I bought a different newspaper today for the first time in 16 years!! And your question is – why are you blogging this??? The reason I chose a different paper, with an entirely different political stance than my usual? I was influenced by my 17 year old. No other person or commentator influenced my decision but the rational, challenging argument put forward by my son Caleb. It got me thinking…
The tide has turned. I am delighted to admit, I am being influenced by my sons.
I remember fondly the years when they were just mesmerised by me. When their faces lit up for their dad and I like for no one else in the whole world. When it was me who needed to answer every question, when it was our opinion that mattered the most. Who’s approval they longed for. Parents of pre-teens, savour this exhausting stage when you feel like the last drop of life is being sucked out of you! Savour it because it’s short and yes it is exhausting because that’s exactly what they’re doing, taking every bit of your influence before they spread their net to include the rest of their worlds.
Pour out all the good stuff in your heart, soul and mind. Pour it all out, refill it and pour it all out again.
1st year (year 8/age 11/ start of middle school/ 6th grade) is the year of gradual shift. New bigger school, new friends, teachers that treat them like the ‘adults-in-training’ that they are. Their minds start growing and expanding, and their hormones are just kicking in. As parents we begin to feel the pulling away – the tension in the apron strings.
Trust yourself to loosen the strings. Remember all you’ve invested. Remember every ounce of yourself that you poured in. Trust that inside your ‘adult-in-training’ is an infinite amount of good, an infinite amount of hope, of love, of promise in them, about to be mined in the painful process of growing through the teenage years. Trust Jesus who loves them even more than you do – I know it’s difficult for us to fully except this truth – but it is the truth nonetheless. He does.
Help them find a few good influences to include in their nets. You can’t be too intentional about this. Be on the look out. Who of your friends do they connect with – encourage those connections. Youth groups that mirror your family values are vital at this stage too, inside and outside of church world. Your influence isn’t over, it continues but please accept the shift; for their sake more than yours. Lavish love on and encourage their friendships that BRING them life; think full-on positive affirmation.
1st through 3rd years are tense. It’s all readjustment, loosening the strings, trusting the influences, trusting each other and adjusting boundaries. Letting go is hard but absolutely essential. At times you will let go too much and you’LL have to grab on a bit more for another while. Other times it’ll feel too hard and painful and you’ll have to force yourself to let go again.
But hope is on its way. There’s a stage coming, one that we’re right bang in the middle of right now. (5th, lower 6th, upper 6th/ 15, 16 &17 years). When one day you will realise that your wonderful, messy ‘adults-in-training’ are actually influencing you!! Yes it’s true. My boys inspire me. They challenge me – EVERY SINGLE DAY !! I mean they challenge me in a way that causes me to grow as a person not just as a parent. They challenge my less than gracious or loving attitude when it raises its head. They challenge my pre-conceived notions that I present as truth. They challenge me to try new things. Sorry Matty but you haven’t succeeded in making me love dance music yet or Liverpool but you do challenge my belief that i’m always right 🙂 They inspire me to love the things they love. Films, superheroes, and to be more hospitable and inclusive (Micah). They inspire me to see God in a fresh way as they develop their own personal, intimate relationship with Jesus.
It feels like the tide is turning. We are in a season of a beautiful rushing in and out of influence and inspiration. We still give, but oh how we are receiving back too.
Hold on parents of babies, and tinies, and little ones, and pre-teens, and just teens! The tide will turn, the days of giving out continue, but the days of rich receiving are on the way.