Teenagers Are Awesome - Part One
I recently changed my world. Granted, it was a small corner of the internet, which probably really effected only me, but I changed it nonetheless.
For a couple of years now, every time I post something on social media about one of my kids, I would use my favorite hashtag.
The problem was every time I would go to type it out, Instagram would throw out a few suggestions based on hashtag popularity. I'd type the first few letters, #teenagers...and immediately it would suggest something quite opposite.
Yep. That lovely sentiment has been posted thousands of times. But, I'm happy to announce that after a couple of years of typing out my full hashtag letter by letter, last month, for the first time, it had changed. Now, when I type in the first few letters, Instagram offers as its first suggestion for me...#teenagersareawesome.
My little corner of the world changed, and I did a little dance.
It may not seem like a big deal, but to me, it was huge because words are everything. Words are what shape my perception and my attitude. Words give me a goal and fuel to get there. And these words were true—teenagers really are awesome.
I remember when my oldest was a baby, still sleeping in his car seat as we trekked through the grocery store, people would stop me to take a look at him. And often, they would say something to the effect of, "Well, enjoy this moment. He's sweet now, but wait until the Terrible Twos." And then when I took that same toddler to the same grocery store two years later, I heard, “Just wait. He’s cute now, but the Terrible Threes are coming!” That made me grimace every time, feeling dread that something was around the corner I wasn't prepared for and wouldn't know how to handle. And you know what? Something was coming that I wasn't prepared for, but dreading it wasn't going to make me handle it any better.
The truth is that I haven't been prepared for a single one of the many, many stages my kids have gone through, but we've made it through them anyway. And the truth is that every stage has been full of some new challenges and some tears and some days where I very much wanted to run away and change my name so "Mom" didn't apply anymore, but they've also been full of new joys and some laugh until you cry moments and some days where all I wanted was to freeze time so I could keep living right here and right now for the rest of my life. That is the FULL truth. And if your words only speak of the terribleness of the twos and the suckiness of teenagers, you're going to miss the rest and you may even make the terribleness more terrible and the suckiness more sucky. And let's face it, your hashtag will be no fun for anyone, least of all for you.
So, I'd like to start a revolution. I'm grabbing a flag and raising it high. I'm waving it over the orthodontist appointments, the hormones and the mood swings, the weeping and gnashing of teeth over the algebra book, the rolling of the eyes, the wrecked cars, the car insurance bills that equal a European vacation after said wrecking of cars, and the empty refrigerators. And I'm shouting the FULL truth, that there is a lot more joy in these teenage years than tears. And I'm waving that flag over growing confidence and the trying of new things. I'm waving it over learning from mistakes and doing things differently the next time. I'm waving it over minds that are expanding and the process of discovering what makes you come alive. I'm waving it over the late night "heart to hearts" over ice cream and the late Saturday morning "laugh until you cry stories" over pancakes. And I'm waving it over the reality that you only have a few more years, less than you've ever had before, to cherish the gift of your child living and breathing in your home.
Recently, our family witnessed a mother and her teenage son screaming obscenities at each other on a public street. (It made my husband so sad, he called for a family hug when we got a hundred feet down the road.) And I've thought a lot about that mama since then. I don't know what she was going through, or what relational roadblock they had hit. But, I do know that moment was breaking her heart, just as much as it was breaking his. Because family was never designed to tear and destroy. It was always meant to be the building block for the rest of life. it was meant to be a shelter and a launching pad into the unknown all at the same time. And no matter what roadblocks we hit in seeing home be what it's supposed to be, our words to and about each other can be our greatest tool in making it over those obstacles, or they can be the wound that ensures we stay stuck for awhile.
I think this world is in need of a few more flag wavers, people who will stand and wave the parenting flag with zeal wrapped in joy, even when they're tired from late night algebra and even when they're driving a car with battle scars from driver's ed. I believe a few more flag wavers who can say, "Yep. It's crazy, but it's awesome" could change a few more little corners of the world, and those little corners just might inspire someone else to pick up the flag.
Will you join the revolution?
Note: This is the first of a four part series. Check back soon for Part Two: "How to Handle the Never Ending Decision Fatigue of Raising Teenagers."