Tag Archives: Parenting

Those Darn Teenagers

I know this goes along with the territory of being a parent, but I worry about my teenagers.  I not only worry about my own teenagers, but I worry about their friends.  I not only worry about their friends, but I worry about teenagers I do not even know, the children who go to our school.  There is something universal about being a parent.  When one child suffers, we as parents all suffer.  When one parent despairs, we all despair.  When something unfortunate happens to a child, it could have just as easily been our child.  We are all one in these moments.  No one parent is immune to the influences of our crazy world on our dear, beloved children.

What do I worry about?  Probably the same things you worry about.  The big stuff, and the small stuff.  Their grades, their immediate futures, their long-term futures, their circle of friends, their driving to and fro.  Their stress level, their happiness, their lack of happiness.  Their faith life, and the times they question their faith.  Their temptations, their reliance on the electronic devices in their lives, their ability to say no when they need to say no.  Their ability to say yes when they need to say yes.  Will their college roommate speak to them if they continue to make mountains of dirty laundry in the middle of the room?  Did they take their multivitamin today?  Ok, whew.  One less thing to worry about.  Is it not so much harder to be a teenager today than when we were teenagers?  I feel like a 45 record in saying this (hello child of the 70’s), but it is exponentially harder to be a teenager today than it ever was for us – and we felt like we had it rough!

I would like to say that I “give it all up to God” when it comes to my children and their daily challenges.  However, I don’t.  I feel like I can fix it.  My husband feels like he can fix it.  However, as parents, we can SO not do this alone.  We need the unconditional, non-judgmental support of our friends.  If we think we are alone in our challenges, we are not.  We need our faith communities – youth group, positive and faithful adult role models, or just a great relatable priest, youth minister or religion teacher can make a huge difference to a teen.  We need the model of the Holy Family – a mother and father who lived simple lives but still had the reality of raising their child to be a functioning adult amidst normal day to day challenges.  (Did Joseph regularly grab any milk on the way home from work?)

And of course, most of all, we need prayer.  There is a line in the Marist Mother’s Prayer Group prayer that says, “whatever we may do for our children, let us never fail to pray for them.”  Our role as parents is to help them to know, love and serve God.  No short order in our current, crazy world with distractions galore.

Here are two prayers I found, one for both a boy and one for a girl. (source: http://www.lords-prayer-words.com)

Prayer for my Teenage Boy

Dear Lord,

Help me to love, without expecting anything in return.
Help me to engage, even when I don’t fully understand him.
Help me to provide, quietly and gently to give good gifts.
Help me to speak, not to sow criticism but encouragement.
Help me to say sorry, to own up when I mess up.
Help me to forgive, even when I feel hurt or ignored.
Help me to hope, to breathe out joy and vision for the future.

Help me to carry my son, through the patchwork of hopes, dreams, hurts, worries, anger and the joy of teenage years.
Help me to remain open and soft
To understand and not to judge
My brilliant son.
Amen.
Prayer for my Teenage Girl

Dear Lord,

Help me to love, when she is angry and upset.
Help me to engage, when she needs a friend and a listening ear.
Help me to provide, to accept her needs and give out when she is needy.
Help me to speak, not to sow harmful words, but encouraging ones.
Help me to say sorry, to apologize when I fail her.
Help me to forgive, each day to provide grace and a new start.
Help me to hope, to pour out love, acceptance and truth.
Help me to carry my daughter through the patchwork of hopes, dreams, hurts, worries, anger and the joy of teenage years.
Help me to remain open and soft
To understand and not to judge
My beautiful daughter.
Amen.
We are all on this journey of parenting our pre-teens, teens and young adult children together.  Let us support one another in words, deeds and mutual prayers.  The occasional knowing hug, or well-timed text message.  Let’s get all these monkeys to heaven.

 

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Talking and Walking

When I drive to my parents’ house, I always love to take the back roads.  It takes a bit longer, but I find it peaceful driving through old southern towns with antebellum homes, through the pretty countryside littered with fields of cotton, as well as past a family of cement geese that are always bedecked in the clothes of the season (I’m not kidding.  They live in Blackshear.)  I also love seeing the funny and thought-provoking signs outside the churches that dot the towns south of Dublin once you get off I-16.

During this week’s trip, as I was heading to my parents’ house to clean out 50 years of memories and everyday items, I saw a church sign that spoke to me.  It said simply, “YOUR WALK TALKS LOUDER THAN YOUR TALK TALKS.”

Hmmmm.  How is my walk actually talking these days?  That gave me something to chew on for the next few hours.  And it didn’t always taste that great.

Then, in classic form, God continued to hit me over the head with the same message the next day.  I joined a friend Tuesday night for a Mass being said for her husband, who died earlier this year.  The priest asked us to “live the faith we profess.”  So clearly, I am hearing that it is not just good enough to say we are Christians.  We have to live it.  We can’t just talk to our kids about what they should and should not do, but we need to model it for them (eek).  We need to do more than just show up at Mass or services on Sunday, but work on our prayer and service life during the week.  We need to dabble (or more than just dabble) in Corporal Works of Mercy.  We need to get outside of our comfort zone and do the hard work that God has called us to do.  Yes, that means me.  We can’t just wear a cross on our neck and say we are Christians.  We need to, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

I know for many Catholics, the whole “evangelical” thing is hard and not part of our normal M.O.  But we are called to be more than just disciples.  It is easy to say we love God, and that we are Christians.  The hard part is living that – day in, day out.  We are called to proclaim the good news.  That’s the challenging part.

It can be hard, and it can be embarrassing.  I got into a long conversation with a Marine named London in Wal-Mart yesterday.  He seemed anxious to tell me his story about his tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.  He had been shot six times, and showed me his severed finger.  He was going back to Syria for his final tour in a few weeks, and then he plans to retire after 20 years of service.  This man could not have been 38 years old.  I promised him I would keep him in my prayers.

You know how you might say to someone, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” and then you just don’t do it for whatever reason.  It doesn’t even have to be a bad reason.  I think I really need to walk my talk and not just talk my talk and actually pray for London.  I need to pray for his safe return to his mom after his final tour.  I need to pray that he gets a good job when he returns after giving the last 20 years of his life for our country.  I get to give a face to the “American soldiers fighting for our freedom” who we pray for every week at Mass that I can’t always get my head around, even though I have family members in the military.

“Do as I say and not as I do” might be easier for us as parents, but I am going to work on the “do as I do” part a little more.  Thanks St. Francis.  Thanks random church in south Georgia.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

 “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  – 1 John 3:18

The Days are Long but the Years are Short

Last week during a visit to my mother’s house during spring break, I found myself having a rare opportunity to relax by myself for a few moments. I was sitting on the beach and watching a little boy about three playing joyfully in the sand. I thought to myself that it was only yesterday when I could not take my eyes off my two busy toddlers as they ran back and forth from the surf. Now my eldest was half-way across the world on the Bearing Witness trip visiting Dachau and Auschwitz, and my youngest was somewhere on the island doing an eight mile run by himself. When the kids were young, the days could feel so very long. I often reminded myself, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

I cannot believe that we are already in third term. Where has this year gone? I have been told that time goes by more quickly the older we get, and this has proved to be true. My daughter was sick this week and was home from school yesterday. We were lying in bed together chatting, and I thought to myself how the next two years of her time at Marist are going to go by so very quickly. In some ways I want to just stop time, or at least slow it down to make the moments really count.

I really enjoy a blog written by a very grounded Christian college student named Grace Valentine (gracevalentine.org). Although this list is written from the point of view of a girl, many of the life lessons could be translated to our sons as well. She encourages young girls to embrace their innocence, and stop trying to grow up too fast.

51 Things I Wish I Knew in High School (from gracevalentine.org, 12/31/15)

  1. Do not spend more than $9 on mascara. CVS sells ones that work just fine.
  2. It won’t matter later on that he was on a high school football team.
  3. Your push-up bra is obvious.
  4. Chill with the eyeliner.
  5. If he cheats on you, say goodbye.
  6. Stop subtweeting or Facebooking your life.
  7. Don’t tell your mom you hate her; you will regret it.
  8. Innocence is beautiful.
  9. Call your grandma just because.
  10. Some people will never like you; don’t let it bother you.
  11. Kill them with kindness.
  12. TPing/Rolling houses is all fun and games till it rains and you have to clean it up.
  13. You were beautiful before he told you.
  14. Don’t believe stereotypes. Get to know people personally instead of judging them.
  15. Don’t let one mistake define you.
  16. But learn from your mistakes.
  17. Eat home-cooked meals. You will miss it one day.
  18. Your mom can see a fake friend before you can.
  19. Your dad can see a crappy boy before you can.
  20. Enjoy your metabolism while it lasts.
  21. There is more to life than Friday night.
  22. If your parents buy you something, whether it’s a McDonald’s or an iPhone, say thank you.
  23. You are more beautiful than you will ever know.
  24. Prom is not the “best night of your life,” but go anyway.
  25. High school years are not the best years of your life.
  26. However, enjoy high school while it lasts, you will miss some of it.
  27. Bad times make you appreciate the good times.
  28. It’s only a bad day, not a bad life.
  29. Stop comparing yourself to others; that will never do any good.
  30. Learn to forgive. Also learn that not everyone deserves your trust.
  31. Learn to apologize.
  32. He isn’t the love of your life.
  33. Sex does not make you mature or an adult.
  34. Stop pretending to be someone you are not to impress people.
  35. Keep a journal.
  36. You’ll regret spending $90 on that Abercrombie fur vest.
  37. Eat the dang doughnut.
  38. Five for $27, appreciate it, and never forget it.
  39. Pray for your future husband every once in a while.
  40. Pray for your future kids too.
  41. Take those ACT prep classes seriously.
  42. Hug your grandpa every chance you get.
  43. Write thank you notes for everything.
  44. Tell your favorite high school teacher she rocks.
  45. Nothing good happens past midnight.
  46. Put others before yourself.
  47. Unless that person is an ex-boyfriend. You deserve happiness – stop worrying about him.
  48. If you love God, then you should love people.
  49. His plan is greater than yours (Romans 8:28).
  50. Stop speeding; especially on turns. Also stop at stop signs.
  51. Enjoy life. It goes by faster than you think.

 

These thoughts of hers make me think that my time is shorter than I think for imparting words of wisdom, values and life lessons on my children before they are out of my reach. Then I have to remind myself that I have been trying to do this their entire lives, and probably will continue to do so even when they are adults! Even my 74 year old mom has moments where she still wants to parent 47 year old me – I think that inclination never quite goes away.

“Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

 I also have to remind myself that I am not perfect. In fact, I make a lot of parenting mistakes and mishaps. However, I pray for guidance, strength and patience, and ask God to help me to be the best parent that I can be.

“Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is ‘forged’ by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows.”

– Pope Francis, during visit to Cuba and the U.S. (source: Lifeteen.com)

So I am going to continue to try and train my not-so-young children in “they way they should go,” and hope they remember at least a few of the times that I actually got it right. And I will continue to work on my mission of helping them to know, love and serve God every day on their journey toward adulthood.

“And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, April 24, 2005

If you have a spare moment, take a look and listen to a favorite song of mine called “Blink” by Revive that encourages us as parents to slow down the pace of our crazy life and enjoy these gifts of children we’ve been given. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4itARWKR-A)

Peace to all of you on your journey towards Easter.