Saturday, April 6, 2019

HMJ meets Teen Talk on Letting Go

HMJ entries are getting harder and harder as the year progresses (and now is almost over).  A small part was the time needed for a Bible Study I was writing for a local women's group.  However, even when pockets opened up, I have been at a loss.  Then, God reminds me: talk (i.e. write) about it!  So here goes...

For those who are new here, Brooke, my youngest of 4, is 11th grade now.  We have 2 months left in the school year and then, the plan is, next fall she will be semi-full-time in college on the dual-enrollment program.  She will only have 2 classes with me, one of which is online (I just make sure the work gets done) and the other is a one semester class on Economics and Civics.

I'm still in shell-shock.

The idea to enroll at a local Christian College just came up in the last month.  All year I have plugged along, naively expecting I would have one more year to transition out of "teacher" status.

Not so.

And what is worse:  SHE WANTS THIS!!  She is weary of teacher mom... which I didn't expect since her and I get along so well.  The one thing that made my 2nd youngest's graduation easier last year was looking forward to the one-on-one I would have for two more years with Brooke. 

But no.

From the get-go this youngest has struggled as well.  So used to the buzz of siblings, especially her big brother whom she was closest to (they should have been twins!!), she was at a loss in the quiet of just her and I.  To make matters worse, while we have been in our city for almost 6 years now, we are still treated like "outsiders" and she has had difficulty finding dedicated friends as a result.

She is lonely.

...and, apparently, in a 16 year old's world... mom does not suffice to fill all the gaps siblings have in the past!

On a recent hike with her older sister.

Oh, I'm not complaining.  As a matter of fact, I DO see the comedy in it all as well.  Realistically, ALL the 'kids' did this at this same stage.  But, I guess, I always had more kids coming down the line who were still happy in homeschool, happy to spend time with mom all day, happy with status-quo.  I suppose I just invested all that energy in the ones which remained... now none do.  So I am stuck, staring this crazy "kids are growing up" beast in the face and it ain't pretty!

Parents: I don't have very many answers for this.  Just the soft cries of a mother's heart saying "come back" to all those years, they slip by much to fast.

Well, maybe I do have some thoughts.  This is what I am learning and reciting to myself lately:

#1 - Don't take it personally.  Your  teen still loves you.  It really isn't you - it IS them!! 

#2 - In light of #1, hold loosely.  It is often mistaken that this stage requires tightening when that is the very thing which often drives them further away.

#3 - Establish clear boundaries and be firm... it may seem to contradict #2 but instead it is meant to help you with it.  By the time your teen is 16 there should be some clear boundaries in place such as curfew, cell phone/social media use, dating, chores, etc.  Unless they are acting out and getting in trouble, now is not the time to tighten the rules simply out of fear because they are "growing up" and it is hard to let go.  If you both understand the boundaries well, you, as the parent, can ease up on all other areas.

#4 - Give them opportunities to make mature decisions, even if you don't agree with those decisions!!  Show them how to filter the decision making process through the Word of God and, as long as they are not going against the Word and God, agree to disagree.  For example... they have a job and when the paycheck comes in you would like to see them saving 50% in a long-term savings account... but they want to save 25%.  Neither goes against God's Word, both have pros and cons.  Discuss those pros and cons OBJECTIVELY (that can be the hard part!) and then allow them to make the decision without ridicule.  As many opportunities as can safely be given, should be given.  It is good for them to learn how to make mature decisions while still in the household so you are close to advise when needed.

#5 - Don't stop giving advice!  Sometimes they act like they don't want it!  I do suggest filtering advice so it isn't in 'lecture' mode.  Fact is, even when they push back, a lack of advice actually causes them to feel more isolated!  They won't say it at the time, but they appreciate input.

#6 - Be a good listener.  Let them know they can come to you, even with the hard things.  We have a rule in our house: if you need to talk to mom about something you are afraid she will get mad at, just say, "Mom, please don't get mad..." and then share whatever it is.  I may get upset or uncomfortable with what they share, but I bite my tongue and just listen.  They know I may be upset, but the disclaimer seems more for the effect of, "please don't yell at me and please be gentle as I need to bare my heart", so I don't yell.  I just process.  Sometimes I ask interrogative questions to better understand WHY in a situation.  In the rare instances when they have done something which requires punishment, we calmly discuss the situation and why it would be best to have some form of penalty.

#7 - You CAN and should be their friend BUT when a serious situation arises, you are first and foremost their parent.  It is OK to set that disclaimer out there, I do!

How does all this play into our homeschool?  Well, with a daughter, there are always moods and emotions.  Now that it is just her and I, we will take time first thing in the morning to hash out any heart-renderings so her mind is clear and ready to learn.  When we were still teaching multiples, we would do the lessons and, once I was done helping everyone, I would carve out time for heart-to-hearts on topics for any kiddo needing the attention. 

If you ask me, this is the beauty of homeschooling through the teen years.  In public school they need to move along with the herd and be generally ignored most of the day, with the only advice coming predominately from their peers who are also struggling with this stage! 

This style of parenting in or out of the homeschool may seem like an enabling tactic, but I don't think it is, as long as it is done right.  As we listen and talk, talk and listen, it is important to guide them in thinking critically, not make all the decisions for them.  Think of it like training wheels... having them doesn't make you dependent on them, instead, the tiny tack-ons help a child find the balance they need to ride free.  The little wheels are gradually moved higher and higher until one day, they come off completely!  Sure, the child will still fall on occasion, but the general concept is achieved and the more they ride, the less they fall.

This is the power of interactive parenting.

My oldest 3 have graduated and moved on to make some mighty fine decisions minus mom input because of 18 years preceding direction and consistently pointing them towards Christ in their decision making process.

This is where I must rest now.  Reminding myself, as I am sharing with you - we are right where we should be: her ready for independence and me realizing how much I am going to miss this.  I've been active mom for 25 years, and now it is time to help her fluff her wings and prepare to fly.

Who says motherhood is easy?

We can get up each morning, have our prayers and renderings, do our lessons, and... I am finding... the more I let go of my anxiety over it, the more we are enjoying these last weeks together.  I can smile because I know she is going to be OK and she can trust me because she knows I will be too.

I pray your homeschooling days are treasured beyond priceless and that your lessons go far beyond books and the time they have under your roof.


P.S. I DO keep my Instagram updated if you want to see our latest escapades, especially when there are post delays!  Follow the link in-text.

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  1. Oh, my heart just squeezes for you. This is so hard! I am at the opposite end of the spectrum, my oldest is six! But already I cannot imagine that day when it is time for them to make their own decisions and move on. Have you read Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins? There would be so many encouraging things for you in it, she has so much wisdom with all-but-one flown the nest. Thank you so much for sharing, please keep doing so!

    1. Your comment encouraged my heart today, thank you so much! I have not read that one but, upon your high recommendation, I have it in my Amazon cart for order upon hubby's next paycheck! Thank you :-)