One thing I’ve learned, after almost 18 years of parenting, is that it doesn’t get easier, but it does change. Sure, there are seasons when you will coast along on the joy that vastly outweighs the physical or emotional weariness. I’m here to tell you though, that there will also be seasons where the joy feels like a treasure that needs to be dug out from under the rubble of exhaustion, frustration or sorrow. But the seasons of joy and ease will always come again.
As I parent my two, soon-to-be three, teens, I’ve found that they need me present for them, just as much as my toddler. They need my mind and heart engaged. While my toddler needs cuddles, play and physical help from me, my teens need a sounding board, a cheerleader and, far less often than I give it, my experience and wisdom. Often I see parents facing the teething troubles of teens differentiating and moving into their own identity by either clamping down and trying to control them or by releasing them to flounder.
In this simple phrase “Stay up for them”, I am trying to convey a philosophy for parenting teens. Stay up for them when they come in from a night out, stay engaged when you have other work to do, sacrifice your down time when they need to pour out their hearts or just feel connected.
It used to be that my parenting work ended at 8:00, at least until the first nighttime feeding. My husband and I would have our alone time. Now, we usually have at least two boys up until we go to bed.
But that time we spend with our teens in the evening has become one of my favorite parts of the day. They really are such fun, cool and interesting people. I am so glad that I chose to alter my expectations when it came to our evenings. I would have missed out on so much joy and connection had I insisted on maintaining my “down time”. I have the great honor of being their safe place to land during this season of growth and change. As they tentatively take steps out into the world, they can come back to me to remind them who they are and encourage them.
I love having teens. It is like the sweet, sweet reward for years of habit training and mess cleaning. They still have their moments. (Cont.)