April 6, 2013

Life with four teens can be rollercoaster

I had planned on writing a humorous (well, hopefully humorous) column this week. My last few articles have been serious, so I thought I’d lighten up a bit. 

With anything I write, though, authenticity is my final litmus test. Right now, funny would not be honest for me. This has been a tough year for our family; in more than one way, for more than one of us. Life has thrown us some dark curveballs. So, I seek comfort in the only way I know: through sharing. 

This year (and only this year), four of our five children are teenagers. While that provides much hilarity, it also makes for a bumpy, twisty rollercoaster ride through the tunnel of ever-changing emotion. As parents, the riding is not the most terrifying part. The most terrifying part is the added torture of watching our children board the ride, alone and unprepared for life and love’s inextricable power. 

Do you remember the first time your toddler went on a carnival ride without you? The helpless feeling as an unknown attendant strapped your child into a seat, relegating you to the sidelines to feign bravery and channel confidence toward your offspring? Yeah. Something like that.

Remaining strong is tough enough, but remaining strong while deciphering what our teenage children need from us is a whole other animal. Beneath the withering accusations and hostility, what are they seeking? I often tell parents that when a teen’s declaration is impossibly painful, it is most likely a question: “You don’t love me” (“Do you love me?”),  “You and mom should get a divorce” (“Is our family falling apart?”), “You’d kick me out if I got pregnant” (“Will you stick by me even if I make a mistake?”). Teen speak. What are they really trying to say? More importantly, how do we respond? 

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