(As originally published on HuffPost)
The litany of challenges facing teens in today’s modern culture mocks the floodwaters of generations past. Public is the new private for adolescents. Hard to fathom swimming in such shark infested waters when already weighed down by insecurities, body changes, and conflicting self-awareness. As a veteran teen raiser, I’m amazed by the tenacity exhibited by the Millennial population considering the ill-effects of growing up in a projector screen society.
Making matters worse is the fact teens are crazy. Not an insult, but a scientific statement. The frontal lobe of a human brain, the thing in our head capable of discerning, “If I do this, then that will happen”, doesn’t reach full development until the late twenties. Quite a ca ca meme scheme drummed up by our Creator. What was he thinking allowing a parent’s worst nightmare to coincide with a parent’s worst nightmare, i.e. teenager AND non-working brain?
As a mom who at one point housed three cards short of a full deck under her roof at the same time, I found little solace in the irony. Until I did. Rapid cycling emotions and bewildering fads aside, teenagers have more of a grip on the world than adults give them credit for.
After being a teen, raising a teen offers an enlightening juxtaposition of reason. As a parent, you have the benefit of wisdom and experience; bi-products of evolved forward-thinking. The knowledge both snares you with exasperation when your teen does something stupid, and strokes you with benevolence when considering your jaded past. But because you can better see Yellowstone beyond the pine in your face, when your kid cries, “Uh, I never thought of that”, it’s easy to fume, “How on earth could you not see this coming?”
Choosing to accept the third world make-up of our teen’s brain gives them some leeway to screw up. And screw-up they will. On repeat. Just like we did. Multiple times over.
Today’s teens face temptations, communication mediums, and generational juggernauts leap years ahead of the challenges present in the seventies and eighties. The narcissistic pretense of instant everything, evil of streaming porn, and ever-widening availability of addictive substances on neighborhood street corners creates a vacuum of disasters waiting to happen. And this is only the short list of crouching lions looking to pounce on a teen’s well-being.
Becoming wise to the nuances of the current teen streetscape helped me recognize my parent pride and ignorance. My husband and I chose to build a bridge between our personal teen experience and our kids harrowing reality. Because teens can sniff out a hypocrite a magnificent mile away, we were transparent about our mistakes, poor choices, and misguided pursuits. Walking across the plank towards independence “together” built rock-solid trust between us.
Teens also endure a perpetual balancing act on the high wire of change. Hormonal, emotional, physical, spiritual, relational, communal, psychological metamorphosis all coalesce on the road from dependence to independence. The upheaval creates an even greater need for teens to love and be loved. A longing which, at a genuine level, requires depth and certitude, honesty and freedom—all things grossly contorted in the era of technology.
The 24/7 world of texting, snapping, posting, and tweeting about everybody’s business shallows even the best-intentioned waters. The incessant cyber gibber and constant contact waters down and glosses over authentic relationship. The result is a cesspool of insecurity reflecting the illusion of meaningful connection.
Observing my teens navigate these waters weighed on my heart. I grew to appreciate the vital importance of the following truths:
- Today’s adolescents need caring adults to model authentic communication; a give and take of listening and sharing based on trust and appreciation.
- The teenage brain functions in the now. Therefore, it is imperative to express our gratitude, acceptance, understanding, and compassion today even if we are still fuming over their failures, mishaps, and antics tomorrow.
- We need to meet our teen right where they are, not where we hope they will be or wish they were already.
- Teenagers desire to be known for who they are, what they stand for, and what they believe whether we agree or not. Even though their journey of self-awareness is still ongoing, accepting them at each step along the way breeds hope.
Parenting through teendom transformed me into the woman I am today. The footprint I leave on the world will include, in large part, the influence of my beautiful kids in their most difficult years. The mini battles around expectations, drawn-out wars over rules, peer drama, emotional storms, adversity et al, and haphazard mania refined my spirit. And the blessing of raising them is a purified soul.
The reality is, raising teens made be a better human. For years leading up to this stage, I worried and vexed and grayed while assuming the formidable stage would be a disaster. I thought for sure I’d fail as a mom and screw up my miracles for good. Until I didn’t. Thank you, the mystique of prayers, Goose over ice, and God’s grace.
Enjoy your teens. Learn from them. Love them hard. Pray for them harder.
Love your teens, crazy Mommas!