Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Breakfast Burritos, dented doors and teenagers: The unspoken words

I’m sure you are familiar with the saying “Children should be seen and not heard.”  Bet you even know people who live by that motto.  As a child it made me cringe but now as a parent, it breaks my heart to hear.

Sitting in McDonald's talking with my two teenage boys led to a plethora of insightful information.  Teenagers are good like that.  Spend any amount of time with them doing the things they enjoy (eating) and they will talk your ear off.

I have often heard people, parents, tell horror stories about raising teenagers.  I have spent years dreading these years but now that they are here, I LOVE IT!

Don’t get me wrong.  I miss the sweet cuddles and innocent conversations followed by a “mommy I love you” moment of the younger years but something about having teenagers brings adventure and mystery all at once.

I love having conversations with my kids.  I love hearing their hearts, their stories, their perspective on the things happening around them.  It is amazing.  I love that my kids are not afraid to talk to me.  For me, it’s important that they know that they can.  I guess being upfront about my reckless mistakes as a teenager has left the door open for honest conversation between us.

Oftentimes when I hear parents complain about their teenagers, I realize that a lot of their issues simply come from not listening.  Parents who, at the slightest voice raising of their child, choose to send them straight to their room might be missing something bigger. As a mom of five, I am learning the signals.  When temperatures rise and voices get loud, I know I need to step back and listen.  

I have five really great kids.  They range in age from 16 to seven.  Three are boys and two are girls.  Each with a different personality.  I have a 16 year old who is easy going, polite, gets great grades, can be a know it all but for the most part does what I tell him to do.  Then I have a fourteen year old who is artsy, life of the party, athletic and a little more of a rebel.  He challenges me.  Then the thirteen year old mini version of me.  Every time she opens her mouth, I hear me at that age. She is sassy, lively, dramatic, argumentative and full of life.  She challenges me even more.  Next, we have the energetic ten year old who is super intelligent, inquisitive, mischievous, funny and melts my heart with his smile.  He has not quite hit the challenging stage yet.  Last but not least, the baby,  the seven year old.  She is rotten but has stolen all of our hearts.  She is clever, funny and full of personality.  She is a people pleaser like her mommy, which is not necessarily a good thing, but keeps her out of trouble because she does not want to disappoint.  All five I love but each one has driven me crazy at some time or another.

As a mom, my job requires knowing and understanding each of them.  I need to understand the way they think and be aware of the happenings in their lives.  As a kid, it is not always easy to know when to speak or to know what is safe to share.  My kids need to know, they do have a voice and I will listen. To know that I care enough about what is important to them no matter what it involves.

In those moments when tensions rise, I need to be quiet and listen. I need to look for the bigger picture.  Those moments become my time to shine as a parent. Those are my moments to take a step back and evaluate my own parenting skills by hearing what they may not be saying.  What a great opportunity to be Jesus to by kids by extending grace, patience, and love.  

What I’ve learned is oftentimes there is more to the conversation then what is happening on the surface.  There is another underlying problem that my child is unsure how to express or even scared to share. I am learning that raising teenagers is not just about listening to the words said but to the words not being said as well.  Kids most definitely should be heard. They have important things to say. I have had some great conversations with my kids about real world problems (to them) because they are not afraid to tell me what they are really thinking.  Do I expect respect?  Absolutely!  Do they lack in this particular area at times?  Absolutely!  Have they made bad choices?  Of course! Does that make them difficult children? No way!

Just like my kids, I lack in so many areas of my own life.  I constantly fall short before the Lord.   The extent of grace God lavishes upon me daily, reminds me that my children deserve the same. 

The lessons taught through parenting: Parenting is not a right.  It is a privilege.  It also holds a lot of power. And as a wise man once said, with great power comes great responsibility.  I have the power to crush my children or to build them up. God has entrusted me to raise His children and extend the same grace and love that He extends to me on a daily basis.  I do not always get that right. I have had to ask the forgiveness of my children on more than one occasion as I have thrown my weight around making them feel less than they are.

Parenting is hard work but it is the most rewarding thing I have done so far in this life.  I look at my children and see hearts that need to be molded.  Hearts that need to be led.  Hearts that need to be taught God’s word. That will never happen if they do not see that I am listening. They won’t hear me if I do not value them just as Jesus does.  He sees them as precious and even Jesus took the time to listen to the children.  I have to do the same.

I am thankful for the challenges that come with being a mom.  Each challenge is slowly turning me into a better person.  I am learning to be patient when things seem out of control.  I am learning to be silent when listening is needed.  I am learning to love and extend grace in ways I never imagined.  So the next time you hear that tone in their voice that makes you want to react and correct, take a second and evaluate.  Maybe there is a bigger conversation waiting to be had.