Embracing Teenager


I can remember getting my teacher assignments before the start of every school year. Most of the time I was instantly pleased with the teacher on the card. But sometimes I wasn’t. And why was that? Because someone else told me I should be worried. They had a bad experience, so I should join them in it. My year was doomed with that teacher and get ready… it’s going to be bad.

And then I was getting married and the “ball and chain” jokes began. And then it was children. “Never sleeping again.” “You’re going to miss this.” “Girls are harder than boys.” “Terrible twos.” “ Potty training sucks.” “Threenager.”

And here I am at the next warning:

“Wait until they become teenagers.” (Said with the most drama possible and a good old fashioned eye roll.)

Well, I’m not listening anymore.

Enough with the blanket generalizations. Because in my house is this amazing YOUNG man. Young MAN. That needs my support and guidance and not my preconceived ideas about how awful it might be. He needs me to parent him with confidence and not fear. He needs me to continue to build on the relationship we began all those many years ago. He needs his mama to step up to the plate in this crazy time in his life and to see him for all he is.

He is kind and thoughtful and helpful. He is a learner and a doer. He has good friends and good grades and a good reputation. He is wading through the ins-and-outs of girls and competitive sports. His body is changing and so is his voice.

He’s establishing his place in the world.

Oh, we have push back. He’s on his phone more than I think is necessary. The sports obsession may be disproportionate to life in general. The sibling arguments are enough to drive me over the edge, but I see it coming. Adulthood. It’s right around the corner and I am determined not to miss it.

Truthfully, parenting this 14-year-old is not that different than when he was three. He is different, but the rules I need to play by are not:

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say
  • Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no
  • Apologize often
  • Stay consistent
  • Ask for help
  • Communicate well
  • Listen well
  • Be his parent, not his friend

It shouldn’t be a surprise, that’s all we know to do. We’ve been doing it since the first time-out. It’s just weird to carry out when I am now looking at him eye-to-eye. When in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I think he could take me and SURELY outrun me.”

As I look back to all the warnings I’ve gotten in all of these milestones, I realize, this is a ME issue, not a THEM issue. My attitude and preparedness for what was or is to come is more powerful than any admonition. There is not one stage of parenting that I wouldn’t change something I did. Not one. I have screwed up at every developmental age. And teenage-hood will be no different. But I have enough hindsight, enough 20/20 vision, to know that I did some good too.

There will be bumps and screw-ups. We will take his phone. Again. He may lose his driving privileges. (DRIVING?! WHAT?!) We will fight and disagree. He will choose things I would not have chosen for him. But it won’t be because he’s a terrible teenager.

It will be because he is a human.

His age doesn’t determine that he’s different from me. The fact that he’s breathing does. We can learn from our conflict. It doesn’t have to be a barrier. But I will pray for grace and wisdom and when to speak and when to listen. I believe we can come out whole.

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Jill grew up in the Washington, DC area and migrated south for college. She has a degree in Religious Education from Gardner-Webb University and also got her MRS. degree there. She married a fine southern gentleman, Heath, in 2001 and they have three kids: Will, Micah, and Lydia. Traveler. Homemaker(ish). TV watcher. Crafter. Natural birth advocate. Spanish speaking wannabe. Minivan driver. Organic shopper. Beach lover. Mosquito hater. Jill's resume is littered with randomness. She has recently hung up her hat in the preschool world to write and speak and be able to greet her kids with fresh gluten free cookies and almond milk, as they joyfully skip through the door after school. (Mom of the Year!) Check out her Interrupted Life at jillforbes.com.


  1. You guys have done a GREAT job. He is one of the BEST teenagers. Keep doing what you are doing. For the record, teenagers are my favorites!

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