You want me to do what???? Even though I have been parenting for what now is most of my life, I wondered whether or not I was qualified to lead a parents-of-teens class at our church. I knew first-hand the roads fraught with bumps and detours, sleepless nights and moments of pure joy in the parenting journey. Now on the other side, wiping the perspiration from my brow, I do marvel at my adult children and responsible adults successfully parent their own children and enjoy our teen-aged youngest son who shows positive signs of following in their footsteps.
That, I decided, is what I can share with other parents: I am living proof that each parent will journey into uncharted waters, each child will make their transition from child to adult uniquely their own experience, miracles do happen, and surprises are often really good things!
In preparation for this year’s class, I read more books on parenting. One in particular tells a story that I feel compelled to share…a story that exemplifies a promise my own parents demonstrated to me until the end of their lives and what I told each of my four children and my grandchildren…I will always be there for you. On pages 44-45 of the book Teen-ology by Jim Burns, PhD, he footnotes his source, Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (pg. 266-267): Following a devastating earthquake, a desparate father began digging through the rubble of a flattened school building where his son attended. This dad focused on the area where he thought his son’s classroom might have been. Nothing could deter his effort…not hands raw and bleeding, not flagging energy, not other discouraged parents suggesting he too give up, go home and grieve. This father remembered he had promised his son that he would always be there for him, and refused to quit. Many, many hours later, as he pulled away yet another boulder, he heard his son’s voice. Calling into the pile of rubble hoping for affirmation that it was indeed his son’s voice, the determined father heard a reply, “Dad, it’s me. I told the kids not to worry. I told them if you were alive, you’d save me and then they’d be saved too. I told them your promise to always be there for me.”
I don’t know any parents who would not crawl over broken glass or dig through rubble for days to find their child. But, do these same parents verbally express this commitment of love and sacrifice to their child? As with my parents, it may be implied and lived while not specifically articulated.
Parents of teens, there is nothing more important to give your child than the blessing of your promise (and follow-through) to always be there for them…no matter what. Speak to them of your unconditional love and acceptance. What lies ahead in your journey may be situations messy, ugly, even ones that completely baffle your intellect and emotions…consequences of choices made. Teenagers say they don’t need you, but they do. The years between childhood and adulthood for today’s teens are a minefield of emerging desires, conflicting messages, fluctuating emotions, and a pull toward independence…and an expectation that it’s okay to linger just outside the door of maturity and responsibility beyond the teen years.
The journey is mysterious for both parent and child and your teen needs guidance, a sense of security, and a listening ear. Necessary to the completion of the metamorphosis of your child is failure, followed by getting up, dusting off, and trying again…for both the parent and the teen. Walk with your child through the minefield. Unwavering and unconditional love will bless your child for the rest of their life. No one cares more for or has invested more in your child than you.
Accepting the challenge to walk with parents of teens in their journeys, I share this insight…the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train!! It is the heart-warming reward for perseverance and a job well done!! The true reward is when your adult child comes back and says, “Thank you.”
Keep in mind that you as a parent are not alone either. God promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5. Hold on…buckle up…the ride is unbelievable!
God bless you!