Sep 1, 2010

Parenting Teenagers: One Single Mom's Perspective

There is such blessing in the gift of being a single parent. And parenting teenagers has taught me so many things about life and myself.

A very wise friend who had journeyed through the experience earlier than I did, taught me so much and one of her deepest learnings was that in the teen years, it is much more about the parent changing, than the child. They are right where they are supposed to be. It's truly your response, your judgements, your perspectives that make the difference in managing through in a healthy way that leads to greater understanding.

Our life in these years has not been without chaos, trial, tears and triumphs. But isn't that life? The pushing, and pulling. The testing of my own faith and the development of theirs. Their doubts coming out loudly and ferociously sometimes, yet their faith forming quietly within them. Their testing of the rules, their testing of my heart, their testing of my devotion. I'm used to being questioned about my values now, because I understand their character is being formed. And it also gives a unique chance to rethink, retool, reevaluate many of my own life's lessons.

A friend of mine at work is one of the finest people I know. And as I learn and grow in my faith life, I realize that when the character of a person shines through, I am so drawn to see and relate and applaud and encourage. I'm in awe when I see a person who is so accomplished, yet who never once forgets to say thank you. As he has shared with me the joys of his life and his work, he has expressed over and over the greatest meaning in his life-- his incredible wife and beautiful daughters. And constantly I see him in awe of these precious children, really understanding how they change him, how their innocence and beauty cuts to his very heart and makes his life so worthwhile. And I know from our talks that he is so grateful to his parents. He told me once when I was struggling with the relationship my own children have with their father that he wanted be a good a father as his father had been to him. It made realize the foundation that was built in his family of his parents generosity of heart, had a great deal to do with who he is. And I was grateful to live in a family who also formed those important values in me. Foundation. Roots. Solid. Deep.

I try to remember that now when I'm moving closer to the wings, and further from the roots that the depths of the roots are already planted and have taken hold. I know the "wings" scare me a bit. I remember the journey of my own wings, finding my own way. And as I've already learned, nothing is perfect. My perfect dreams I hold for my sons, have already been changed. Not shattered, but changed. There are different paths and different choices, and in some ways that is a beautiful part about parenting. I have never longed for my children to be me. But longed for them to be the person they were created to be. And I have great faith that it will take time getting there, but that, with God's help, they'll get to where they need to be.

But sometimes, even now, I wish I could have put it all in a little box and tied it up with a beautiful bow. But the unraveling of a marriage, the new direction of our life, all of those things created darkness, yet allowed for the beauty of Christ's light to truly shine. The brokenness gave way to truly deep yearnings of my own soul and allowed a place for healing. The difficulty of being a single parent brought as much reward, as challenge. And in all of it, I cannot help but think who I would have been had the storms not come. Would I know as well as I do now the partner in my life, that of this awesome, loving, amazing, Comforter, Redeemer, Savior? Would I have known strength or courage in the same way? Would I have spent countless hours practicing baseball, examining countless ladybugs, becoming a pretty good fisherwoman? Possibly, but not in the same way. You see the struggle brought me to a halt, and it allowed me to reshuffle my priorities, to remember to live in the moment--to catch each tear, every smile, every opportunity to bake, wrestle, walk in the park, through new eyes. The depth I find even now, has something to do with the compassion because of the pain and suffering my family experienced. Truly, I do feel the Spirit's leading me to action more, I've opened my heart in way that amazes even me. So the "box" of our life has been remolded, reshaped, but in many ways restored.

I used to wish my life were different. I wished I had someone here, walking hand in hand with me on this journey. Until I realized, that is what I have. And the God that never leaves me, has blessed my life abundantly. So that even in the struggle of parenting now ... in the in-between place...of childhood and adulthood, I can surrender to the wings--for I want to see and experience the soaring that can occur--and I have great faith in the roots.

And I am reminded that that my life as a single Mom is a great and wonderful blessing.

6 "Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you." Deuteronomy 31.6 (The Message)