Raising Teenagers

I’m feeling thoughtful today.

Last night I drove my son and three other teenagers from our church youth group to drop them off at a weekend retreat.  Four teenagers half-yelling over each other in my car was quite an experience.

Most of the ride was spent discussing music.  They have a wide range of interests, some of which I share (and some of which I sincerely don’t).  Scanning through radio stations and stopping at songs one or another wanted to hear.  At one point someone broke out with “Is this the real life?  Is this just fantasy…”

Someone is raising their kids right.  All four of them knew every word to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  There was a very enthusiastic five-person a cappella rendition.  I think I’m a cool mom now, LOL!

When we got to camp and unloaded the pile of bags and pillows and sleeping bags (and food!) from the back of the truck, Chris grabbed his stuff and took off towards the boys’ cabins without a backwards glance.

Finding myself asked to move my car so other parents could unload, I figured the best thing to do was just to head home.  On the one hand I couldn’t be happier that my son is comfortable enough with 100 other teenagers and a few harried (but very dedicated) adults to head off on his own.

A tiny part of me, though, watched as time did that weird telescope thing that time does for parents as their children grow.  I saw myself prying him off my leg when he was two and didn’t want to stay at the day care.  And I wondered, when did this happen?

My son is growing up.  He is 14 now and a freshman in high school.  He tops me in height by several inches.  His hands and feet are bigger than mine.  He is learning things in school that I never learned and never will.

A very large part of me is intensely proud that Chris is doing this growing-up thing so well.  He is smart and caring and occasionally as awkward as a half-grown puppy, all arms and legs that don’t always do what he wants them to do.

He is also beginning to prepare for Confirmation and to try to figure out what path God wants him to take in his life.  Since my primary job as a parent is to get my kids to heaven, this discernment is a very important process to me, but I can’t do it for him.  All I can do is pray for him and encourage HIM to pray and listen for the whisper that will show him the path meant for him.

What I wish all you other parents out there could tell me is, do all parents raising teenagers feel this way?  99% terrified pride and 1% sadness that I will never again be as central to his life as I was when he was two?  Happy excitement that his world is getting bigger by the day paired with fear about all the dangers he will be navigating soon?

Is it normal to want to kiss one more boo-boo?  To tuck him in and try to find his head under the pile of blankets for one more good-night kiss?  To have him reach to hold my hand in the parking lot one more time?

When my mom was my age she was a new empty-nester.  Both her daughters had left for college.  I’ve got quite a few years before both my boys will be out of the house, but this weekend I can all too easily look forward to the day when my firstborn will head off to college and spread his own wings.

I think I need to call my mom.

QUESTION: If you have kids, did you feel this way when they were teenagers?  Any advice for me?

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7 thoughts on “Raising Teenagers

  1. Dr. Jen, I feel very much like you do. I have a 21 and a 23 year old. The younger is away at college and the older one is looking to buy his first house! My husband and I are both looking forward to being full-time empty nesters. Any time I start to think about missing those earlier days, I quickly dismiss it, and think about how much joy they have brought me in every phase of their lives. Then, I simply bring myself back to the present and think about how much joy they bring me currently. I never dwell on the past, nor do I think about how the time flew by. What’s the point? Instead, I live in the present and think about how full and blessed I am today. Memories are awesome. Looking back at videos and photographs is so much fun. But that’s all they are. Memories. I don’t believe we should ever wish we were back in those days. I see too many moms obsess over the past, and are saddened by the time that is gone, and mourn that their “little ones” are no longer little. This only minimizes the present. I am so proud of my children, so proud of my relationship with them, and I look forward to all that is to come.

  2. Hi Dr Jen – this is exactly how I felt when I dropped my son off at college. I deal with it by texting him “goodnight – love you” every night. Sometimes he even texts back! Even if he doesn’t though, it is still the little umbilical cord of love that reminds him that he can always call me whenever he feels he needs his mom. If you want to talk more, you know how to reach me!

  3. Calling your mom will be brilliant. Your writing has me crying tears of recognition. All four of mine are adults now. Tumultuous teen years would be an understatement, but does explain my grey hair. Three men, one woman, but I’m still mom, just like you will be. But I think you see that, else you wouldn’t be thinking of calling yours.

  4. Every step will be an experience. What I taught my kids when they didn’t get into the school they wanted or the job they wanted was that this is what God had planned. They saw Gods hand in their lives but whatever they went through we just prayed or I prayed the most to get through the storms of life. Growing up is so different now!

  5. Keep him involved in the church groups. Both of our kids loved it and learned lots of dedication and compassion for others. They learned there will always be those that have more and those that have less, but the important lesson is to always be willing to help others. They both were involved in music and arts and to this day after college, marriage and parenthood, those thoughts of helping and compassion are right where they should be‼️

    Don’t worry…you’ll be a big part of their lives because they know how important they were to you as they grew‼️ Just keep letting them know they are #1 in your life☺️

  6. When Jeff, the youngest, went to college, I was OK. It was after college it hit me, my baby wasn’t going to be coming home to live with us anymore, that empty nest hit me hard. When he was 9 he started to pull away, and yes you suddenly realize the past is what you crave which are now just memories…all parents go through it, but some roads are rockier than others.

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