Raising a teenager is hard work.
It’s a training ground for adulthood with children who feel that since their bodies have expanded to grown-up proportions they've, therefore, earned the rights of their elders.
I wished that someone had taken my children aside and explained some things…someone like Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
“Always obey your parents — when they are present. Most parents think they know more than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.”
I did my best with their life lessons.
Like the time I tried guiding my son through his first argument with his girlfriend.
“She’s not speaking to me,” he said.
“Apologize,” I advised.
“But I don’t even know what I did wrong.”
“Give her flowers,” my daughter chimed in, “and then ask her.”
Driving had its challenges too. But it wasn’t just speeding, or icy roads, that I wanted to warn him about.
Before even allowing him behind the wheel I advised him, “If you see a woman with a stroller or holding a toddler’s hand, bring the car to stop far away from her.”
My son drew his brows together. “But, why?”
“Because they’ll assume that you’re threatening their children and death rays will fly from their eyes.”
“That’s stupid, mom.”
It happened just as I foretold.
We were in the Target parking lot and my son pulled to a stop to allow a mother to cross with her children. But the distance was not great enough.
The woman’s hands never left the stroller but her head pivoted to identify the threat. With eyes that could tear holes into a brick wall, she pinned my son to the back of his seat…daring him to move one inch closer to her babies.
My son swallowed hard.
“That was it, wasn’t it?”
“Yes.” I patted his arm to let him know that he’d be okay.
“Don’t mess with moms, sweetie. Ever.”
My daughter’s lessons were different and often felt more like negotiations.
“If you can go an entire year without buying any new clothes, I will let you get that tattoo. Prove to me that, in a year from now, you will still like to wear the same outfits and I will pay for it myself.” I promised her. “Think of it this way, a tattoo is a permanent fashion decision.”
She lasted two weeks. And she never asked for a tattoo again.
She outfoxed me, fair and square, when it came to the nose piercing. A small gemstone followed her past high school and through college. It didn't disappear until she entered into her career.
When she went on her first official date, I was honest with her and did exactly what my mom did on my first date.
“Invite him in,” I requested, “And then distract him for a moment. Get him a drink or something.”
“I need time to slip out the back, go around the house and jot down his license plate. In case I have to talk to the police.”
She rolled her eyes and shook her head.
But she did it.
There are some lessons that we teach and we don’t even know it. Last weekend I learned about one of them.
The pastor at my daughter’s church asked everyone to close their eyes and think back to a time when they felt unloved. She called me and told me about it.
“Never,” she said. “I’ve lived my entire life and have never experienced a single moment where I didn’t feel loved.”
“That’s right,” I said with a throat that felt suddenly tight. “And you never will.”