I have teens, but it’s not that they’re “difficult.” Not at all. I actually enjoy these years for many reasons – when I was a classroom teacher, I chose to spend my entire career working with teens – and my daughters are – though obviously not perfect – very good girls who bring me great joy.
The problem is that I’m much closer than not to having to “give them up.” Of course, I’ve known that reality since before I had them; we aim to raise children into healthy adulthood precisely so they can eventually make their own confident way in the world. But now – as I navigate the tightrope of continuing to provide enough guidance and oversight on the one hand while letting go enough on the other – it’s hitting me viscerally. And it’s hard.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that other seasons of parenting life aren’t difficult as well. For some, the “baby years” are excruciating. For others, it’s the toddler and preschool time. And some wrestle most with having children in the “school-age” or ‘tween phases.
I’m not a moral relativist by any stretch of the imagination; when it comes especially to biblical precepts, right is right and wrong is sin. But I’ve learned over the years that when it comes to some matters of daily life – for example, the parenting experiences we each navigate – there is quite a bit of “gray.” Thus, some of my friends cannot understand why this “letting go” phase is hard for me because – for one reason or another – they didn’t struggle much with it themselves. Others only have young children and they’re convinced their current experience – filled to the brim with sleep deprivation, poopy diapers, and temper tantrums – is the hardest time anyone can endure.
In the context of my life – for me, with my kids – they’re all “wrong.” But I’ve determined I shouldn’t disavow any of them of their feelings. The fact is that each parenting journey – just like each of our individually-designed children – is unique. What’s hard for me is easy for someone else; what I can coast through is a deep struggle for another. The truth is that our perception of parenting life is as unique as our individual fingerprints.
As we begin a new year – at which time many set resolutions or goals of various sorts – what would happen if we decide to respect each other as parents? To put an end to the one-upmanship we too often indulge? To choose trust rather than skepticism in regards to others’ parenting choices? To uphold and build up instead of sniping and tearing down? What could we all say about our experience as parents – whatever the circumstances, good and bad, through which we’ll walk over the next 12 months – if we knew others would support and help us along the way rather than trying to convince us that they know better?
We can envision the beautiful results. Now let's live in such as way as to make that our reality a year from now.