Two teenagers

Two teenagers

Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011 8:01 pm
By: Lisa Smartt

It’s been a while since we’ve had toddlers at our house. We don’t even have pre-teens anymore. As of yesterday, those years are officially gone. We are now the proud parents of two teenagers. Thirteen and fifteen-year-old boys.

When I posted that fact on my Facebook page, a myriad of comments were forthcoming. Some were words of condolence. Others were words of encouragement. Some came from parents whose children are adults now. They mentioned the brevity of parenting teenagers and encouraged us to enjoy every remaining minute.  Our younger son’s thirteenth birthday has given me a good opportunity to ponder what it means to be a teenager. And what it doesn’t mean.

There are two common schools of thought when it comes to teenagers. The first is the assumption that most teenagers are miserable and rebellious and hopeless. It’s the idea that hating one’s parents or drinking excessively or rebelling against all authority is a teenager rite of passage. I don’t believe it.  Look around and you’ll realize that teenagers don’t own the market on rebellion or overall foolishness. Some teenagers manage to love and obey their parents during this turbulent period of life. Some teenagers are extremely mature and hard-working while some thirty-year-olds are more rebellious or hopeless. 

Then there’s another school of thought. It’s the idea that teenagers are just like the rest of us. That we should expect them to act and talk and respond the way adults do. I once read a book that said our society gives teenagers an excuse toward immaturity and that we should not fall into such folly. The author believed that angry outbursts or periods of irresponsibility should never be tolerated in teenagers. He believed that teenagers had the potential to be as responsible and as emotionally sound as the rest of us. Yeah. I don’t believe that either. Teenagers go through a period of profound physical change that drastically affects their mood and emotional state. There’s a reason we don’t allow a fifteen-year-old boy to get married, find a full-time job, and rent his own apartment. He’s in a fog. He can’t think clearly. He’s not ready.

If I don’t really buy either of the above schools of thought, you may be wondering what I do believe about teenagers. It’s pretty simple really. I believe teenagers are “in process.”

Our teenagers are sometimes obedient, kind, and thoughtful. Five minutes later, they can be rude, disrespectful, and thoughtless. Sometimes they love us as though we’re their very best friends. Other times they think we’re harsh and unfair. One minute they seem brilliant. The next minute they forget simple instructions. They often feel happy. They often feel sad. Our job is to calmly bring some order into the chaos. While they’re on the emotional roller coaster ride of the teen years, a wise parent is standing on solid ground, holding their coats, and cheering them on.  

I remember my own years as a teenager. I describe it as insecurity mixed with acne medication and a need to be loved. My parents wisely helped me navigate those difficult years. They gave me boundaries while encouraging my personal freedom. They expected obedience but wisely tolerated a few slammed doors.  We like our boys. Maybe we like them because we realize we’re all “in process.” I often tell them, “It’s a good thing God gave us imperfect kids ‘cause he gave our kids imperfect parents.”

 

Contact Lisa at lisa@lisasmartt.com

wcp 2/10/11

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