Recently, I spent some time with a friend whose oldest daughter is a teenager. I tend to be an observer--particularly of those who are just a stage or two ahead of me on this parenting/marriage journey--and especially when they are doing it 'well.'
The interaction that struck me most occurred one afternoon as Daughter was walking Mother through how to manage the Instagram account. Daughter was aghast that Mother had 46 pending follow requests and pledged to help her clear the list. As Daughter went through the list she would report the name as she approved them. At one point she reached a couple of names that she didn't read aloud. She simply said, "Nope."
Mother was distracted by something else at the time, so I asked why those particular people weren't going to be approved. Without skipping a beat she replied, "Because my Mom isn't like them. I love my Mom just the way she is and don't want them to mess her up."
I haven't been able to stop thinking about Daughter's comment. I can't really imagine a better compliment from a teen girl's perspective. In a world where we hear so much about tweens and teens rolling their eyes at their 'uncool' parents, this fifteen year old is proud of their Mom. (Because I know the mother well I can add, it's not because she is permissive, coddling or meddling--it's because she is authentically loving, kind and brave.)
Not only does she like her Mom just the way she is--she appreciates that she hasn't gotten sucked into the mainstream. She doesn't want her Mom to cling to an unrealistic pursuit or youth. This daughter isn't consumed with whether her Mom is popular. This daughter actually acknowledges that she needs her Mom to continue modelling how to be herself--boldly and bravely.
As a Mom of children who get more 'tweeny' every day I told Mother & Daughter what a beautiful lesson this was for me.
Social drama has only begun to rear its head intermittently for my children--but I can already tell it will be tempting to get sucked in. I watch it around me when Moms start telling a story about a teacher, a clique or a perceived slight to their children-- or, honestly, the feelings that well up when it happens to one of mine.
I pray I remember that I have already walked this road of adolescence and survived. My children's lives are not a do-over for me. As disappointments, hurtful comments and social challenges happen, we must commit ourselves to remember this is not an epic battle of good kids versus bad ones--these are children who are sometimes flailing as they try to figure it all out. My own children have already been on both sides.
Our growing children don't need another emotional, irrational peer...particularly an adult trying to squeeze themselves back into the role. Fanning the flames by inserting our own old hurts or insecurities is not helpful or instructive. Our children need parents to be adults--firmly rooted, established and secure enough to listen, empathize, counsel and encourage. It's hard to do that when you are down in the muck too.
I love youth ministry. I already view my children's friends as part of the village God has called me to influence and love. I pray the Lord continues to remind me of the abiding wisdom of 'in it not of it.' Our children need us to be US--the brave adults God entrusted with their young hearts--not an immature, easily riled up version.
Lord, strengthen me for the task.