I carried a diaper bag for 11 years. Now I’m raising teens and adults. How did that happen so fast?
Having four children within eight years meant always having diapers, bottles, and sleep deprivation. Just before the youngest turned 2, I remarried and added another 9 year old to the mix. We transitioned from baby toys to Nintendo games, Nerf guns, and Hannah Montana everything with great gusto.
Before I knew it, my oldest was moving out and my youngest was shopping for bras. Now I have three kids in college (four, if you count the high schooler who is also dual enrolled in college), one in high school, and one in middle school.
I have moments of complete denial when I tell myself that 42 isn’t too old to have another baby (never mind the fact that I had a hysterectomy eight years ago). Then I remind myself that I’m just a handful of years away from having grandchildren, and that seems much less exhausting.
My point? The years really did fly by quickly, just like everyone warned me they would. I blinked and my babies grew up. But guess what? It’s a beautiful thing!
To the mamas of littles out there, I implore you to decide now to embrace every season of motherhood with arms, hearts, and minds wide open. Sure, it’s hard to watch your babies grow and become more independent. But as they say, motherhood is the one profession in which you endeavor to work yourself out of the job.
If you decide now to embrace each new milestone, birthday, and phase of your children’s lives with excitement and grateful anticipation, you’ll find that there’s lots of room for joy along the way. You’re fortunate enough to be raising littles during a time that you can visually and audibly record every precious coo, giggle, clumsy step, and sleepy yawn, so preserve those memories for the days that you will miss them. Oh, how I wish I had such easy access to recording videos 20 years ago! But don’t hold on so tight that you miss the treasures of the next stages. Raising teens and adults can be a lot of fun, too.
It’s Not That Bad
Despite what you may have heard, not all twos are terrible. Not all teens talk back. Not all middle schoolers are moody. Disclaimer: I said not ALL. There will definitely be some two-year-old tantrums, some sixteen-year-old sass, and some pre-teen petulance. But there will also be a lot of fun. I promise. Raising teens isn’t all that different from raising toddlers.
I feel like parents today have bridged the gap that used to exist between parents and kids.
When I think back to my childhood and teenage years, my parents didn’t listen to the same kind of music I listened to; they didn’t dress like me AT ALL; they didn’t enjoy the same movies. They seemed to like it that way.
However, I’ve noticed today that most of my friends listen to a lot of the same music their kids listen to. They’re interested in the same movies and many of the same television shows. And while our clothing styles may be a little different, I can’t tell you how many times my daughters have borrowed my ripped jeans, cozy cardigans, and pretty much all of my shoes.
I think bridging that gap has also helped build closer relationships between parents and kids. I’m not suggesting that parents should try to be their child’s best friend. We’re smart enough to know that this isn’t a good plan. However, I don’t think it’s impossible to be your child’s friend while still having a healthy parent/child relationship. If you want to someday be your grown child’s friend, start planting those seeds of friendship now.
Loving Their People
Another important component to having solid relationships with my teens and adult kids is understanding the importance of loving their people. Embracing their closest friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends as family early on has helped us from feeling like we’re losing our kids to the outside world. I’m not saying that they don’t still go out and do things with their friends, but we do a lot of things with their friends, as well.
The older our kids get, the more their people matter in their lives.
And the more we know and love their people, the easier it is for us to relate to our kids and what matters most to them. Finding little ways to connect with them and their people is so important during the teen and young adult years. I’m not gonna lie – parenting teens and young adults can be messy. There’s so much gray area as they seek independence and yet aren’t capable of making the best decisions for themselves. It can rock the strongest of parent/child relationships. But a little love can go a long way in these situations.
Raising Teens = LOVE
I didn’t always have the best relationship with my mother. To be fair, I wasn’t always the best kid, either. But one thing I’ve gained from that broken relationship is the desire for my kids to ALWAYS know that they are loved.
No matter how badly I mess up this parenting gig, I never want my children to doubt how much I love them.
I may suffocate them. I may be too strict. I may not understand. And I may not agree with their decisions. But it is my goal that they will NEVER doubt that every word, action, and thought I have toward them is from a place of love.
Loving your teens and young adult kids is easy, if you’re just thinking about love as an emotion. But as an action, it can be confusing to know what that love should look like- for both us and our kids.
Do you remember the first time you asked your dad to drop you off on a side street so he wouldn’t embarrass you by kissing you goodbye in front of your friends at school? You probably loved your dad very much, but you didn’t want anyone to see you kissing him goodbye.
In the same way, we have to find ways to show our kids love and affection without smothering them or embarrassing them. I’m no expert, but here’s a few things that I’ve found my bigs like (or at least tolerate) from my husband and me:
- Goodnight Hugs- Yes, even though they are now 12-20 years old, we go upstairs every single night to hug them goodnight. They don’t have to go to bed when we go to bed, but they always get a goodnight hug from us. When they’re staying the night with friends, we text them goodnight. And we ALWAYS tell them we love them.
- One-on-One Time- This gets harder as they get older, but whenever possible, we try to spend one-on-one time with each of them. Whether it’s just inviting them to run errands with us or taking them out for lunch or coffee, it matters. And they appreciate it.
- Apologies- When I’m wrong, I apologize. When I’m crabby, I apologize. When I wasn’t giving them my full attention, I apologize. When our kids are big, our example means everything. And if I want my kids to be responsible young adults, I need to show them what that looks like. Apologizing is one way to set an example, strengthen a relationship, and gain a child’s trust. Raising teens means being accountable for my own words and actions as I ask them to be accountable for theirs.
- Check in With Them- Every Monday, I text each one of my kids and their boyfriends/girlfriends to ask them how I can pray for them throughout the week. It gives me a glimpse into their thoughts, helps me understand things that may be stressing them out, reminds me of when they have an upcoming test or project, and lets them know that I care about the details of their lives.
- Don’t Skip the Traditions– My oldest kids are 19 and 20, but you better believe they expect a stocking on Christmas and a basket on Easter. They still want to be invited to watch Christmas movies, make cookies, and eat cake for breakfast on their birthdays. Even if your bigs act too cool for family traditions, welcome them to join you. Sometimes I think they just want to be invited. Other times, they’re secretly hoping that you’ll “twist their arm” to join in on the fun.
- Have Fun- Never stop having fun with your kids. Play board games. Ask them to teach you how to play their favorite video game. Take them to a movie they want to see (if theaters ever open up again). Be silly. Turn up the radio and sing loudly. Raising teens doesn’t have to be serious business all the time.
- Be Their Biggest Fan- Attend every track meet. Cheer at every game. Compliment every drum solo. Praise every painting. Ask them to use their talents to make something for you. Show them you believe in them. Tell them you’re proud of how hard they work. Brag to others about their good grades. Remind them how impressed you are by their kindness. They may not always act like it, but I believe there’s a child inside each one of them that wants to hear “I’m proud of you” from their mamas.
No matter what season of life your children are in, give them an extra hug today. Be grateful for the messes and the madness if they’re little. Be thankful for the moods and the ‘tudes if they’re a tween. Be appreciative of the independence and inattentiveness if they’re a teen or young adult.