time with us and we care SO darn much about the people they are growing into.
Teenagers expose our messy, darker sides as we fight to control our emotions, have endless patience, and exhaust ourselves seeking the wisest way to handle each and every situation.
Growth. It is a constant companion these days.
Just this week I smiled with clenched teeth at my daughter in the orthodontist’s waiting room as she argued with me in front of a room full of parents paging through magazines. I reached for her phone after asking her to put it away several times and she pulled it away, thinking we were playing a game. I. Was. Not.
The playful arguing continued, evoking raised eyes and sideways glances from the people sitting around us. Until we got into the car…and I lost it. Unfettered emotion and frustration and embarrassment spilled all over her. She began to cry.
I had surprised her. She thought I thought it was funny, that we were just goofing around. By all my outward signs she was right in her interpretation—getting publicly mad at my daughter and creating a scene is about as comfortable to me as sitting on a cactus. So in the moment I play with fake smiles and clenched teeth “Please give me your phone…”. When inside I am wrapping up more and more tightly, like a coiled spring.
The emotion and tears and raised voices continued all the way home. It was messy. In our driveway, my daughter and I sat and talked it out. I said I understood how she misinterpreted the situation, and that I was very sorry for not handling it better once we were alone. She apologized for arguing and not being respectful. We agreed to do better, both of us.
My tender core. Needing growth, again. So much stretching and learning and being humbled.
And then last night, as we celebrated Father’s Day on our back patio on a stunningly beautiful Colorado evening, my girls called, “Mom! Come hold our feet!” They were upside down, a 19 and 15 year old, in the grass trying to imitate a paired headstand yoga pose they had found in an Athleta magazine. Giggling uncontrollably.
I walked through the grass, stepping on the thick blades and over dog poop land mines. Holding the magazine in the air my girls said, “Hold our feet together this way!” Laughing, I tried…to hold their feet… but they couldn’t both stay in their pose at the same time. Breathless and giggling they kept falling over.
I could only grab one leg and then as the other child’s leg came up the first one would fall. More giggling, “Try again!” More grabbing and falling and mismatched poses. Breathless laughing. “Once more Mom!” We never got it. And it didn’t matter. The point wasn’t “getting it”. The point was the moment together, the laughing and trying and falling.
That is the Parenting Teenagers Experience. Wanting to grab all their feet and connect them in perfect synchronicity to hold the perfect yoga pose. No falling. No multiple tries. Spot on the first try. Wanting the beautiful, composed image of a happy healthy family, like the sculpted Altheta models on a beach in Tahiti or somewhere. Peaceful. Perfect. Balanced.
But instead, grabbing one child solidly only to lose grip on the other. Lot’s of falling over, lots of trying, never quite in sync.
I call these “almost poses.” Almost always showing grace and patience and forgiveness. Almost responding the right way every time. Almost completely understanding each other’s point of view. Almost perfect.
Sometimes this place of “almostness” feels really discouraging. I feel like I should have mastered how to react to stressful situations with my kids at this point, know the wisest call to make at every new issue, and how to always be on the same parenting page with my incredible husband by now.
Other times, when I am in a healthy spiritual place, I see this “not yet there” as a gift of the journey. God has work to do in me, in my husband, in our children. He can’t grow perfect people. He can’t use perfect families to demonstrate forgiveness and mercy and grace and hope.
God wants to sanctify me—the process of renewal and change for His purpose and aligned with his heart.
This is done, I am realizing, in “almost poses,” clumsy and surrounded by poop land mines, and meltdowns in the car. It is where he can do his best work.
Not on a beach in Tahiti.
Those of us who are in this phase of life know what I am talking about. I would encourage you to find a friend who is willing to share about the hard parts, who is striving to be the best mom possible, and walk this journey together.
I have several of those friends, but one in particular, who lives a over a thousand miles away and is walking closely with me through these teenage parenting years. We text each week, sometimes call, sharing prayer requests, asking for advice. We are brutally honest and completely real. She is safe for me, and I for her.
We love our families with a fierceness that gets us in trouble sometimes, but we remind each other to embrace the process God is taking us all through. We sometimes get off the phone completely validated, and sometimes completely challenged to get back in the ring of raising great kids and showing up well for our husbands. It is awesome.
Find your people.
So press on fellow parent. Strive not for perfection but for sanctification.
I’m taking a sip of my Diet Pepsi now, gazing out at the patches of land below as the plane begins it’s decent.
We are almost there.
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