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Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Rhythm of Parenting Teenagers


This is how it goes:

Clap, clap. Tap, tap, tap.
Clap, grasp, move.
Clap, grasp, twist-tap, down.
Twist-grasp, slap, pass.

My kids have been playing for at least ten years. Hours of practice, laughing and do-overs finally became a rhythmic source of fun and entertainment for them and others. I've seen them request empty cups at restaurants, and then draw a crowd with their mad cups skills.

The game, and it's rhythms have been broken down, analyzed, and taught to any unsuspecting friends, cousins, aunts or uncles who may have come along. This summer they took it on the road - to the family reunion - and video-taped it for posterity.

Lately, parenting them has been a lot like the cup game.

Sometimes I feel like the hands -- Clap, clap. Tap, tap, tap... Counting out the rhythm. Focused and determined to get this right -- maintain the flow.

Catch, release. Pray, pray, pray. Laugh, cry, pray.

Sometimes I feel like the cup --- tapped, twisted, turned upside-down, passed to the next person... I get dizzy just thinking about it.

Where are the instructions for this elaborate dance? We've been deliberate about teaching these dear ones the life skills and faith they will need as adults. We've relaxed our hold on them, but not our hearts, and let them make choices on their own. Then watched, broken hearted, when their choices backfired and brought them pain. We've cheered and encouraged when the choices were good, and showed maturity, and we've rushed in, to catch them -- scold them -- give them consequences, when it seems they've lost their minds way.

Catch, release. Pray, pray, pray. Laugh, cry, pray.

The goal is that someday soon, they'll be ready when they launch out on their own. The hardest part is realizing that we can't control their choices, or protect them from the consequences. It's scary in a world full of broken hearts, pre-marital sex, greed, addiction and tragedy. There is no immunization to protect them. They must choose -- and we must let them, providing a safe place to fall, and try again.

Some days I am surprised to find that my battered, broken heart still beats with this rhythm.

Catch, release. Pray, pray, pray. Laugh, cry, pray.

It's the rhythm of parenting teenagers.

P.S. Check out The Box, Part III over at Antique Mommy's place. It's amazing.


Deena said...

Oh, do I get this post!! I stay mentally exhausted these days with my two teenaged daughters, one not in God's will, and one who is working out her salvation with fear and trembling (I do most of the fear and trembling!!). While I don't agree with 99% of what Hilary Clinton says, I do believe it takes a village to raise a child, especially a teen, and I am SO GLAD YOU ARE IN MY VILLAGE, DEAR FRIEND!!!!!

susan said...

My goodness...I'll never think of this game in the same way again. You have totally nailed it.

Sandi @ the WhistleStop Cafe said...

I have been wondering how to describe the change in my world when the kids come home from college for the summer.


Nise' said...

If it would only change when they hit the big 2 0 and are "officially" out of the teens, but it doesn't. I still experience it with a 23 & 20 year old along with the one still in the teen years (16). Wonderful post!

Brittani's Holding Little Hands said...

This was beautifully written. With my husband being a Sr. High pastor and me being a former high School teacher (before having my son), I can only imagine what a challenge it must be to parent in the teen years. I'm thankful people like you will go before me and share the wisdom God is granting you. And, thanks for your sweet comments on my new blog.

justabeachkat said...

Wow...perfectly stated. Soooo true! I enjoyed this post.


lynnae @ from under the clutter said...

I don't have teenagers yet, but I am quite certain that when my daughter gets there in a few years, I will remember this post! I love your description!

Shalene said...

How beatifully you put this. I only have one teen so far, but one closing in quickly. I have been blessed with children that are all working out their salvation with fear a trembling, and I am so thankful to the Lord for the opportunity and responsibility He gave me in them.

Kim said...

Wonderful post. I can feel the rhythm. It is fast approaching me.

Kim @ TheBitterBall

The Surrendered Scribe said...

What a great object lesson here! I don't have teens yet but this is perfect.

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