The shock is real — my firstborn is 20 years old. I have done very few things for 20 years straight. I wasn’t a student for that long. I haven’t held a ten year tenure for any job, and all my background checks have a list of addresses so long it gives proof that I have not lived in the same town (or state or country for that matter!) my whole life. But parenting….I have been at that for awhile now.
Jesus, my man, and the kids. I have been into them for the long haul, and it has taught me a few things.
When Soccer Dude (aka first born) was about three years old, we were living in an old house with some very steep staircases, one of which led from the upstairs bedrooms to end at the front door. It was a charming old house with a lot of crown molding and so many quirks that fascinated an active pre-schooler. One morning as I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes, I heard a loud thumping, a crash followed by wails. As I ran toward the chaos I was confused – was it the hurt cry or the wail of frustration. I found Soccer Dude in a bloody heap at the bottom of of the staircase along with the lid of his toy chest. Sledding, he later explained. Try telling that to the urgent care nurse. Yes, my three year old decided to sled down the staircase. Soccer Dude shrugged and told me, “You never told me I couldn’t sled on the chest lid down the stairs.”
He has always been like that. One thought ahead of me. Steady, logical, and innovative. He never did sled down the stairs again. It really didn’t end well, so why would he? But I will admit there are many stories like the staircase sledding incident. Times when I wished I had thought to warn him. Although, the Good Lord knows I have tried to teach, warn, give boundaries, and train. My abilities only go so far. I am human, and I don’t know all the things.
That is the joy of 20 years into parenting. I have finally embraced that I don’t know all the things. I might not always agree with the ways my kids lean into learning — I could think of a different way to figure out that sledding down the stairs would be frustrating and not as fun as the snow covered hill at the park. Nonetheless, they are learning as they grow, and with an open mind, I can continue to grow and learn along side them.
The teen years have been a gift. They have ideas and perspectives that push me towards being a better person — if I take the time to listen and learn. That is the big if. As a parent it is so tempting to think that I have arrived. I know the things. My way is the best. If they would only listen… For sure I could have saved Soccer Dude some pain if he had asked me about sledding down the steps — but my testimony today: I actually saved myself a lot of pain by recognizing that the teen years of my children are a gift to me.
When Sam was a baby, a good friend who had just entered the teen years with his children made a statement that stuck with me. “Enjoy him now, because when the teen years come it is brutal.” I remember shaking my head in sadness and a seed of fear was planted in my heart.
That is why I am writing this post. Young parent – if you were having coffee with me today, I would want to tell you that the teen years can be grand and read the book “Like Dew Your Youth” by Eugene Peterson. Hands down the best book I have read on parenting in my recent years.
Parenting Soccer Dude — there have been hard and easy parts, but he has taught me so much. I am thankful for every moment. The conversations are challenging, but oh so rich! His ideas are new to me, and the ways he takes on the world are inspiring. When it comes to a wide range of things from racial injustice to why young adults don’t connect with my worship style — he has things that I should listen to. My middle age reservation needs his young hopeful creativity. He isn’t three years old any more, and he has gained my respect as a godly young adult, who is striving hard after God and desiring to be a voice of healing and good to his generation. He isn’t me. His ways are different. I think that is good.
I am not sure what it will be like to have a man child who is 20 years old, but I am looking forward to learning what it looks like to walk beside him in this next phase of life. Based on how much I have gained through his teen years, I can only imagine all the joy that lays ahead.
Happy Birthday, Soccer Dude.