I spend a lot of time with teenagers. I attempt to teach them Chemistry at a time when it is wrecking their bodies and scrambling their emotions.
I’ve seen them cry over the end of their first “real” relationships. I’ve witnessed their disappointments at being left behind by a peer group or at not being chosen for a team. I’ve watched them fail tests. I’ve seen them get their feelings hurt by friends they’ve known since the second grade and I’ve watched them blink back their tears.
I’ve seen them struggle through issues way too big to belong to them. I’ve watched them cope with tragedy and death. I’ve witnessed their strength and I’ve hugged them when it crumbles. I’ve seen them be kind when no else was and I’ve seen them take risks when everyone was watching.
They grow up in front of me everyday. I get their jokes, their stories. They tell me how their games went the night before. I’m new, and different, and not their parents. They give me their best versions. All the things they used to save for you.
There will be a few more years of this, until they come back to you. Until you start getting their best again. Until they realize a their home was never a house–but a person. Until you go back to being the only people who’ll understand instead of the ones who never will.
They are teenagers and I can only imagine how much their independence stings.
My daughter is three. She’s spent all summer glued to my hip. I longed for her naptime so that I could sit untouched and unbothered on the couch. I tolerate copious amounts of the affection you now crave and one day, sooner than I think, I’ll be in your shoes. One day, I will miss this so much.
But this is what I can tell you. This is what I know.
You’re doing a great job.
So much so, sometimes, they even brag on you.
I ask them advice on my own daughter and their answers are honest and full of praise. They tell me about how you go to every game. How you make them go to bed, even if they aren’t done with homework, because you worry they don’t get enough sleep (You are right they don’t. Make them sleep.) They tell me about how you monitor their phones and what they watch on tv.
They tell me how they wish social media wasn’t something they couldn’t live without. About things that happen in the virtual world that will make your stomach turn.
They tell me stories about you. They listen when you talk politics, religion, the world. They talk about your jobs and about how hard you work. About the vacations you’ve taken and if you still eat dinner together.
They are proud of you.
They appreciate you.
They need you.
They probably won’t tell you that, but they tell me.
So, please allow me to pass this along:
You’re doing a good job. Keep being the parent that enforces the rules because they respect that. Be the parent who listens when they’ll actually talk, because they need so bad to be heard. Keep talking to them because the words you say matter, now, and more so, one day when you’re gone. And encourage them because their days are so full and the world has changed in ways we cannot understand.
Keep guarding their hearts and protecting them from the influences of the world. Keep listening to your gut and if it says they aren’t ready–then they aren’t. For the television show, for new cell phone, for the outfit, for the app, for the first date…
In a world that is spinning way too fast, don’t be afraid to hit the brakes for them. Keep being their parent and if you’re unsure how, then just be there until you figure it out.
One day they will thank you for all this, but until then–I will.
Thank you for raising great kids. Thank you for their manners and the way they make me laugh. Thank you for their confidence and their kindness. For their effort and their grace. Thank you for making sure they get enough rest and that they know that love isn’t measure in electronic hearts. Thank you for asking how their days went and what’s going on with their friends. Thank you for slowing them down, when the world around them tells them there’s no need to wait. Thank you for raising your kids, so teachers don’t have to. Thank you for giving them responsibilities and the space to form their own opinions.
Thank you for giving your best to people who seem to appreciate it the least.
Your job is the most important one in the world.
So, thank you.
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