I continue to be shocked at how much busier life is now that three out of four of our boys are teenagers (and our youngest is a pre-teen). I didn’t know it was possible to actually get busier. After all – life was busy enough already.
Five minutes ago they were babies.
Here’s our family with my brother’s family about a month ago.
See all the tall blond
boys men? Those are my babies.
There were a few years post baby stage and pre teenage stage when life was busy but not so overwhelming. Then about two years ago the just try and keep up stage hit when our third son turned teenager. (At that time our boys were senior, freshman, 7th grader, and 4th grader).
I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong as somehow, I was no longer getting as much done as I used to. Why – with the boys being more independent than ever – do they seem to need me more than they used to? Why do I seem to have more interruptions when I’m at my desk trying to write or work on other business responsibilities? Why I am so behind on everything all the time? Why can’t my house stay clean (or actually get clean in the first place)?
I mean, I haven’t had to take anyone potty for years. The boys get themselves up in the morning, get themselves ready for bed at night, and do a good portion of their school work on their own. They can all cook, do laundry, clean the kitchen, and do a dozens of chores around the house and yard.
I thought life would be much easier once we hit this stage. I remember looking at moms of teenagers back when my kids were all little and I would think, “Oh that will be so nice when the kids are older and can do things for themselves. She must have so much freedom now!”
And that very mom would look at me with all my littles and say, “Oh it was so nice when they were all little. I miss those calm days.”
What was she – crazy??? Yes, moms of teenagers must be crazy, I decided. They’ve forgotten what it’s like to have little ones and I will never, ever say that to a young mom when I grow older.
Now here I am. Older.
I understand what the older mom meant now. I still vow to never tell a young mom that “she has it easy” as she runs and chases and wipes and hugs and kisses and corrects and runs and chases and wipes…” What a young mom does all day is hard. It’s great and it’s amazing and it’s precious – but it’s hard. So there, young mom. You amaze me. You go, girl! You love those babies!! You are fantastic and if I could, I would take over all the wiping and holding for a few hours so you could all take a nap and go to the store by yourself.
But alas. I’m so busy with my big, independent children that I can’t possibly follow through with this offer. I know it sounds weird. Life got easier as the kids got older, but then it got harder again as I started raising teenagers. Let me break it all down.
The Easy Parts of Raising Teenagers
If you think you love your kids when they are little, just wait until you see God at work in them when they are older. They get bigger and so does your love for them. This is for real. It is nothing short of amazing to watch their talents develop, to listen to them share their experiences, and to be a part of their victories. You know how you look at your child and feel such intense love that your breath catches mid-inhale? That happens more and more when they’re older. For some reason, my eyes tear up more often too. It’s a love thing and I can’t help it.
Our third son Elias, teen #3 at our house, playing soccer last fall
Enjoying their help
I rarely clean a toilet or run the vacuum. My kids are the full-time dishwasher loaders and unloaders. I haven’t folded or put away one clothing item for any of my sons for five years. To think – I used to do most of the household tasks by myself while I was nursing a baby and potty training a toddler and everything else. It’s exhausting to think about (so again I salute you young moms). I love that the boys are so capable of helping so much.
Going places without them
I can run to the store by myself and nobody even blinks. I get home from the store and don’t have to unload a single bag because I holler at the boys and they come do it. I can say, “I’m heading out for XYZ – have your Math and English finished by the time I get back and also load the dishwasher” – and they do (usually).
Our fourth son, Malachi (second from the right),
hanging out with buddies at a recent church event
Going places with them
My kids dress themselves, tie their own shoes, gather all their belongings, fill their own water bottles, climb into the car by themselves, and buckle their own seat-belts. Whatever needs to be loaded into the van: they load it. After more than a decade of diaper bags, diaper blow outs, car seats, and sippy cups – I don’t take for granted that we can all be out the door and in the van in one minute flat.
Hanging out with them.
My kids are FUN!!!!! We enjoy grown up conversation, grown up humor, grown up prayer time, grown up Bible discussions, grown up music, and grown up teamwork (serving together). My kids make me laugh all the time. Teenagers are incredibly fun.
The Hard Parts of Raising Teenagers
Keeping up with them
Our teens have chosen (with our blessing) to be very involved in many activities. They are leaders in our church youth group and therefore highly involved with activities several times each week. They participate in sports. They referee soccer (for pay). They attend several weeks of church camp during the summer either as a counselor or as a camper. They take part in home-school activities. Two of our kids take piano lessons and one of them takes guitar lessons.
There’s the ACT to prepare for, spending 50 hours with them behind the wheel so they can earn their driver’s license, and filling out high school transcripts. Their school work is intense and takes much longer than it used to. Our high-schoolers take college classes.
Justus, our second son, just before the Homeschool Prom 2016
Our kids have so many great opportunities they have to pick and choose and say “no” to some. In the meantime we are their biggest support, cheerleaders, taxi service, and consultants. They need a lot of consulting, “Mom, what do you think I should…” “Will it work if J and F come over and we…” “Can you come listen to my…” “I’m not sure how to word this email…”
They don’t need me to wipe their noses anymore. Instead they need me to help them fill out applications, meet deadlines, decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” proofread a paper, order something online, make major decisions. Their needs are weightier, their questions are bigger, and I’ve found that if one boy doesn’t need me another one does – all day long. I consider this a great honor, you can be sure. I love that they need me. I love being a part of all that they are a part of. But keeping up? Just whatever about that pile of clothes on my bedroom chair that never gets hung up. Maybe I’ll get to it after Malachi graduates.
Getting to bed at a decent time
These kids. They stay up late. Often their evening activities find us stumbling in the door at way past my brain dead time. Most nights I’m zonked and they’re still going strong. Gone are the days we’d put the boys to bed then have a little time to ourselves. Which leads me to…
Carving out time with Matt
It has become hard for Matt and me to find alone time together. We have to make this a priority or we will go for way too long without having an actual conversation. (“Can you drive him to guitar lessons or do you need me to?” doesn’t count.) This blindsided me as again, I assumed I’d have more time with Matt as the kids got older.
So we’re prayerful and intentional about making time for each other, asking God to provide since logistically we can’t seem to figure it out.
Helping them navigate relationships
Since all my kids are of the male variety, they tend to be a little quieter with the details of their relationships. Still, there’s no doubt that what our boys work through with their friends and with those of the female variety are by far different and in many ways much more difficult than the “Bobby won’t let me play with him” issues of their little boy years.
Our job as parents is challenged by questions like how much do we say? and should we step in and offer advice or let them work it out? Prayer plays a huge role here as we seek the Spirit’s leading on when to talk, when to keep quiet – and if we are to speak, what we are to say. As the Spirit leads, we offer guidance, share our own experiences, and continually pray for our boys to be open to God’s work and protection in their relationships.
Seeing them struggle
Not every experience our boys has is a ray of sunshine. There have been times where confidence was shattered, tests were failed, they do or say things that is more selfish than godly, the list goes on.
As delightful as it is to watch God grow them into talented, strong, incredibly amazing young men – we also see their weak spots. It was hard to deal with their weaknesses when they were little – but they only showed up in little ways then (not that I call a tantrum at the grocery store little – oy!). Now that they are big – so are their struggles – personally, spiritually, and emotionally. I always thought I could help them “grow out of” their weaknesses. (Yes, my plan was to raise perfect children.)
Indeed, they have grown and conquered in many areas. But just like I still struggle with sin and always will – our grown up boys struggle with sin and always will. We continue striving toward godliness in every area. But we’re not going to launch perfect robotic offspring who are completely prepared to conquer the world and who will never face trials or mess up. We’re raising children who need a Savior and must seek Him constantly.
It’s been important for me to remember God’s truths: He is victorious, He is protector, He is provider, He has plans prepared in advance for all of us, He is Lord.
Our oldest, Asa, back row, right side, 6’4″ blond – singing in the York College Concert Choir
Letting them go
While this is a challenge, this one is actually beautiful and rewarding. Our oldest son has almost completed his first year away from home and we are watching him thrive and struggle and love life and limp along and be amazing all at the same time. He is teenager turning adult and he’s showing us that letting go is not so sad but rather triumphant.
No Matter What Stage
Our strength comes from the Lord. Our wisdom comes from the Lord. Our words, our actions, our decisions – everything we do must be couched in prayer and offered in humility. God leads and provides everything we need for every stage of parenting.
Perhaps this is the best truth I’ve learned after being a mom for almost 19 years: I can’t do this without Jesus and I don’t have to. From baby to adult – He is Lord of our home.
What stage are you in currently? What do you find to be the easiest parts and hardest parts of parenting your kids right now?