Thursday, October 22, 2009

How To Love Your Children When They Seem "Un"lovely

I have a dear friend who called me one morning totally baffled by her 13 year old son and his new behaviors. She was discouraged because he was doing things that were out of the ordinary. He had always been a quiet, independent thinker with a witty, dry, sense of humor, and now he was walking around the house making silly comments and noises. It was non stop joking and he laughed at himself all the time. That is just ONE of many stories I have heard from friends over the years. Mom is normally in a state of panic and distress because they don’t know what’s happened to their sweet little boy or girl?

Boy, can “I” relate! The very same thing happened to me when my oldest son turned 13. I had watched too many episodes of “The Duggar’s”. (a program about a family of many children) Joshua Duggar was the oldest son and seemed to always have everything so together. It seems as though he went from child to man and nothing in between. Each week you would see him having such a good attitude as he would help his parents watch their younger children, he would come alongside his mom to help with chores or go outside to help his dad with projects. He stood strong in his convictions and articulated them well to the T.V. Camera.

As I began to watch this show week after week I began to project this onto my own children. My goal became that they would grow up to be just like Joshua Duggar. There would be no awkward “teen” phase. I mean afterall, we homeschool! (sighing and rolling my eyes) I remember proudly stating to friends that I didn’t like the term “teenager” as it evoked a picture of a rebelliousness or that of a silly young person. My son was going to skip that uncomfortable phase. Here’s the problem...,

Someone forgot to tell my 13 year old! My husband and I began to notice little things at first, but they seemed to become more and more exaggerated as he progressed through 13 into 14 years of age. He would follow me around the house to tell me the dumbest jokes over and over again. He would pretend to talk in all kinds of accents to tell his jokes and then laugh at himself. Dinner time became something I dreaded because I didn’t want to totally shut him down, but he would ramble on and on about silly things. His favorite phase became, “I’m just kidding”. We actually had to restrict him from all joking for one week because he could no longer control himself and it began to veer into disrespect. I won’t even mention how much he loved to pretend to make body noises at inappropriate times. What had happened to my sweet little boy? All those hopes and dreams I carried were going out the window.

I would have long conversations with my close girlfriends. I actually cried I was so disappointed, so angry that he wasn’t living up to this picture I carried in my head. I mean I only wanted what was best for him. I couldn’t believe that my once, well behaved child, was now somebody totally different. Fear would creep in as I would begin to imagine him behaving like this as an adult. Who would hire someone who did nothing but joke all day? I didn’t stop loving him for one second, but I was totally exasperated.

It was about this time that a dear friend gave me a great piece of advice. She said, “Mary, who our children are today, is not who they are going to be five years from now, fifteeen years from now, twenty five years from now.” She shared testimonies of her older children, and I remember being totally shocked that she’d gone through her own awkward phase with her children, because they were such precious young adults.

One day when my oldest son was about to turn 16 years old I looked up and realized that I had him back, but he was better than ever. He will still the same sweet child he had always been, but as maturity and experience entered into his life he began to refine those silly jokes into a great sense of humor. His constant chattering has made him an excellent communicator. Today he is funny, responsible, warm and caring and I have to tell you, I am SO GLAD that he did not become like the picture I had carried in my head. He’s far better.

I look back and I think of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. I see those early teen years as the cocoon. Not only are my children being transformed, but so was I. I had to learn that my children cannot become what “I” want them to be, but who they were created to be! My job is to have loving boundaries in place to help them stay safe while learning how to make decisions for themselves. Those boundaries will grow larger as maturity kicks in, and eventually they will FLY away and live their lives.

I will always love them, pray for them, and cheer them on. However, I had to let go of my own expectations, and instead simply help them become who they were created to be! As I write this article my first little one is now an adult and my second son is going into the cocoon. I can honestly say that it doesn't scare me at all this time around. I can't wait to see who he's going to become.

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