Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bless This Mess

It's not always like this.  Not always... but, yes, quite a lot.  At least once-a-week we require the clean-up though.  The floor must be cleared for the vacuum, you know!

So, why in the world would I post something like this?  In the pretty, pretty world of inspirational blogging, of well-lit photographs, and magical-looking surroundings, why would I post this?

Because I have a 14-year-old, folks and I'm trying to choose my battles wisely.  The room is - evidently!- not at the top of my priority list! lol! 

To be fair, though, first of all, my girls are on Christmas break from our homeschooling schedule.  And what's more is that my teen has been working the whole of her break to catch up from falling behind in two online subjects without a complaint.  I'm very proud of her for this!  And little sister has been camping out most night's on big sister's floor, as evidenced by the sleeping bag, the pillow, and the bunny - always the bunny...
So, really, the mess belongs to both of them.

But here's the thing and the reason for this post.

There are many, many beautiful blogs out there (many that I love reading!) that have soft, fuzzy edges around the photos of their cute, little cherub-faced babes.  There are wooden toys, rainbow silks, woolen mats, and toys and decor made by Mother Nature herself. 

Did I ever tell you all the story about how we collected basketsful of acorns for math manipulatives provided by said Mother?  Oh, they were fun and lovely... and then about a week later all the little, fat, yellow wormies hatched out of them and were found crawling across bedroom floors!  Since then, our nature collections have been more carefully inspected and some even remain outside the back door!

Anyway... so there are lots of dreamy blogs for our little ones, but those little ones grow and I have to say that I haven't met one yet who isn't into all the technological bits that we adults love too.  And it could be that I haven't looked around a whole lot... I'm sure that there are blogs about parenting teens out there.  I'm just now starting to stick my toe in the water, despite having one year of teen-parenting under my belt.

All I can say is that so far, these remind me of the toddler years. 

And what do I mean by that?  Well, there is SO much growth and change happening in a brief span of time - especially when you take into consideration the push through puberty.  And like the toddler years, often what worked for you last month, isn't working this month!

Now, lest you think that all is one challenge after another, let me assure you that this is not what our experience has been thus far.  Like our toddlers, our kids provide us with great amounts of joy.  But it can be work.  And I have found myself stuck in some places.  The confidence I felt with little children and even with those childhood years has waned some and I find myself, as in the toddler years, looking for outside assistance. 

One of the best resources I have been blessed to receive so far, via my neighbor, a former youth minister, has been the book, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp.  Not only does Tripp knock down the world's expectation that we are to be expecting the worst from our teens and simply try to survive these years, he shines a light on something I think needs to be worked on, but is often overlooked in many parenting books: ourselves.

Tripp writes,

The tumult of the teen years is not only about the attitudes and actions of teens, but the thoughts, desires, attitudes, and actions of parents as well.  The teen years are hard for us because they tend to bring out the worst in us.  It is in these years that parents hear themselves saying things that they never thought they would say.

And imagine my surprise when I got to chapter two, entitled Whose Idols Are in the Way? and it was about idols of parents and not their kids!  There is so much to chew on here.

Ultimately, Tripp points to our teens' behavior and choices as heart issues. While it is often the slower and more tedious route to take, I know it is the right route and worth the effort.  Like learning the tools I used to effectively communicate with my younger daughter in her more tumultuous toddler years, I am intrigued and, quite frankly, fascinated at the continued development happening in my children.  I am inspired by what I am reading about their own brain development and the challenging, yet rewarding techniques I can use in more effectively communicating with and growing into deeper and more mature relationship with my girls.

There is so much growth and expansion happening for our kids at these ages.  And while they change, they are still our kids.  They still have that foundation underneath them that has been laid over the years.  And they are ultimately God's children and not mine.  They are in His hands and I trust Him.

Tripp says,

This world is not always exciting to the teenager.  Sometimes it seems scary and overwhelming.  There are moments when the teen is alive with the joy of discovery, and there are other times when he is shy and avoiding.  Sometimes he enjoys being a teenager, while at other times he seems afraid of the new expectations laid upon him.

There is no stopping the widening of his world.  It is a world of new friends, new locations, new opportunities and responsibilities, new thoughts, new plans, new freedoms, new temptations, new feelings, new experiences, and new discoveries.  All of the joys and insecurities of this widening world provide opportunities to help your teenager really understand and personally internalize fundamental truths.  These include the sovereignty and providence of God, the ever-present help of the Lord, the nature of biblical relationships, spiritual warfare, discipline, self control, contentment, faithfulness, turstworthiness, the nature of the body of Christ, the world, the flesh, the Devil, the principles of responsibility and accountability, biblical priorities, discovery and stewardship of gifts, and many other biblical truths and principles.

Crazy, right?  Is it any wonder that there will be difficulties that we face in these years?  Difficulties, yes, but challenges worth facing, I believe, and as Tripp refers to them, opportunities.

So the bedroom.  Yes, it's something we talk about.  Of course I would like it neater.  But, for me, neatness is not the most important character trait I am concerned about.  It's her space and it has a door, thank goodness, that can shut.  And, to her credit, there are weeks that go by where it is quite neat.  But now she is busy and working hard at adjusting to high-school level work with greater demands - demands that she has placed on herself because she has goals and dreams that she is chasing.  And that, to me, is worth a little laundry and clutter on the floor.


coloring in my life said...

so glad to read this- I have two girls, one is turning eleven in a couple of weeks- and really I don't even have a handle on the pre-teen stage.
Thanks for sharing excerpts from this book-truly from raising my kids I see that I'm having to deal a lot with my own "baggage".

Marianna said...

My son was 11 in July...not quite a teenager yet (although he did call himself that the other day-not sure where he got it from), but I can sense the changes.

I will check out the book you mentioned. I like his philosophy. I remember my SIL once telling me that she let her son do certain things (go days without taking a shower, stay up until 3 or 4am and then sleep until 3 or 4pm etc.) because that's "just the way teenagers are." I thought at the time, not if we expect more of them. That's not exactly what the author had in mind I suppose, but I think the same principle applies. If we expect our teens to be moody and withdrawn and hateful that's exactly what we'll get (or at least what we will focus on!)

Also, I must say I admire you for posting reality! We don't see if often enough here in this insulated land of blogdom!

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