Kids have this terrible habit don’t they? They just insist on growing, whether we are ready for them to get bigger or not. It’s exhausting and unstoppable and right now, in our house, it’s terrifying because the growing is pushing us closer to the edge of that cliff…puberty!
I feel like Grover in “There’s A Monster At The End Of This Book” – I want so badly to chain the pages of our life together, or nail them shut, or brick them up just so that we don’t have to get to the part with the dreaded monster. The thing with that book though is that the kids just insist on turning the pages. Nothing this Grover-mum will do is going to put off getting to the back page! Adolescence is coming to my son (and there’s nowhere I can hide).
So, because there really is nowhere to hide, I’ve decided that it’s time to grab my flippers and my snorkel and dive right in. I’ve spent the last few weeks talking to SOTY’s (survivors of teenage years) about how to make it through my son’s adolescence without the need for Prozac or military school and the funny thing is that they are all saying pretty much the same things.
1. Be the immoveable object
Picture your child as a small yacht in a beautiful bay. Up until now, the waters have been fairly calm, the sky pretty clear, and they have had a lot of years to practice sailing around in the safety of your family’s harbour, but now it’s time for them to learn to do what yachts are built to do – it’s time to sail some bigger seas. As parents, the thought of pushing that small yacht from the slipway and turning our back on it is unconscionable so what is our role in this?
We have to become the rock in the ocean. The one that he can navigate around, the one that appears on his map, the one that he can anchor himself to in a storm, and cast off from when he is ready. We have to learn to be the immoveable object in our child’s life. Loving him bravely – letting him know that it’s good to want to explore the world around him. Loving him with stability – letting him see that home will always be a place of acceptance, grace, forgiveness, warmth and consistency (a place he can anchor himself to when storms rage around him). We have to let him see, that no matter what changes around him, we will not change – we will stand firm in our dedication to him.
It may take a great deal of courage to love this way, to love like the immoveable object, but parenting is about making courageous and uncomfortable decisions from its very first moments, so why would this be any different?
2. Remember that the person you love is still in there (somewhere).
Every parent I have spoken to has said this to me (after they stopped laughing about the fact that we are just approaching this season and they have already made it to the other side). They all said, that adolescence is not easy but that it’s really important to keep reminding yourself of your child as a person. As parents, we need to work on setting the behaviours aside and reaching out to the individual inside. When we remember that there is a person who we love behind the behaviours that we find frustrating, it’s helps us to focus on maintaining relationship with them. Adolescence, like all seasons, is not without its end and once it’s over, they assure me, we will get to see and enjoy the beautiful people our kids have become.
Is that all that there is to it? I don’t think so – it’s never that simple, is it? Will this work in getting our son through those scary teenage years? I think it (and a lot of prayer) will help, and I think we will learn other things along the way too. At the end of the day, there’s one thing I know for sure, love has been the answer in every other stage of our children’s lives. Not the flimsy, wishy-washy, passive love that watches the world fall apart around it as though it was powerless to do anything. No, not that kind of love. The gutsy type of love, the love that is a verb – active and powerful. The love that is strong enough to say I will not give up on you. The love that is immoveable.