Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dear Teen I am your Mom AND your friend

This blog post may not be popular with everyone and I may get some push back on it.  We may have to agree to disagree.  And, like with so many parenting issues, there is always the chance I'll get some more experience under my belt and I'll change my stance.  But, right here, right now, in THIS moment with a 16 year old daughter, I have very purposely chosen to be her friend.

Don't get me wrong.  She knows the boundaries and she knows that look on my face or tone in my voice that tells her I'm not kidding around anymore.  See, all those boundaries were set up long, long ago.  I'm a firm believer in allowing kids their consequences to their actions and we've spent a good 13 years on setting limits, allowing consequences, etc.  (I say 13 and not 16 because she's my oldest and it took me a few years to find my groove in the discipline area!!)  I know that a child's values are set somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12 and I concentrated on those years pretty hard.  We've been through groundings, loss of privileges, and many many conversations.

This girl knows my stories.  Within age appropriate timelines, I've told her my tales - yes, even the ones I'm not too proud of.  Oh, my goodness!  It is a humbling experience to look at this child who adores you and tell them how you messed stuff up really good at times.  But, if my children can somehow not have to repeat my same mistakes (although I know they'll find their own!) and learn from my life experiences, then choking on my pride is worth it.  

So, I guess you could say we're friends.  If you ask her, she'll tell you we are.  I was fully prepared to lose her.  I braced myself as she entered her teen years for her to dislike me, pull away from me, and decide I am completely dumb and out of touch.  But, I also have done my due diligence to NOT be out of touch.  I Snapchat!  I Instagram.  I tweet.  I listen to music that is not always my favorite.  Why do I do these things?  Because I want to be a teenager?  Not even a little bit.  (I wasn't even great at being a teenager when I was one.)  I do these things to stay in touch with my child - to read what she read, hear what she hears, and stay informed enough to help her navigate this crazy digital world our kids are growing up in.

She is now 3 months away from 17 years old.  We. Have. Raised. Her.  She knows what we do and do not expect.  She knows what our family values are.  She knows what is okay with us and what is not. We are not going to back track on that now.  I look to God as an example of the ultimate parent.  He sets out the guidelines for us, he allows us to suffer our consequences when we need to.  But, he is also the dearest, dearest friend.  So, why would I think I need to try to be different to my children?  I want to parent them and I also want to be their friend.

Why?  Because, please God let my daughter come to me if she messes up.  She is going to mess up.  How do I know that?  Because she is human.  And, because as a fellow human (for just a minute I'm pulling out of the parent role) I know what it means to be faced with temptation from every angle.  I know what it means to have every good intention but still blow it.  So, if she slips up and drinks at a party, Oh please let her call us instead of getting a ride home with one of her fellow party-goers.  My daughter's stance on purity is firm.  I pray she can stay true to that.  But, if she were to slip up and give in to satan's snare in that area one night, it breaks my heart in two to imagine her crying in her room alone.  I'm never going to say to my children, "It's okay.  Go on walking that path."  (God doesn't ever tell us that!)  But, I am going to say to them what I'd say to a friend in those moments.  "It's okay.  We all fall short.  How can I help you move past this?"  

The consequences to any of these actions are going to come at this point!  We are so far past simply grounding or shutting down the phone.  Not that there would never be reasons for that to happen.  We still have to discipline and we still have to parent.  But, as far as molding their character and instilling their values... that's pretty much done at this point!  Now it is about supporting them and helping them navigate.  There is a season for everything.  And, this season of parenting - at least for me and for this particular child - is about lying on her bed listening to her latest story at the end of the day.  It's about dancing like fools in the car.  It's about very frank (sometimes sort of uncomfortable - mainly for me) conversations about real issues.  It's about reserving judgement on the things that aren't moral issues so she will still come to me and share with me.  It's about staying plugged in to the issues these kids are facing in the here and now.  It's about being an authentic version of myself and displaying authenticity with my faith - admitting my past mistakes and my current ones.  

My ultimate goal for my children is that they have a real relationship with Christ.  It's bigger for me than saving face, it's more important than being right or keeping my pride intact.  It's the cornerstone of everything for me.  There are times God has allowed me my trials, there are times God has rescued me even when I was drowning in my own sin, there are times he's gently prompted me, and there are times he's downright gotten in my face and given me a little bit of "what for."  He knows me.  He knows what I need and when.  But, through it all, no matter what, he's been closer to my heart than any friend.  That's how he knows the what and when!  Why would I fashion my parenting after any other model?       

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