God is a practical joker. Now some of you may disagree, but I have no doubt. Let me tell you why I have come to this conclusion. Just think of the number of little girls who get baby dolls along with all the accessories for Christmas. They are so adorable as they care for and tend this little life-like baby. They change her diaper, give her a pacifier, feed her a bottle, and on occasions, some of these babies have the grand experience of being breast fed by their 3-year-old mommy. We all know that most little girls have an innate longing to become a real mom. I am sure this desire has been implanted within them for good reason–the continuation of the human race. So, they grow up, eventually meet Mr. Right, and in time, cannot resist bringing one of those cute little cherubim into their home, and oh, what joy they feel. There are so many proud mothers and fathers walking around with their cute little bundle of joy.
So, where is the joke? Notice that at Christmas time the little girl did not get a teenage doll– you know the life-like kind that talks back and can make some of her own choices, one who stays out past her curfew, wrecks the car, brings home a bad report card, and on and on and on. Can you imagine taking your new teenager to his “baby” shower and everybody gathering around telling you how cute he is? No! So, God planned it so these new little people come down so cute, sweet, and innocent, that when we think of becoming parents we get caught–hook, line, and sinker. The good news is that when we first see them, our hearts melt and we instantly love them (something we might not do if we started out with a 16-year-old).
Now don’t get me wrong, I love teenagers and work quite closely with this age group in a church setting as well as having raised four of my own. My children are wonderful–Meghan 25, Trevor 22, JaNae 20, and Dallin will be 18 in another two weeks. Notice, however, that I said wonderful, not perfect. I’ve told my children at various times that I don’t expect them to be perfect. I remind them that they only have one perfect parent, and therefore, I will cut them some slack (I leave it up to them to determine which parent is perfect, but I slip them an extra $100 after I have one of these discussion with them). As good as they have been, there still have been difficult times, and the difficult times don’t stop after they leave their teenage years.
So, what is the main difference between these cute little babies and these growing teens? Well, the obvious is that teenagers are not nearly as cute. In fact, we all know they go through that awkward gangling stage along with the dreaded pimple break out and personality change that is evidence of their going through puberty. But, there is something more. Teenagers have more agency (the ability to make choices) than a baby and the discovery of that agency empowers them. True, they haven’t reached the point of having complete agency, at least they shouldn’t if they have caring parents, but even when they have involved parents some simply choose to rebel.
My heart truly goes out to those parents whose child and/or children have seriously rebelled. I know that even good teenagers are difficult to raise as they discover their agency and go through the process of learning how to use it appropriately. Nevertheless, I believe in parenting. I believe that parents have a great deal of influence for good and bad in their children’s lives. I believe we can and must make a positive difference in teaching them responsibility for their choices and to do this it will be imperative that we, at times, allow them to fail. We also must realize that although we are a great influence in their lives, we are not the only influence in their lives. There are other influences that they face daily that are, most certainly, competing with the values we are trying to instill within them. Therefore, when we have done our best and our children still do not embrace a value system that we feel is in societies and their best interest, we must refuse to accept the guilt that will try to plague our minds.
I have a professor, Dr. Shiue, a brilliant mathematician with a sense of humor that keeps the class interesting. Of course, I admit that his sense of humor might be appreciated most by fellow mathematicians. There are many mathematical terms and symbols that he considers his babies–he gives them names. Well, he calls teenagers the √2. Why? For those of you who understand the concept of rational and irrational numbers, you will recognize √2 as irrational. Yet, I think there are reasons that teenagers must go through this irrational stage. First, for their benefit, it is essential in their process to become completely independent of their parents. And secondly, for our benefit, it is essential in order for us to let them move on. As much as I hate seeing my kids leave the nest, their teenage years make it easier for them and especially for me to let them go. It still isn’t easy, but I believe it is much easier than letting go of that cute little four-year-old who greeted me with hugs and kisses every time I walked in the door and still thought that I was the greatest person alive. Yes, I loved each of my teenagers and I am grateful for the journey we took together, but when my youngest leaves for college in just a few months, I will know that he is prepared to go even if for a moment I reflect back and remember him as the four-year-old he was just yesterday.
I know that I didn’t keep within the subject I said my next blog would be about, but consider this a step in that direction.
Until next time, remember 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4 [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog? (Feb. 17, 2011)]