You know that feeling. “Can I really do this?” We all ask ourselves this daunting question when we first learn we are going to become parents. Will I be able to handle the responsibility of nurturing another human being for the next roughly two decades?
When our first child, Jacquelyn, was born, we were ridiculously excited, filled with anticipation, and waiting impatiently for her arrival. It is distinctly and forever etched in my brain the odd, surreal feeling I had when we brought her home from the hospital.
We walked through the door of our home, set her down in her little car seat carrier next to the Christmas tree, and gazed at her in her new surroundings. That’s when it hit me.
WOW. I. AM. A. PARENT.
At that moment, a switch flipped on in my head that has never flipped off. Ever. I call it “Constant Vigilance.”
If you are a parent, you probably know exactly what I am talking about. Constant Vigilance is the feeling of overwhelming, solitary responsibility for that tiny, little helpless person you just produced.
The switch did not kick on at the hospital. Nurses were in and out of my room helping us, taking her to the nursery when I needed to sleep, changing her, coaching me with nursing, all the good stuff they do for you while you are still in the hospital after having a baby.
Only when I walked into my house, knowing that this was it, did Constant Vigilance kick in. I had no nurses to help. No one else was going to do this. Just my husband and me. And when he was at work, just me. Just me.
And just you. You have been responsible for your little person, and you have admirably risen to the occasion. Slowly but surely, day by day, you realized that you could do it. You could take care of this baby.
Now look how far you’ve come! You have successfully navigated the infant and toddler years. Congratulations. That is truly an accomplishment. You charged forward, at times frazzled and sleep-deprived. Somehow you managed a person who was literally laughing one minute and crying the next (what a roller coaster ride). Most of all, you have fallen in love with the most precious, adorable person in all the world.
And now that person is a teenager.
The automatic assumption for many people is that their kids are great until they turn 13. Then everything just starts to deteriorate. That, my friends, is a myth. Those teenagers are still your sweet kids, wondering why society has turned on them.
Suddenly, with the advent of the teen years, parents are told by society that teens are awful. That these years are to be dreaded, feared, and survived. That no matter what we do or say, it makes no difference and they will just ignore us and do whatever they want. Our knees turn to jelly at the thought of having to deal with such impossible creatures. Can we handle this? We’re not so sure.
I argue that you absolutely can handle it. You have come this far and been successful, so I know you’ve got this. Don’t just give up your authority! Have faith in your ability. Stand up for it and make a difference in your teen’s life. He or she is depending on you.
The reason I felt compelled to start this blog is because I am ready to see things change for teens. We are losing them, mostly because we are allowing them to be taken from us. Teens are one of the most maligned groups of people in our culture today. It’s not okay to speak disparagingly of whole groups of people, and rightly so. But for some reason, teens are an exception to that rule.
Obviously, things are going to be different as they get older. They physically change. They are learning more and getting smarter. Perhaps that is intimidating to a degree. But remember who you are. You were probably a hero to your child when he was younger. He looked up to you, physically and symbolically. You can continue to be that hero, you just have to challenge yourself to adapt to the changes.
When your Constant Vigilance switch kicked on, you started this journey with the intent to finish it – and finish it well.
Now that you are the parent of a teen, Constant Vigilance is still a factor. Your urge to worry and care for them has never gone away. When they were little, you worried about them bumping their head, falling out of bed, knocking their teeth out, or not eating enough. You still worry, but it’s different now.
Now, it’s the fact that they can drive a car (shudder). It’s the fact that their friends can drive cars (bigger shudder). Now, it’s the worry that someone will offer or even slip them drugs. The worry about a friend we think is not the best choice. The worry of dating and sex. The worry of anything bad you may be able to dream up. The preservation of their safety keeps you awake at night. Once again, sleep deprivation. Only this time, it’s not quite the same as it was when they were babies.
The stakes are bigger now. Life altering decisions are made, and sometimes you may feel helpless to intervene.
But you are not helpless. You are the parent. You have resources. You have the power to guide and influence your teen that our society and culture tell you that you don’t have anymore. But that power does exist. It is God-given, and you must use it, and use it wisely.
This statement bears repeating. You have the power to guide and influence your teen.
A huge key is to have two-way discussions with your teen on a regular basis. Having one big talk is not going to cut it. You must build on the relationship you established with your child when he was younger. If you need more help in this area, be sure to download the free ebook that is offered to our subscribers. It is full of tips that can help you improve and build your relationship with your teen. Talk with each other a lot, all along the way. If you do it that way, then it isn’t weird when you decide to discuss something important that is weighing on your mind.
There will be more to come in future weeks on this topic.
If you found this post helpful, then please scroll down and leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts and feelings about how teens are viewed in our culture, and how you plan to take your relationship with your teen to a greater level. Also, let me know how I can help.