I remember when my kids were babies and toddlers, well-meaning parents would warn me “You think THIS is hard? Just wait until they get to be teen agers…then it gets REALLY hard.”
Wow. Thank you for that encouragement???
In my sleep-deprived, round-the-clock stupor, I had no idea how parenting could be any harder than it was when I was doing nothing but feeding, changing, burping and rocking the tiny one, while simultaneously chasing, disciplining, entertaining, cleaning up behind and otherwise saving the life of the bigger one.
That was hard. REALLY hard.
It was hard in a physically demanding sort of way. But, oddly, I felt like I knew what I was doing. I mean, I instinctively understood how to soothe my infant. I understood that a cry meant only a handful of things. I knew that if I threatened to put my toddler in a time-out, I’d better be prepared to follow through. I understood that babies and toddlers need love, limits and structure. And, for me, the main challenge was making certain I got enough rest and adult interaction so I didn’t completely burn out before they entered kindergarten.
But this phase of parenting—adolescence and teen years—is different. The stakes are so much higher. As a new mom, I got dogmatic about breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, family bed or crib. And five years later, no one asks or cares or even remembers. It all seemed like a very big deal at the time…but it wasn’t. With most of those things, there’s barely a “right” or “wrong” as long as I am loving and nurturing my babies.
But now, if I make the wrong decision, the consequences can be immediately damaging. The consequences can linger into every relationship, from here until forever.
If she makes the wrong decision, it could change the course of her life—not just this earthly life, but her eternal life, too.
Now, I’m dealing with the influence of peers, teachers, other parents, the fashion industry, Hollywood, the music industry, the internet, her own fears and insecurities.
And Satan. Who, oh-by-the-way, lies to her every day, looking for ways to steal every measure of God-given innocence and holiness.
This stage of parenting feels so much more like war than I ever anticipated.
There’s a fine line between discouraging a young mother and being authentic with her about struggles. I never want to be the older mom who discourages the younger mom. But neither do I want to be the mom who paints such an unrealistic, rosy picture of family life that no one can relate to me. I don’t want to be the mom who hides her struggles so well that no one thinks I have them. As a blogger, I could easily accomplish this—-I can portray myself to be as perfect as I choose. You will never know the difference. As a neighbor, as a fellow church member, I could wear The Mask and never let you in.
But what happens then? What happens when another mom in the throes of the middle school/high school years searches for affirmation and empathy, but meets The Mask instead?
That’s fertile ground for Satan’s lie to take root: “Everyone’s got it together except you. What’s wrong with YOU? You’re the only one. You are alone.”
I’m sorry, but I’m not participating in The Mask. And I’m not participating in the lie. I’d rather expose the lie. Expel the lie. And even though the truth may be difficult to hear, I’d rather feed you the truth about parenting, as I experience it, first hand.
So, this is the truth I want you to know today:
Children are miracles. Truly. They are gifts, I believe, straight from God’s throne to our arms. And there will be many, many days and nights of laughter and peace and pure delight while you raise and nurture your children (most of those days happen between the ages of four and ten.)
But there will also be difficult days. I mean excruciatingly difficult days. There will be days where you wonder what you said or did (or did not say or did not do) to provoke a certain reaction.
There will be days when you say, “Eat your vegetables,” (just as you have since they were pureed on a tiny spoon) but she will hear, “Mom thinks I’m fat.”
There will be days when you ask how she is, and she will say, “Fine.” But really, she’s been bombarded with images of perfection or immorality and she is not feeling fine, but inadequate and unworthy.
There will be days when a classmate makes a stupid comment about her hair or her clothes or the pimple on her cheek and she will conclude, “I’m ugly.”
There will be days when she makes terrible decisions and hides them from you.
There will probably be days you wonder if she’s heard anything—one single word—of the truth you’ve been sowing into her heart her entire life.
There will be days when someone else will hurt her with words or looks or judgment or unreasonable expectations, and you won’t be able to fix it.
There will be days, when the only thing you know to do is to plop yourself onto her unmade bed in her unkempt room and cry out to God for…shoot, you won’t even know what to cry out for. It will sound more like an ache. A groan.
But the God who created her, who carried her from His throne to your arms, will know exactly what she needs. What you need. And you must trust Him.
if you are the mom of a teen, having a day or week or season like this—where it’s harder than you hoped, where it feels like a war—you are not alone. If you’ve never felt more clueless, more dependent on God than you do today—you are not alone. Moms all over the world are crying into pillows, rubbing their temples and groaning for strength. I am right there with you.
And we will trust Him together.