The other day, a boy told my older daughter that she’s beautiful. I don’t disagree with the sentiment, and I like the boy. But when I heard that, I looked at my daughter, and I wondered where the days went.
I wonder when this young lady standing in front of me grew up. I wonder when she went from a toddler with a pixie cut to this tall girl with waist-length hair standing in front of me. I wonder when those blue eyes went from being mischievous to being windows to her soul.
To be truthful, this stage doesn’t look anything like I thought it would when she was that toddler. I assumed that when she was a teenager, we there would be solid rules around her about things like dating and curfews. I figured there would be more drama and less conversation.
I’m discovering, though, that while there are boundaries, parenting this teen is a lot more fluid than I ever dreamed it would be.
I’m learning that a lot of the ideas I had about how to parent a teen simply don’t hold water. Because she’s not that little toddler any more. She’s a young woman with hopes, dreams and ideas of her own. She often makes valid arguments and forces me to see a situation differently.
And I’m deciding that that’s OK. Because I’m also learning that to parent effectively in this stage, I have to lean even more heavily on God’s wisdom than on my own. Because she is her own person, and she needs to be able to make decisions on her own.
I’m learning that every situation she encounters doesn’t fall into the nice little box of rules that I’d like to make and that we have to make decisions based on where she is in that moment. I’m discovering there’s less “Do this because I said so” and more open conversation about making good choices and learning life lessons.
All this means I’m learning how to rest on the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. I’m learning to let go of my hard and fast ideas of what the teenage years should look like and deal with what they really do look like. That means I spend a lot of time praying over my teen and her friends. It means I spend a lot of time seeking out wisdom from people who have already walked this route.
God is teaching me that we need to set larger boundaries but that we need to seek Him in the individual stuff. We need to drop it in His lap and let Him lead the way instead of me leading the way.
We’re learning that if we deal with the situations she faces individually within some clearly defined boundaries, it gives us a lot more flexibility to parent her well. It gives us a chance to teach her to make good decisions on her own instead of forcing her to make those decisions within a rigid set of rules that we set for her.
Because teaching our teens to make good decisions is what it’s all about. We’re not always going to be there to set the rules for them. They need to be able to choose the right path on their own.
So, while this teenage thing looks different than what I thought, it is teaching both her and me how to seek God’s wisdom first. It’s teaching us how to communicate with each other effectively. Some days, it’s hard. Other days, it’s a whole lot of fun.
But I still wonder where the time has gone.
Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.