ACK the Crazy of Parenting Teens

A friend posted a link to an article entitled, “WHY AREN’T WE TALKING ABOUT PARENTING TEENAGERS? I’M LOST AF.”

Before I even read the article (a great article) I had my response:
Because teens don’t want us telling their stories. Because we don’t want to mess up their lives any more by sharing with the world the stupid stuff they do. Because colleges/employers search the Internet before accepting/hiring. Because we don’t want the judgment of other adults who will look askance or, worse, tell us our kids would behave better if only we were better parents. Reasons aside, I do write about parenting teens on my blog: milagromama.wordpress.com

I started blogging in part because I spotted the hole in the Mommy Blog community. Mommy bloggers tend to have littles, not teens. At a writing conference, I asked advice of a respected blogger who told me she wished she’d begun her blog anonymously, that she had not posted her kids’ names or beautiful faces.

I asked my kids: Could I write my stories about our life together? Not tell their stories—they have their own stories to tell—but mine? I promised not to use their names or faces.

Without hesitation, they both gave me a big thumbs up. The younger one matter-of-factly stated: “Mom, you’re a writer. I can’t believe you don’t already have a blog.”

After reading the blog post this morning, I picked up my Bible. Funny: today’s reading came from Luke 2, when teenage Jesus ditches his parents’ caravan from the Passover festival in Jerusalem to sleepy old Nazareth to instead spend days in the Temple. At first his parents don’t miss him, but when they do, they’re frantic. I imagine Mary bursting into tears at the sight of him, and falling further apart when Jesus just doesn’t get why they’re upset. And then the narrator comments: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52).

Can’t you imagine Mary and Joseph, chatting over a late-night oil lamp-lit glass of Cabernet: Sheesh, everyone thinks he’s so great, and he is, of course he is, I love him so much, absolutely to pieces, but I just don’t know what to do with him!

If I think raising my own teenagers is difficult, how entirely confusing it must have been to be responsible for raising the Son of God!

As Renegade Mama wrote:
Parenting a teenager is the hardest, loneliest, most emotionally trying phase I’ve ever experienced as a mother, and by far puts the biggest strain on my marriage, and our family as a whole…. and this is the part that makes the whole thing so excruciating: They are these soaring, powerful creatures who you look at sometimes and cannot believe they’ve grown so strong, so whole, so complete in themselves.

I felt like a total loser in the early childhood phase of parenting. Exhausted beyond measure, setting timers to get me—and them—through the next fifteen minutes of whatever boring—to me, or them—activity we had engaged in, I thought I might lose my mind.

Some days I still feel like I’m losing my mind, though the circumstances have changed and the stakes are so much higher. While I love watching my boys grow, developing personalities and interests and friendships, while I love seeing the incredible, gifted, unique human beings they have become and are becoming, some days I’d give anything to be able to pick up the cranky-butt and plop him in a crib for nap time.

My husband and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage in a couple of months. We’re still going strong, but I will say that we’ve had our biggest ever fights over parenting teens.

With younger kids, there were regularly-scheduled pack play dates, all the moms (and available dads) with kids of various ages meeting at the school or park or someone’s home for a spontaneous gathering, often a potluck. That doesn’t work so well when the kids age into different social circles and have more of their own commitments.

Friends with younger kids have said, “I can’t relate to what you’re going through” aka, “Let’s change the subject.” Other friendships strained as friends with younger kids couldn’t understand why, as kids got older and one might think moms should have increased freedom, instead my priorities shifted and I had to be home all the time during off-school hours for the random moment when the kids might feel like talking.

Somehow, Big Kid’s peers have always seemed to be perfect, compliant children. Those kids never hit, or bit, or ran circles around—and obviously, knocked into—the littles (of the same age) who weren’t yet stable walkers. They never talked out of turn in class or wreaked havoc for Sunday school teachers and Scout leaders. Or, you know, worse. Because, teens.

Maybe they didn’t, maybe they did. Maybe their parents a) didn’t know or b) wouldn’t talk about it. When I talked about it (because we work hard to foster a relationship in which our kids tell us the truth, ugly as it sometimes may be), I received looks of pity, shame, even anger. Which made me want to talk less. And increased the loneliness.

Renegade Mama asks why we aren’t supporting the hell out of parents of teenagers. We should be. I try. Lord knows I need it, as do others. But we won’t get anywhere if we’re trying to hide our fears, our disappointments, our own and our kids’ imperfections. We won’t be receptive of nor forthcoming with support if we’re pretending.

These teens, they’re like unicorns: mythical, beautiful, colorful, magical. Parenting them can be maddening beyond belief, and as magical as they are. They spook easily, but I bet we’ll catch more of their majestic colors if we, as parents, stop spooking so easily.

Parents of teens, if you’re down to tell the truth, I’m here for you. We need each other. Let’s do this!

Creating a Written History

For all the crazy social media hoists onto our lives, it can also create sweet connections. Today’s guest writer and I attended the same college for a couple of years before life took us in different directions. But Facebook, and then blogging, allowed us to reconnect as friends and mothers and women making sense of life through writing. Life gets hard and writing can be just as messy but we’re doing it–and we get to support each other along the journey.

Create Challenge #40: Donna Schweitzer

I never considered myself a particularly creative person. Right out of the gate, I felt myself to be rather ho-hum. I could color within the lines like a machine, but I couldn’t draw a stick figure to save my life. I played the clarinet and sang well, but couldn’t write my own tune if you begged. I can analyze a story, breaking down character, storylines, themes, and symbolism, but I find it near impossible to write my own Great American Novel. Most of our couples’ photos are the ones friends snap of us, so there’s no great photography skill there either. I can sew to a pattern but can’t design anything on my own. I suppose you would say my creativity lies in following the directions.

I became a mom the first time in September of 2000. Our oldest son entered the world in dramatic fashion, arriving over three months early. He weighed a mere two pounds, and was fifteen inches long. His life hung in the balance for weeks. I spent days by his plastic isolette, bargaining with God for my son’s life, watching my son battle with all his tiny might to learn to breathe on his own, eat and digest food before his body was ready, and endure more medical tests in three months than I have my entire life. Before he was even born, though, I’d begun a journal for him. I continued to write even when we didn’t know if he would survive. I wanted him to know how much we loved him, my experience of his life, what courage we saw on a daily basis, what each tiny milestone meant.baby-1681181__340

As mom of a micro-preemie, you don’t get to hold your baby whenever you want—your baby has to be stable enough that day, that hour, to handle the stimulation of being held. Those hours by his bedside I wasn’t able to hold him, I would write. It helped me in so many ways—it helped me focus on the positive things, it helped me gnash out my grief and fear, it helped me process, it helped me feel more like his mom. When he finally came home on Christmas Day 2000, that journal continued by my side, documenting his milestones, the setbacks, me growing into motherhood. We went on to have two more children—both full-term, normal, healthy pregnancies—a daughter in the middle, and our youngest, another son. We call them our Herd.

When our oldest was three years old, we discovered a particular foundation had played a vital role in his survival. Without the research this organization funded, he simply would not be here. That organization also has an online support community for NICU parents. That community began a blog-hosting forum for its members a year into its existence. By then a seasoned journal-writer, I jumped at the chance, especially as the site was small, close-knit, and felt safe. My writing took on a life of its own. Blogging helped me continue to heal from what we’d endured. It helped me reach out to others just beginning the prematurity journey. It gave me a voice. It helped me through new diagnosis for our oldest, some gut-wrenching parenting decisions, allowed me to share the funny side of parenting, and gave me a place to vent, because goodness knows, this parenting gig can be a struggle. More importantly, it gave me community—a safe place with people who understood completely what I was experiencing as they’d been through it too.

I moved my blog to a more-public site years ago. I kept it private in the beginning. It was more of an outlet for me, and a way to keep family and close friends in the loop on our family’s life. Then about four years ago, I decided to make it a public blog. It was terrifying clicking “Post” that first day, sending my words out into the world. What if no one read it? What if I didn’t ever have any followers? What if no one responded or commented? I’d decided I eventually want to write that book—not fiction, mind you, but a book of my experiences. More than that, I still hope my words, my stories of our family’s path, will help someone else, give hope to someone else, or at the very least make someone laugh. In addition, my children have my written take on their lives, our lives as a family, from before they were even born.

My writing isn’t always pretty. There have still been some medical repercussions for our oldest from his premature birth, although he is healthy and as normal as any other sixteen-year-old boy. Our youngest son was diagnosed autistic five years ago. I never gloss over what that journey is about. I feel the need to be brutally honest about what we deal with. Then there’s parenting in general, parenting teens, raising a ballerina, and still learning what this mom thing is all about.

I’m convinced God gave me this gift of journaling to reach out to those who will be helped by my words. Most of my ideas come in the middle of the night. Then I process them out while I’m running. Finally, I get to put them down on the screen. I don’t often think too much while I’m writing—I prefer it be more of an unconscious process. Often, I learn how I feel, what I’m afraid of or worried about, when I read back what I’ve written. Words that began often as bargaining prayers for my son’s life sixteen years ago have turned into thousands of posts, creating a written history for my children and our family. dschweitzer

 

Donna Schweitzer has been married to her husband, Michael, for eighteen years (on December 5th!). They reside in San Diego, CA. They have three children, ages 16, 15, and 12, who, along with three dogs and two cats, are affectionately known as The Herd. They travel, watch more sports than is probably healthy, laugh frequently, love much. You can find her blog at threesaherd.com.

100th Post: Pay It Forward

Guy bought a car last week since our household now claimed three drivers and two cars. We swore we would not buy a car, but this deal was almost too good to pass up.

We almost passed it up anyway. The car was older and bigger than Teen wanted, had a lot of miles, and lacked a good speaker system. Older and bigger didn’t make for major considerations in our book since the price was right (better than, truth be told). As for lots of miles, Teen will drive it around our small community for about two years before he takes off for college with his bike; we don’t need it to last forever. The car had been kept in pristine condition, every service record on file, and in fact, most service done by the local mechanic selling the car on behalf of the owner. The mechanic had his reputation on the line; he wouldn’t sell us a lemon.

Guy figured: this is a reasonable cost for increased freedom, both for Teen and his parents.

teen driverBut, no speaker. There had been one, but it had been removed. Bummer.

Guy did due-diligence, checking the service records and asking the mechanic to do one more once-over. And dragging his feet a little, as suspense does wonders for a teenager’s motivation.

When they finally went to seal the deal and purchase the car, lo and behold, a subwoofer had been installed. Teen was so excited he might as well have been driving on the moon! He admits: the sound system makes the car.

The next day we told our co-workers about the purchase. And that afternoon a co-worker went to have her hair done the next big city over from our small town.

(Not a random fact. Hang in there!)

As our co-worker sat in the stylist’s chair, chit-chatting the afternoon away, Stylist told her about the new car he’d just purchased (same make/model, different year, as the car we purchased). And the car he’d just sold (same everything). He told her that the mechanic who had serviced his car, who had sold his car for him, had advised him to remove the subwoofer because he could sell it for a lot (close to half-again the price of the car). So he had the subwoofer sitting on his kitchen counter. Taking up space.

When the mechanic told him that a dad was “seriously interested” in buying the car for his 16-year-old son, Stylist felt guilt-stricken. What teenager wants a car without a good speaker system? Would he really ever get around to selling the subwoofer? Did it matter to him all that much? Didn’t a kid’s happiness matter so much more?

He decided to pay it forward. He immediately packed up the subwoofer and drove it back to the mechanic’s shop and helped to reinstall it in the car. And he turned down two full-price offers over our lesser offer because we had expressed interest first.

By then our friend had figured out the catch in this story: she knew the car’s new owners! She knew the happy Teen beat-bump-beating down the streets. Small world, great story.

As soon as Teen got his driver’s license he hyper-focused on trying to find a car in a reasonable price range. He got excited, and hopes dashed, over and over. We said: God will make it clear which car you’re meant to have. And He did, as we receive this story as confirmation that God has been behind-the-scenes.

bloggingThis is my 100th post on this blog, and this milestone deserved a good story. We all deserve good stories, and we all live good stories day-in and day-out. Even when our stories are uncomfortable, even painful, they can be hope-filled and redemptive as we seek miracles in our mundane.

Writing this blog has been redemptive for me. I have enjoyed the discipline of regular writing and reflection; I have thought differently, lived differently, as a result, which is exactly what a discipline should do: change you, preferably for the better. I hope my writing has improved with practice, and I know my life has changed as I’ve felt happier and increasingly centered in all the right ways.

And I feel as though I am contributing something new to the world as I share my stories, my small attempt at paying it forward. From time to time (at least), I hope you feel like this blog is my gift to you. Because it is.

Just over a year ago I went to Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference with this blog on my heart – I just didn’t know it would be this blog. The theme of the conference:

What will the world miss if you don’t tell your story?

I bought the coffee mug. And I began writing.

I meet so many people who tell me they can’t write, and yet they have stories to share. And, honestly, I’ve read plenty of writing that shouldn’t have been written. But whether or not you think you can write, we need to hear your stories. Please, tell your stories. Let someone else write them down if need be. The world will be a better place as you pay it forward.

what is your story question