Teenagers: Some Scattered Thoughts

I’m not sure how we got here so fast, but Sarah and I find ourselves the parents of three teenagers.  Maddie is 18, Jake is 16, and Riley is nearly 14.

Life has taken a weird form for us.  We negotiate multiple schedules, wade through the daily deluge of mail from colleges for the older two, and work through big decisions based on imminent empty-nester status.

This is all very unsettling to me.  Where has the time gone?

I’ve been trying to get my head around all of this on my walks recently.  I don’t think I’m getting anywhere close.

But I’m struck by the same few thoughts.

First, I’m impressed by my parents.  I’m discovering that it takes wisdom to change and adapt as children develop and grow.  Looking back, my parents did this pretty well.

Second, I really like our kids.  They’re smart, funny, and really interesting.

When Sarah and I were (far too) young parents of small children, we inhabited a church community very anxious about raising perfect kids.  How else would God be glorified but through perfectly-behaved 3 year-olds who could sit quietly through long church services?

I can see now that “God’s glory” was just rhetoric that masked parental pride, but all that social pressure made us pretty frustrated and miserable parents.

It’s been ages since we stopped treating them as projects and began enjoying them as people.  That was a big turn for us, and we find ourselves seriously delighting in our kids.

Third, I’m going to really miss them.  Conceivably, Maddie and Jake will both move out of the house in the next year and a half.

This is tough to think about.

I find myself alternately initiating two very different conversations.  One day, I’m talking about choosing a major, and the next I’m encouraging them to consider taking a year out before heading off to college.

I’m not looking forward to their leaving home.

Fourth, in the modern West, raising kids often coincides with building a career.  It isn’t easy to give both the attention they require.  I don’t know what else to say about that other than this arrangement is ripe for disaster.

Fifth, If I ever write a parenting book, I’m going to title it, Don’t Worry, You’ll Screw It Up: But If You Learn to Laugh at Yourself, They’ll Love You Anyway.

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8 responses to “Teenagers: Some Scattered Thoughts

  • phillip

    You could use Paul’s Apocalyptic view as a template for your book!

  • Gus

    Thanks for writing this, Tim. Although I have no idea what it would be like to be an empty-nester, since my boys are 2 & 5, your reminder of enjoying them as people is timely! Many times it’s more about peer pressure than biblical conviction.
    I am thankful for God’s grace, that though I will screw things up, I can trust in him.

  • asheritah

    I would totally read your parenting book if you titled it so, even if I wouldn’t have known you from Adam. Come to think of it, I’m in favor of you writing a parenting book regardless of title!

  • Jaime

    Tim,
    As the father of two and 2/3s children, ;) all of whom are under 4 years old, I have to agree that it seems like time goes so fast. I don’t ever remember thinking that my parents were using me to feel good about themselves. I knew that they had desires for me, and that they celebrated my successes, but I don’t remember feeling any pressure to “perform”.
    I’m trying to enjoy my children and recognize their gifts, talents, and desires so that I can help them dream. I know that the teenage years will probably bring their fair share of tension, but I hope that I’m pouring in the love, patience, kindness, and grace that they will need to trust God in those years and the rest of their lives. I know that I learned to trust God largely because I felt I could trust my parents. I want the same thing to be true for my kids.

    By the way, you must have gotten started really young because you don’t look old enough to be the father of three teenagers. :)

    Grace and Peace,
    Jaime

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