Introduction: Parenting with the Teenage Years in Mind
You may know my story from previous blogs, but if you don’t a quick refresher is that my husband, Eric, and I got married young and started our family not long after our wedding vows. So these days, while most of our friends are still having babies, E and I have one out of the house, a few teenagers, and all our children are about to be over the age of 10. *begins throwing confetti*
The teenage years always looked scary to me, but are turning out to be some of my very favorite times with my cuties. It’s an adjustment, to be sure. There is such a big change in life from tiny people who need diaper changes to teenagers who take off with their friends on parentless adventures to exotic places like… the mall.
Parenting Young Children
Looking back, I see principles that crept into my parenting and helped me and my family greatly. In fact, I realize now that a lot of the parenting I did in those early years made such a difference to our family today. Parenting young children is really tough – no sleep plus lots of demand equals a sleep deprived, half-crazed momma. Yet, I believe the hard work of those early years has paid off for our family.
I don’t remember the moment I acquired all of these ideas and I suspect I owe a LOT of gratitude to the mommas who were just a bit ahead of me and taught me over the years – from families I babysat for as a teenager to mommas I sought advice from as a young married mother. I see them weaving through my life and our family.
Parenting with “Long Term Vision”
Something early on that shaped us was looking for the “big picture.” My husband and I want our eyes to see right in front of us and further down the road, too. When my first two were still tiny, I started to challenge myself to see parenting with “long term vision.” This often felt comical and much easier said than done because the day to day of parenting littles is so consuming. Sometimes holding on to hope that your child will learn to potty train or even read a book can take all of the energy you have.
Gaining long-term vision for our family started innocently one evening when our firstborn was still a baby. My husband and I were ending the day with chitchat and we began imagining our future brood and how they might look around the dinner table 15 years in the future. We envisioned our family laughing and at peace with each other. This vision sparked our parenting. We parented with an expectation that our children would be a blessing and enjoyable humans to be around.
Culture of the Home
How we speak to our cuties and each other is a direct result of this. My husband and I expect our children to be respectful and to speak kindly to one another and others. He and I speak kindly and respectfully to each other and each of our children. It’s the culture of our home. We also set aside time to pray, seek wisdom, and discuss where we see our family heading as individuals and as a family. Gaining long-term vision has given us goals, helped us prioritize our time, and given us hope for the future.
Something else that creeped into my understanding concerned friendship with my children. When my daughter, Amethyst, was still tiny, I loved spending time with her. Her little hugs and kisses were precious to me and I loved all of the time we spent together. As she grew, I greatly desired to see our relationship remain close even after she grew up and left our home.
Yet, I understood friendship and mothering were on a sort of sliding scale while my children grew. When my children were tiny, motherhood and not friendship was the predominant part of the relationship. Each day this microscopically changes until my kids leave home and our relationship moves into one predominantly of friendship with little mothering. My adult children will be equals in life and faith even as I am still mom and can be counted on for wisdom and help as needed.
Into Teenage Years
When my children were small, they needed boundaries and discipline so they could feel comfortable and confident of what I expected of them. Consistency is so important. But having time set aside for conversation without expectation or simply being available whenever my kids wanted me started when they were very young and has been a huge win for our relationship. Bedtime reading and back scratches, tickles and kisses when the millionth cup of water is asked for, and being patient when my teenager suddenly yearns to have a heart to heart right as the deep of night begins is not convenient, but has yielded huge rewards and set us on the path toward friendship.
Embracing the natural community that comes with having older children has been a blessing to both me and my children. There is no one on the planet who can see through you faster or knows you more honestly than your own children. Living honestly with them and being willing to listen to their feedback (as long as it is given with respect) and their critiques has gone a long way for us. I have grown and my children feel their voice is a valuable part of our family.
Two final things my husband and I highly recommend to other parents: being willing to repent to your children and being a trustworthy confidant.
Asking my kids to forgive me has been one of the most humbling things of my life. Starting when my children were very young, I would ask their forgiveness if I hurt their hearts or sinned against them. This one simple thing has been such a big part of makes our time together better. Being a trusted confidant is something else I cannot recommend enough. I have known mothers who over share their child’s business and wonder why their relationship is rocky, not realizing the one thing the child wants is a trusted place to share their heart and struggles without feeling all will be passed around by the next morning.
To Sum Up
All of these things have greatly impacted my family and I treasure them but sharing them with you over words on a screen instead of coffee on my porch is my least favorite way to chat about parenting. I want to hear your story and chat about the things you face. I don’t want the heart of my words to be lost because the words on a screen feel sterile. Plus, I know so many parts of each story is not represented here. This is simply an overview. You can’t see me day to day to know how these things play out and the grace it takes to persist.
If you wish to share your story or ask questions, please feel free to email me email@example.com. I would love to chat with you. And you can be sure I will have a coffee cup in my hand as I read your story.