I always wondered what life would be like once our three similar aged older children hit adolescence. Would all hell break loose, or would things stay as wonderful as they always had been during their childhood? The hormones hit once they turned ten or so. And things did change. For a while it was chaos. The three easy-going children who I’ve had the privilege of spending each day of their lives with, suddenly became a little changeable. They were as confused as we were, and lamented frequently their desire to be a child once more.
But we knew this would never be so. Their childhood was now behind them and as their parents we needed to help them navigate the hormone infested waters of adolescence. I wasn’t certain I was entirely ready for this. After all I had only given birth to them a few short years ago and to be honest it felt like I had only just left my own adolescence behind. The first few months were hard. Not because the children were terrible but because it was a change which took time to come to terms with. Before adolescence, my love was enough. Now it wasn’t. There were many things which suddenly mattered to them waaaay more than they had previously. My job changed as I attempted to help them understand their roller-coaster moods, explain feelings they had never before experienced and be there for them to talk to whenever needed.
Today is the eve of my twins’ thirteenth birthday. Tomorrow Gary and I will be the proud parents of three teens. All thirteen. I wanted to write this post because, honestly, there is so little out there written about teens which is positive and teens have a huge amount going for them! I am thoroughly enjoying this age and stage. Yes, there are difficulties but there is also much to recommend them. So here is a list of my favourite aspects of having teens in the house.
- I love that they are so opinionated. About everything. Even things they know little about. I love listening to their thoughts. I love seeing them develop their train of thought. I particularly love listening to the three of them discussing some important issue. Iron sharpening iron. I love that I may be their teacher but I have much to learn from them. I love that they still ask my opinion. I give it honestly, but always tell them to go and think about what I’ve said and make their own minds up. I treasure my thinking teens. I love the fact they have strong opinions and I’m fine about them differing from mine. So long as they are talking, I will be listening. Our school which has always been so hands on, activity based, is now becoming far less hands on and much more discussion based. It is a complete honour to hear their thoughts. Teens speak without the restrictions of adult societal etiquette. They are not afraid of their opinions and I LOVE it.
- I love the friendships which are developing between all three. For the first decade of their lives the children adored each other. They were my three musketeers and each day was one big adventure. And then hormones hit and each of them developed their own individuality. This meant sometimes they would grate on each other’s nerves. We took a particularly strong stance against this, not allowing bickering of any kind. To be honest, we weren’t sure it would have any effect, but over the past nine months I have watched their former relationships blossom once more. They have so much fun together – singing, discussing, teasing, joking around. It is lovely to see. Don’t get me wrong, all is not perfect but it is pretty darn good! Nothing warms my heart more than seeing their developing friendships. I can already see them all going out in a group, having the same friends and enjoying their teen years together in much the same way as they enjoyed their childhood.
- I love watching their faith become their own. We have brought our children up to be Christian, but we have always made it clear that the decision would be their own to make whenever the time was right. It has been a true joy to see my son wrestle with and then own his own faith. Watching him move forward in and mature in this area is pretty incredible. He is asking hard questions, listening to answers he may not like but still he takes on board and thinks them through. My daughters are slightly younger but I can see their faith maturing and a freedom coming in their worship. It is very special and a huge privilege. I now understand far more than I ever have about why God gives us choice. A relationship formed through choice is way more beautiful than one formed by coercion. I don’t know what the future holds but I am thoroughly enjoying watching it happen.
- I love that they rename everything to suit their own purposes. For example, we don’t allow bickering but the twins have found a way around this by renaming it ‘disagrinning’, which means they are disagreeing with a grin. For me, so long as it is all happening with a smile and not any kind of nastiness then I am happy. Just recently they have informed me that they do not answer back, actually what they are doing is ‘politely correcting me’. If they think I am wrong, they tell me. But they warn me beforehand that they will be politely correcting me. I just grin.
- I love the fact that they begin to realise we, their parents, are not perfect. Yes, I really did just write that. Perfection is exhausting to maintain. I never really bothered, being of the lazy persuasion. But it is still gratifying that they now see my faults for what they are and still love me. It is so healthy, I think, for teens to see their parents struggling, asking for help, even crying on occasion. There is a bond which comes when a family group is stripped of their pretenses. Once facades are dropped, members can get on with the business of loving and supporting each other, faults and all. My children know I am as confused about stuff as they are. I have never parented teens before. Gary and I are learning as we go along. But we are in this together, adults and teens, muddling through in the best way we know how. My children know they will never get perfection from me, but they also know they will always get my imperfect best. And that, thank goodness, is enough.
- I love the fact that their knowledge has surpassed mine in so many areas, particularly electronically. I think I am the cause of much of my son’s amusement in his life. He is the one I call on to fix my phone, or sort out some problem with my blog. Granted, it is not difficult to be more knowledgeable than I in this area, given how absolutely clueless I am, but I can see his chest puffing out as he helps me. Teens need to be needed and we genuinely do need ours on so many levels.
- I am loving watching their metamorphosis. It was a bit of a shock to the system three years ago when the hormones and growth spurts first hit. My gorgeous three older children, almost over night, turned from sweet, easy-going cherubs to creatures I barely recognised. It seems to me there is an awkward phase before the child will re-emerge with a beauty which would have seemed impossible just a few short months beforehand. Much like the chrysalis stage of the caterpillar’s journey to a butterfly, adolescence seems the least attractive stage, and yet it is in this stage that the most growth and change is happening. Our adolescents often just need time. Time to come to terms with those changes; time to let the rest of the body catch up with their long flailing limbs; time to understand that this stage shall too pass; time to begin enjoying their new bodies, new minds and new independence. One day, before you know it, these awkward adolescents will change into the most incredible teens, ready to take on the world on their own terms. And that is one of the greatest privileges to observe.
- Which brings me to the next thing I love about my teens. I love how teens begin to take ownership of their own lives and their own futures. Over the past couple of years, T has gradually taken more and more responsibility for his life. In our house, the more responsible a child shows they are, the more freedoms they obtain. T is almost 100% in charge of his own life. He has shown me time and time again that he is ready for this. I love watching the happiness which comes with this season. I understand it is sometimes hard to let go, but there is much growth which comes from trusting your teen. This doesn’t mean they will always choose the right course of action, but I believe trust shows them they can try and fail in a save environment. I want to bring up children who will become fearless adults. I love watching T spread his wings, flapping them and strengthening them for the time he will need to fly off and discover the story of his own life. We have also given the girls much more freedom in their school choices which has allowed them to become more authentically themselves. I can see this particularly with C who is so enjoying being immersed in literature all day long.
- I love the change in our relationships from mother and child to mentor and mentee, and best of all to friends. They choose how they spend their time and I am always so pleased when they choose to spend it with their family. My eldest twin seeks me out each Sunday night whilst her siblings are at church with Daddy. We spend time chatting, drawing, chatting and painting. We learn more about each other and become better friends for it. I love that my son when he wishes to talk he closes the hallway door and lies on the floor next to my computer and we chat. It’s important stuff, even when it’s not. But this works both ways. I also share with them. I ask for their opinions, their views and sometimes their advice. It is a wonderful transition and I LOVE it.
- I couldn’t finish this list without including the sheer amount of teasing which goes on in this household. Oh. My. Goodness. It is my newest hobby! There is nothing more gratifying that teasing my teen! Especially if that teasing causes embarrassment of some sort in said teen. I try not to go over the invisible line of what is acceptable and what is not, but I sail waaay too close sometimes! Of course, if I am to tease them I also have to willing to be teased. Being of a fairly robust constitution I am happy to be teased about almost anything. I love to tease my teens and I love to be teased by my teens. Happy, happy sigh….
What do you love about your teens?