As the clients who walk through the doors of Bridgehaven get younger and my son gets older, I feel like my worlds will soon collide. Wait…that doesn’t sound right. What I mean is I have to start looking at my son, my baby, as a potential client. He hates when I call him my baby. I do it all the time on social media and he is like, “Stop, mom. I am not your baby.” Ah, buddy, you are absolutely wrong. Despite the fact that you grow taller than me daily, you will always be my baby…the one your dad and I prayed to God for for years and years. But you are right. You aren’t a baby. You are a young man. And that scares the crap out of me.
Parenting a teenager is not for the faint of heart. I say this like I know even though mine has only been an actual teenager for a few months. The facts are not pleasant to look at. According to the most recent CDC findings (cdc.gov) reported in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance 2015 report, nearly 10 million new STDs reported each year were among young people between the ages of 15-24; nearly 230,000 babies were born to teen girls aged 15-19 in 2015; 20% of surveyed students nationwide had ridden in a car or other vehicle one or more times with a driver who had been drinking alcohol; 41% of surveyed students had texted or emailed while driving a car; 22% of students surveyed had been in a physical fight one or more times; over 20% of students had been bullied on school property and 15.5% electronically bullied (email, chat rooms, social media); 14.6% of students nationwide had made a plan about how they would attempt suicide; 63% have tried alcohol and 44% had usually obtained the alcohol they drank by someone giving it to them; 21% were offered, sold or given an illegal drug. Kinda makes you feel sick, doesn’t it?
I think there are lots of practical things to do as parents. One of my main things is to have a strong village. Be friends with the parents of your kid’s friends. That way, you can call them and check out their stories. You can check Instagrams. The more eyes and ears on your kid, the better. Check their phones! Do it. You won’t be popular. They will hate it. Will they probably still be able to hide stuff from you? Yep. Will you still cuss Snapchat because you can’t see what is being discussed in a group chat involving way too many girls? Yep. And will you question why they don’t just text each other like normal people? Yes. But I am still a proponent of checking your kid’s phone. Do all the stuff they tell you to. Know where your kid is. Have rules and curfews. It is totally cool to not be cool with your kid. You are the parent. Don’t forget that. Repeat it to yourself. You are the parent.
Another neat thing I saw in a blog is to sit down with your child and review your parenting. It sounds super scary. It is kind of like having a performance evaluation with your kid. The only way to improve is to know how you are actually doing. Now, I imagine some of the feedback you get will be actual crap. I am pretty sure Kinnick will let me know I am overprotective and I need to let him stay out later and keep his phone in his room overnight. No chance, buddy. But, I bet there are things I do that bother him that I could change. Either way, the list I came across could start some pretty cool discussions.
- What have been some of the best times you’ve had with your dad/mom this past year?
- If you had to give me some advice on how to be a better dad/mom, what would it be? Why?
- If you and I could sit down and talk about anything, what would it be?
- What are some of the things that are making you anxious, fearful, or discouraged right now so I can pray for you?
- What’s something you would like to do with me?
- How can I help you grow in your love for God and in your ability to serve and live faithfully for Him?
- What has been the best thing I’ve done (or that we’ve done together as a family) this last year that has helped you most in your understanding of God and His love for you?
- What would you say has been the biggest area of growth for you in the last year?
- What have you learned about God/Christ/faith this last year that has blessed you?
- If you could grow in any area in the next 12 months, where would you want it to be?
- What do you think your dad/mom is most passionate about?
Ultimately, using a couple of these questions leads you to learning a whole bunch of things about your children you might not have otherwise known. Or it leads you to ask more questions. And I think the most important piece is just spending the time. Spend the time so your child knows you care. Spend the time so you know your child’s heart. Spend the time so your child knows your heart.
Being the mom is scary. It isn’t all glamorous and wonderful like people make it look on Facebook. It is hard work. And it requires time. I pray that Kinnick knows he is loved by God and so many people and that his decisions matter. I pray that he takes care of both his heart and his body. I just keep repeating Proverbs 23:15 in my head, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.” It’s absolutely the best we can do. Teach them, love them, pray for them and send them out into the world.
Director of Development