I remember when our kids were little and we’d go through hard situations with them or they: just wouldn’t listen, kept getting out of bed, fought with their siblings, didn’t read at the same age that other kids did, wouldn’t look people in the eye when they were spoken to, or hide behind me when people tried to talk to them, forgot to do their chores…every single day. I’d talk to friends who were a few years ahead of me on this mom journey or friends who were right in the thick of it with me. We would encourage each other, offer each other advice, let each other know that we weren’t the only ones. We were NOT ALONE and it seemed that we really had each others backs.
I have a group of friends that I get together with once a month and between the 6 of us we have 22 kids between the ages 12-24. Sometimes when we are together we laugh until we cry. Other times, we just cry and ask the Lord to help us through whatever hard situation we may be facing, and other times we just talk about make up and hair. We are all pretty intentional about sharing out hearts with each other, but, I’ve noticed as a general MOM RULE, we aren’t as quick to share the struggles we have as moms as when they were toddlers or preteens. We are much more hesitant, protective of our kids now than we were when they were little. We often don’t divulge the struggles as openly as we once would have. Why?
- We are afraid that our parenting and our faith will be questioned or judged.
- We are embarrassed or ashamed.
- We are afraid of our kids being judged, embarrassed, or rejected.
- We believe that no one else could possibly be going through anything as awful in their family.
My friends and I have had to push through those feelings on many occasions because we know that we are in a safe place. A place where we can trust one another! Ok, community isn’t really what this blog is all about, I digress….
Being parents of teenagers has been one of the most enjoyable seasons of our lives and I’m starting to realize that James 1:2-4 is why. It says,
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (NKJV)
Although, I think the Message Bible makes this verse a little easier to understand and grasp….sometimes when the word “perfect” is thrown around, we all feel disqualified, but in these verses, perfect translates more as mature or not deficient. Here it is from the Message:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.
I feel like these verses describe our parenting of teens years very well. ( Tests and challenges will come at you), and God must’ve known we’d need a while to mature and become well developed because he’s allowing us 16 years of having teenagers in our home.(Rick learns alot faster than I do, so I appreciate his willingness to stick with me while the Lord keeps working on me.)
It’s not because parenting these great kiddos has been the least bit easy, but because we and our kids have grown, changed, matured, and learned to depend on the Lord even more. We’ve been through HARD things, just like your family.
I know that sometimes it seems like other families couldn’t possibly walk through the same trials as yours or they wouldn’t be happy or post happy family pics on FB and Instagram but we have to remind ourselves that just isn’t the case. A photograph is just a moment in time and rarely shows context very well. My favorite picture from our family vacation this year wasn’t one of the posed ones where our clothes were carefully coordinated and the lighting was just right, but instead all 8 of us were hanging on to boogie boards together in the beautiful clear Gulf waters totally enjoying a moment. I never wanted to forget it. The fact that one son had just returned from 10 weeks at a camp in Oklahoma, one was leaving soon for the Middle East, and that there was a good chance this would be the last vacation that would be just the Lapinsky8. It was a moment I’ll always cherish and pictures like this help remind me to Count it all Joy, but it was a vacation that had lots of challenges.
For instance, one son missing part of the week and riding a Greyhound 19 hours to spend two days on vacation with us. The picture also doesn’t allude to the night before when we’d gone to a nice restaurant for dinner and a couple of kids started picking at one another. Things got a little out of hand during the 30 minute wait for our table and once we were seated Rick started to sort out the conflict. He decided he wasn’t spending a small fortune on a dinner with kids who were treating each other like enemies, so we got up and left the restaurant, with 6 kids ages 12-21. That made for a LONG, quiet ride back to the condo; no one said a word and we were HUNGRY!
A phrase we say often in our home is “We can do hard things,” a quote I read several years ago by Glennon Doyle. Sometimes, I think the more I say it, the more opportunities we have to live it out, but that’s ok. Another one that has stuck in my heart and head is by Ann Voskamp-“Do not pray for the hard things to go away, but for a bravery bigger than the hard thing.” These moments of parenthood through the teen/early adult years give us lots of opportunities to become more brave; to be made stronger through our weaknesses.
In our family, we’ve had our struggles with rage and hate, sneaking out and underage drinking and smoking, pornography and dishonesty, been bullied and unfortunately, we’ve been bullies. We’ve had heartbreaks and been heartbreakers. We’ve walked through depression and despair and wondered if there was a way out. We’ve failed, been turned down for jobs, been rejected. We’ve lost loves and had dreams shattered. Our character hasn’t always been what we would like for it to be because we are still growing, still learning, and our story isn’t finished yet. We really take to heart Philippians 1:6- And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Parents of teenagers and young adults, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. The struggles in your home might be different, but the solutions are the same and here are a few tips that are helping us navigate these waters:
1.) Know that you are not the only family dealing with hard things. When we begin believing that we are the only ones going through hard things, we become alienated and feel defeated. Find face to face community! We need people who can hold us up when times are hard!
2.) Dig deep to the heart of the matter…These things listed above are symptoms of heart issues that need to be uncovered. Sometimes this means conversations that go on for hours and hearing things that are difficult to hear, but digging and bringing things to the surface will bring freedom and healing in relationships and personally. Remind your kids that they are loved and that poor choices can only define them for as long as they choose to make them. We can change the direction our story is going at any given point.
3.) Be quick to forgive and extend grace. Don’t be shocked that they have struggled or done things that you never imagined they would do. This is a hard world they are growing up in, BUT don’t make excuses for them either. Part of the struggle and ultimately growth is taking responsibility for our actions and recognizing we are the only one’s responsible for what we do…Oh, how many times do I remember saying to a little one who wanted to blame a sibling, “just because your brother did the wrong thing doesn’t mean that you can do the wrong thing back to them.” Same principle applies during the teenage years, but additionally in regards to a teacher, employee, coworker.
4.) Don’t compare your family or your children to anyone else’s. This isn’t the time to compare. Actually, there never is a good time for that. Never doubt that you are the right parents for the job. I remember when some of ours were little and they may have said, “I wish so and so was my mom.” I always assured them(after I tucked my feelings away) that God hadn’t made any mistakes about the family He placed them in; That He looked all over the world for just the right parents for them and He chose us. The same goes for us as parents. The children that God gave us were intentional. They are some of the gifts He uses to shape and develop us, if we will let Him.
5.) Continue modeling value and respect in the ways you respond to their short comings or sin. That’s how they will learn to value and respect others who may sin differently than them. Let value of others be top priority. Expect respect from them. Toward their teachers, their peers, their family and don’t let them blame others for their poor choices.
So when I say, “These are the days,” it isn’t because things have been easy. It’s only because I’ve felt His Presence and power, and compassion, comfort, and grace as we’ve walked through the good ones, the hard ones, and the ones I’d never want to relive and fully believe if we focus on His faithfulness and goodness, we can trust Romans 8:28- And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.