RITE OF PASSAGE: Yet, while they were still teenagers
As I wrote a few columns back, I have had a bad case of the “everlasting flu.” This virus hits you hard for about four weeks. When it finally wears off, someone else in your family catches it. After it spends months going through different members of your family, it comes back and bites you one more time.
Do you know the difference between having the “everlasting flu” and living with teenagers? This reminds me of a story.
After a hard day at work, John came home to relax and watch TV. During his favorite program, the doorbell rang. Rising from the couch, he opened the door and found a six-foot cockroach there. The cockroach grabbed him by the collar, threw him across the room and left. The next night, the doorbell rang again. John walked slowly to the door and saw the same six-foot cockroach. This time, the giant insect punched him in the stomach and left. The next night, the doorbell rang again. Trembling with fear, John opened the door. That same cockroach appeared. This time, it kneed John in the groin and hit him behind the ear as he doubled over in pain. Then it left.
The following day, John went to see his doctor, explaining the events of the preceding nights. “What can I do?” John pleaded.
“Not much,” the doctor replied. “There’s just a nasty bug going around.”
What’s the difference between trying to parent a teenager and being assaulted by a nasty bug? Probably not much! Many times, the terrible 2s turn into the terrifying teens. Thankfully, God has provided ways for parents to make this span of years more bearable. In Ross Campbell’s book How to Really Love your Teenager (David C. Cook, 2004) he shares that a teenager’s number one need is “unconditional love”—a love that expresses, demonstrates and models God’s love for his children.
Have you ever wondered why God gave you the children He did? I must confess I have asked God that question many times, especially with . . . MY children. I came to realize that God gives us the children He does because we are the only ones who can give those children the exact kind of love they need. I have never been able to love someone else’s child as I do my own. God doesn’t make mistakes.
Your task as a parent is to love your children in spite of their awkwardness, moodiness and temperamental flare-ups. And this only describes the first month of puberty! After that, everything takes a nosedive. The whining, the rolled eyes and the “why mes?” only increase. During the teenage years, you can be sure your children will inform you they wish they had different parents. There is only one thing that might keep you from driving them to an adoption agency and fulfilling those wishes: the price of gasoline. After all, most teenagers are not worth $3.25 a gallon.
As a recovering parent of former teenagers, I can tell you there are days when we all feel like that. Yet, these days, too, shall pass. The last thing your teenagers need is parents who base their love upon results. Instead, they need a mom and dad who love them even if their behavior is not pleasing or when they fail to meet certain requirements or expectations.
Remember what the Bible says about God’s love? “But God demonstrates His own love to us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Maybe you need to rewrite this verse and post it on the wall: “But God demonstrates His own love to us in this: While they were still teenagers . . .”
Is this type of love easy? Absolutely not. I cannot do it on my own. I am still doing today what I learned back when my boys were teenagers: asking God to love them through me. When my sons bow their knees to pray to our Heavenly Father, I hope they have caught a glimpse of Him through . . . their earthly father.
By the way, I have discovered another similarity between cockroaches and teenagers. Cockroaches have a short life span. Thankfully, the teenage years last only a short time. The symptoms of the “everlasting flu” are starting to fade, and my wife and I have completed our days of parenting teenagers. But the love of a parent for a child, like the love of the Father, will never pass away. Graciously, He continues loving each one, even through someone who looks a lot like . . . me.