It’s the weekend so maybe we should talk about raising teenagers? Is anyone else trying to figure it out and wondering how to do it right?
Raising teenagers feels just like driving I-15 at the Thanksgiving Point interchange. If you aren’t familiar with Utah and it’s never-ending project, the lanes are constantly moving around, the lines look like a drunk kindergartner painted the road, there are random splits and traffic barriers where you list expect them to be, and it’s an unpredictable ride every time – even if you were just in the same exact spot yesterday! Throw in a snowstorm and some heavy winds, and it feels exactly like raising teens! Or maybe that’s just my house???
Here’s what I know about raising teenage boys: Nothing is clear and it requires constant guessing, intuition, prayer, faith, and restraint each step of the way.
Last week, Boston had a heavy teenage day – nothing major, but definitely processing a lot of thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Teenage conversations are not for the faint of heart even on a normal day! The topics they face run the gamut and every conversation require lots of deep breathing on my part.
As I listen to my kids and want to jump into full-blown coach-mode or fight like a fierce mama bear, the Spirit often whispers “Forbearance.”
Forbearance: patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.
Meaning, “Ashlee, I know you want to go ballistic right now on that beautiful child of God in front of you, but shut your mouth. Smile. Listen. Remember a person to be loved is more important than the problem to be solved. Don’t have an opinion at this moment.”
I start to argue with the Spirit almost every time. “Surely you don’t want me to be quiet right now? Did you hear what he is talking about? That’s just wrong! I need to teach him the right way…”
“For real? Are you sure?”
This conversation takes place in my head about 3 times a week as I wonder how to navigate the myriad of issues. Do my kids know right and wrong if I don’t tell them when the moment comes up? Do they see the chaos around them and do they know where to find true peace and lasting happiness? Do they think it’s okay to do xyz or behave like others?
I press the Spirit again. “Are you totally sure? I could just say….”
And so I listen a bit more. I close my mouth and I calm my facial expressions so they don’t see I really do have an opinion about random kisses and the wild stories they tell me about more serious topics.
One thing I know for sure is that if my teen is talking and telling me the stuff he wouldn’t even tell all his friends, I must be quiet, without opinions, and show love above all. Forbearance.
I listened to Boston analyzing his friend issue, considering the text conversations he was having, and also navigating other situations. I listened and then he asked, “What do you think?”
And this is the part where I have learned to lean in even further. Today I wanted to say, “Dump those friends! They aren’t for you. Stop texting with that girl…it’s a waste of time. How are you going to handle this? Don’t you think you should….” But my trusty Guide whispered, “Forbearance.”
Instead at this moment, I speak confidence into his own abilities to solve his problems. I speak of his past successes working through hard moments. I remind him of Truths with a capital T. I reflect back what he has said to me and ask him the same question.
“You know…I think this all sounds like a lot. I am amazed at how you navigate all of it. I think you will know just how to handle it. Your heart sounds like it is guiding you better than I ever could…What do YOU think you should do?”
The conversation usually goes one of two ways right now. His face either brightens and he makes a decisive decision, choosing his own path. Or he emphasizes that he really does need input or help and we keep discussing his life.
If I don’t practice forbearance and bring forth my inner mama bear, the conversation breaks down. I don’t make the points I am trying to make and I lose the connection with this child who is on the path to become a man. I don’t want my fearful lines of questioning to run in his head for the rest of his life.
I have learned over and over that both my boys have more positives going on than I often realize! Boston has a good head on his shoulders. Granted, this is the same child that makes me shake my own head in wonderment at his lack of awareness…but I’m going for the long term game. I want him to feel strong and to trust in himself. I know it is his life to live and not mine. I have been pleasantly surprised more than once to hear Boston coach himself through a scenario, using philosophies and words that sound a lot like me. 🙂 (Kids really do learn by osmosis!)
He coached himself through everything, sighed and threw his body around like only a teenager can. And then I said, “Do you want to go jumping?”
You see, I am actually okay with my kids letting problems sit. I don’t need to fix them right now because I believe it’s healthy to know how to find peace even when life isn’t perfect. I knew Boston had gotten to the end of his conversation and that his problems will look different as time passes. Plus, moving the body changes everything. As Rachel Hollis teaches, “When you move your body, you change your mind.” Same you, new mood!
I caught him by surprise and I could see by his smile that taking time to just go be a kid was exactly the right thing.
On one hand, it doesn’t make sense to jump in the car at 5:30 to go play just as I should be making dinner….but, on the other hand, this is the best thing I could be doing.
It’s not about hiding from the problem or avoiding tough conversations.
It’s about giving my children the space to find answers and building resilience in the process.
Sometimes, (actually, all the time), I am stunned that God trusts me with these children. He knows I know nothing. He knows I am easily tripped up and mess up on the daily. And yet…He gives me time to figure it out. He lets me sit with my problems sometimes until I find my way. He reminds me to go play and that my problems will look different later on. And all the while he whispers things like… “You’ve got the experience to figure this out. You are doing better than you think you are. You’ve got this. What do YOU think?”
In past years, God’s approach would make me mad and frustrated…okay, last week it made me mad too! I was convinced that if He would just give me the answers, I would obediently follow every instruction. And yet, I think He ultimately wants the same thing I want from Boston. He wants me to be okay when things are not immediate. He wants me to learn to trust myself and to build my resilience. He wants me to recognize my own voice and use it. He wants my heart and is willing to be patient until I turn HIs way with a request for help.
I may not know how to raise teenage boys…but I know that He does. And if I can simply turn to Him and use a bit of listening (Forbearance!), we just might turn out okay together. All I know is that I am so grateful for the chance to keep hearing their crazy stories, for the moments I get to be on the inside, for the chance to watch them make mistakes and find their way.
Last night I cleaned the kitchen – every single pan washed and every crumb wiped until the counters shined like the top of the Chrysler building! Boston walked in at 8:30 and I wanted to say, “Please don’t make a mess! I just cleaned the kitchen.”
He scanned the fridge and pantry, pulled out a pan and started making eggs.
Ugh…there goes my clean kitchen which matters a whole lot to me but needs to not matter at this moment! Forbearance.
Instead, I said, “There are leftovers in the fridge (i.e…please don’t use that pan and make a mess…or if you use that pan, please wash it and make sure you rinse the sink too!)…” (Sometimes I just struggle to not say something which is why the Spirit has to keep working with me to just do this one thing!)
“I’m in the mood for eggs. All during sledding, I was imagining how many eggs I wanted to eat,” Boston replied. Well, okay then…
I watched Boston make his eggs as only a 15-year-old boy can…he has the finesse of a child who has grown up in a world with cooking shows and also leaves a messy trail as he works his magic!
I sat and listened to his crazy shenanigans until I could hardly keep being nice. This is a real thing…teens start talking the moment they sense you would rather go to bed! You’re available the entire day to serve and talk, but the last hour of the day is the one teens prefer. (And by last hour, I really mean the hour after you wanted to be in bed.) They talk and talk until you are ready to take a chopstick to your eyes, just to keep them open…they linger on your bed, taking more and more space, while you wish you could just fully spread out your legs if they would just go to bed! Instead, you must stay still (less you be accused of not caring enough), sharing your space and your snacks while they spread their wings and grow up.
I thought to myself, “This. This is what I want.”
I love seeing him do the basics of becoming a self-sufficient adult. I am so glad I kept my mouth closed. Forbearance!
You see, forbearance, prompted by the Spirit, is bringing me the moments of connection that matter most and God knows me well enough to know that I would likely kill those moments without His help.
He loves me enough to teach me to control myself so he can give me the gift of these incredible conversations and memories. He loves Boston enough to let him make his own mistakes and learn his own lessons without his mother interfering as much as she could. He loves all of us enough to give us a plan where the price is already paid for our mistakes and so He can give us a little bit of room while we figure things out, knowing it will all work out. He models the same patience He is inviting me to master.
I don’t always see it. Sometimes (even weekly), I wrestle and fight and ask questions and wonder…and yet, these little moments remind me that He must have it all figured out. If He is reminding me of a simple thing like “Forbearance” over a messy kitchen and scrambled eggs moment, He surely has a bigger picture that He alone can see. This is how I keep trusting Him and keep following when I don’t know. The little moments convince me to hope in the bigger miracles.
You know…bigger miracles like raising teenage boys to be solid decent humans.
In my mind’s eye, I suddenly see myself in 50 years when I am an old grandma. Our caretaking roles have reversed and I am now the one needing extra patience and tolerance from those around me. I flashback to this moment and know forbearance goes both ways. I need it towards my children but I also need it from God and so many others.
What can change in our lives and society if we all managed to practice just a tiny bit of forbearance? I dare say everything. Will you join me? Can we practice this single virtue and build connections with those around us? Can we increase our self-control and be generous with patience towards one another? Can we simply pause, restrain ourselves and be tolerant, starting in our own homes, this very weekend? I think so! It takes practice but I believe the results are worth it. Our kids crave true connections and love is at stake.
Have a fabulous weekend and if you have learned other truths that help you parent your teens, leave a comment! I’m constantly seeking to be better in this area!