Once upon a time, I was a mommy. My daughter wanted me to read her just one more story, to hug her constantly, to carry her on my hip, and to snuggle beside her on the couch. A kiss could chase all booboos away.
Those days were precious. Those days were exhausting. Those days are gone.
This morning I dropped off my preteen at middle school and said, “I love you.”
“Love you, Sweetie.”
The second time she responded with a scowl and a slammed door.
‘Tis the season to be
jolly. Actually, ’tis the season to be a person struggling with mood swings, burgeoning identity, and the crushing responsibility of impending adulthood. Only, that’s too hard to sing.
Countless moms have warned there is a shift as we move from “Mommies with Little Ones” to “Moms of Adolescents.” The exhaustion changes from physical to emotional. Where once the physical and time demands were constant and the hugs potent, adolescence enters with gray areas and questions on both the part of the parent and the child. And what kids want (ease and fun) is sometimes the opposite of what they need.
What is my role in this season of upheavals?
I am not here to make my child happy. My child’s character is far more important than her happiness. Happiness is a feeling and is temporary. Just as I must “own” my sin, my kids must own up to their mistakes and responsibilities, too. And we all have to learn how to deal with disappointment and responsibilities, good and bad. It’s how we become mature people.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
I am not here to be my child’s friend. I can be counselor, co-problem solver, and truth giver. I can also be a giver of unending love. But not enabler, total problem solver, blame absolver, or circus clown. I must say no sometimes, even when it makes me sad to do so.
“The Lord disciplines the one He loves.” (Hebrews 12:6)
I must move her step-by-step into independence. Some kids hit the field running, taking on their tasks and organizing their life. But others need a bit more guidance. For us, I sometimes break responsibilities down into smaller parts, gradually increasing the complexity. “Clean your room,” can be overwhelming. “Put your shoes in the closet, carry your laundry to the laundry room, and make your bed,” are more direct and can be faded with time into “clean your room.”
“[Mothers], do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
I must admit I’m not perfect and avoid demanding absolute perfection. When I come across as Mrs. Perfect Person, my children can feel defeated before they even try. And it makes everyone stressed out. When I blow it (and perhaps yell like a crazy person), I can apologize, just as I want my children to apologize when they make mistakes.
“For all have sinned.” (Romans 3:23)
I must remember to give love even when it’s not immediately returned. When I had cancer several years ago, my daughter wrote me countless love notes. But in the midst of an upheaval or disagreement with me, she’s not going to gush love poetry for me. That’s okay. I need to put my ego aside and offer her love unconditionally the same way Jesus does to us.
“[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a)
I can be a prayer warrior. I might not be able to protect her from everything or tell her exactly what to do, but I can be her biggest prayer champion. In fact, I’ve decided instead of nagging at her about certain aspects of life, I need to spend more time praying for the Holy Spirit to mold her and shape her. After all, He knows exactly what she needs and is much better at it than I am.
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
I can set boundaries. When people know what to expect, they feel more secure. So, if I can set expectations and boundaries ahead of time, there will be less room for conflict. One friend used the example of her son forgetting things like his lunch and calling her to bring them to him. She set the boundary of one save a semester. She would bring him homework or whatever one time, but otherwise he was on his own. She said it reduced arguments and increased his organization.
Most of all, I can keep giving her hugs whether she admits she wants them or not.
You just finished reading the blog post From Mommy to Mom: Navigating the Choppy Waters From Childhood to Adolescence by Jennifer Dyer. What’s next?
Think It Over – Listen to long-time school guidance counselor Rick Horne share how you can find out what your teen really wants and what you can do to see some lasting change in his or her behavior in Principles for Connecting to Your Teen.
Embrace It – Meditate on the Scripture passages in this article. What will you do to make your relationship with your child more Christlike?
Pass It On – Know another mom of tweens or teens? Share this post with her!