For the love, Sara.
Because you and I both know that if you have dug a letter out from your younger self, you’ve hit a wall.
A wall that feels higher than your grasp, that reeks of defeat and that leaves you feeling completely overwhelmed…
So breathe, girl.
But even as you measure each breath, remember that I am not some snot-nosed, know-it-all, trying to blow sunshine up your nose. I am you. And you are a woman who has loved and been loved by teenagers for now more than half of your life.
This time. This season. This chapter.
The one where you can either learn from where you’ve been and who you’ve loved or just let fear keep you from loving fully those who carry around pieces of your heart.
So let’s take the lessons from each classroom, each team and each squad piece-by-piece and letter-by-letter.
Laugh and cry, if you must.
But learn well, sweet girl.
Lesson #1: Teenagers need a place to call home.
Braces and bras and overwhelming cologne will never change that. When they are hurt or angry or devastated, their hearts will ache for the comfort of those that love them.
Be ready. Be willing. Be available.
This is not the time to let your guard down.
Continue to pray, love and listen with a vengeance.
Remind yourself that although the tasking of the day may not include so many things as when they were young, there are parents with beautiful teenagers who still require intensive “tasking”—diaper changes, bathing, feeding. They don’t get to give up. So you don’t either.
Spend your time making and cultivating the safe place, the soft nest they need, for she will talk and confide and pour her heart out and into the place she calls home.
Just make sure that place is with you.
Lesson #2: All teenagers still need help in the common sense department.
(In other words, IQ points do not common sense, make.)
Yes, you might go cross-eyed when he explains a theorem or she delves into the philosophy of some guy whose name you can’t pronounce, but do not lose heart, mama.
Because, bless it, they still need you for important lessons like:
- Lingerie and leather and anything inches below or above things clad in underwear do not count as “professional” attire.
- Two-day old burritos kept in your suit pocket are not recommended for human consumption.
- You may think you look amazing in your boxer shorts but please go to the bathroom or locker room should you need to disrobe. The world would prefer a little mystery.
- It is inadvisable to climb onto the rooftop of a rival school and wave to traffic passing by when you are suppose to be in a debate round.
- Passing gas is not a talent.
- Calling a teacher an “idiot” or “moron” during class will not end well. (You will find in the future, the same surprisingly applies to bosses.)
Sister, you know this is only the short list. Embrace it. No matter how many brain cells you’ve surrendered or they’ve taken, these children NEED you, if only for the greater good of humanity.
Lesson #3: Teenagers are capable of accomplishing the incredible.
Some of the most knock-down, drag-out amazing people you’ve ever met have been 15, 16, 17…
They have faced terminal and chronic illness with a grace and dignity you still have yet to grasp. They have overcome addiction and abuse with the kind of courage you long for. And they have fought injustice that you in your cowardice are too lazy to fight against.
Teenagers are not only students, they can be the most phenomenal of teachers.
Learn from them.
And do your best to fight the world’s, blah, blah, blah, “teenager’s are hopeless” nonsense.
This is one of the most self-defeating dialogues of our day. And frankly, it’s got to end. Teenagers are no more hopeless than we are, sister.
In many ways, they rock the socks off of adults when it comes to passion, tenacity and strength.
You know it to be true. Hold onto that truth. And remember the days you made it through early motherhood because you had watched young moms spend all night in the ER with an infant and then come ace their speech test the following morning.
Teenagers are capable of doing amazing things.
Expect no less.
Especially of the ones you’ve raised.
Lesson #4: To love a teenager is to “get” the love of Jesus.
Now don’t roll your eyes at this one, girl.
I need you to hear me in this place more than anywhere else. I think it is why I saved it until the end. Because in reality, it’s the most important lesson of all.
Yes, teenagers are amazing.
But just like any person you love with all your being, they can also break your heart.
They can end up in the principal’s office or juvenile hall.
They can make choices that change their life in a way you never wanted it to change.
They can leave you.
Oh, sweet Jesus.
They can leave you.
And maybe, that’s why sometimes, you will want to leave them first.
You stay put.
(Or you can best be believing that I will figure out how to time travel and smack you upside the head.)
Because they will come back.
And you need be there when they do.
You need to be ready to clothe them, feed them, welcome them back with open arms.
Kiss them. Love them. Shed tears of joy over them.
To say in so many beautiful ways,
Jesus did no less for you, girl.
Jesus did no less.
So breathe, sister.
You are needed. You are important. You are loved.
Celebrate their amazing.
Shoulder through their tough stuff.
And no matter what…
Don’t. Give. Up.