On Parenting Teens...
by Jen Hatmaker on May 27th, 2014

I quit my job to stay home when I had my second baby. I taught first grade the day before she was born. Even thought those first few months as a SAHM to two were “mildly traumatizing” (I used to call Brandon at 1:30pm and ask, Are you almost done with work? and he was all It’s 1:30 and I was like YOU DIDN’T ANSWER THE FREAKING QUESTION. ARE YOU ON YOUR WAY HOME OR SHOULD I CALL 911 TO COME HELP ME MANAGE THESE TWO BABIES?????), I soon settled into my new life at home. Because no one told us not to, we added a third baby just two years later and created a full-blown preschool circus.
 
I essentially raised the babies with my girlfriends during those years. Our childrearing environments included Chick-Fil-A, Barnes and Noble, the local pool, all of our living rooms/kitchens/nurseries/bathtubs, and every park in the greater Austin area. We fed, disciplined, diapered, rocked, and pool-rescued each other’s kids with regularity. One memorable concern was a recurring conversation:
 
You guys, what about when all these sweet babies become teenagers?? What will we do?? They will become mutant rebels! They will hate us and us them!
 

May I discuss with you Parenting Teens now that I actually am?
 
Teenagers are my jam.
 
The weird thing is, those tiny sweet precious littles you are raising? The teens are the same people, just bigger. That humor? Same. That personality? Same. Those tendencies and leanings and giftings? Same. Your quirky 6-year-old who loves science and animal husbandry? Same, he just gets bigger with a lower voice.
 
Stop imagining that aliens will take over your darling preschooler at age 13. Your sweet boy will get to age 13 one day at a time. There is no abrupt moment where he ceases being the boy you raised and becomes some adolescent you don’t recognize. The strangest thing is that he is looking you in the eye and talking about armpit hair and course electives. This boy will still lie in your lap while you run your fingers through his hair and remember the day he was born. He is still your baby.
 
My oldest son and his cousins.
The time lapse between these two pics was approximately four seconds.

Parenting teens is pretty much the best Mom gig yet. They are funny and smart and you see glimpses of their adult selves. They are beginning to funnel into their gifts and passions, and you feel the most absurd pride about who they are becoming right in front of your eyes.
 
And THE HUMOR. If you know one ounce about me, you know that I value humor over, say, integrity and honor. So when my sophomore plops on the couch, sticks one of his ear buds into my ear (the other one in his) and plays funny Youtube videos for us to watch together? Well, THE WORLD CAN END NOW BECAUSE I AM NOW IN POSSESSION OF ALL THE HAPPINESS. You haven’t laughed until you laugh with your teen over shared humor. When you can share Will Ferrell? What else is there? Die happy.
 
Did I mention their friends? Because you will weirdly love their friends. They bring a concentrated level of grossness and drama and hunger into your house, and YOU LOVE IT. You love the way they tease each other and act sweetly towards your younger kids. You love the way they praise your cooking, even when you feed them weird things like sweet potato and black bean quesadillas. You love their big, awkward bodies sprawled on your couches, spewing the nonsense they read on iFunny or Instagram. They let you take their pictures and offer advice and scold them even as your own teenagers are begging you with their eyes to knock it off.
 
It seems completely unfair that right about the time your kids become the most awesome, they fly the coop. Why can’t 5th graders go to college and come back in 9th grade?? I could absolutely live without many, many, many middle school days. But high school? SWOON.
 
Parents, spend all the preschool, elementary, and early middle school years developing love and trust and transparency with your kids. Every conversation is on the table. Not one single topic is off limits. Laugh with them. Be genuine. Say you’re sorry when you should be. Listen to their dreams and feelings and ideas and thoughts when it is the least convenient. Those moments will come with regularity unless they are squashed; drink them in with relish and you will ensure that they continue. If you are safe now, you will be safe later.
 
On their 16th and 14th birthdays.
I BIRTHED YOU AND I WILL KISS YOU IF I WANT TO.

Get super, super interested in what your children are interested in. Invest in their talents. When our 13-year-old developed a sincere interest and gift toward photography and asked for a CRAZY EXPENSIVE CAMERA for Christmas, we discussed this with our film crew, explaining why we were NOT going to buy it for her, and our cameraman, Kevin, who makes an entire living as a photographer said, “If your kid was super talented at the guitar, would you buy her a reputable guitar and lessons? YOU WOULD. So why not invest in your daughter’s gift? My mom bought my first camcorder when I was 10 and here I am.” For the love. We followed his advice and our daughter brought her fancy new camera to Ethiopia two months later and took this:
 
Kevin was right.

This is tough for me, but work really hard to not control everything. This is super important. Your bigs NEED to develop independence. Let them bring their problems to you without obeying the immediate instinct to solve it. Ask good questions. Lead the witness. If they think you are only capable of “fixing it,” the well of communication will run dry, because their hearts are chasing adulthood and they need to know you respect that. Be a listener, a gentle guide, a confident parent willing to let their child blow it for the prize of maturity.
 
There is a super high chance your teen will ENORMOUSLY SELF-DESTRUCT. Need I remind you of our adolescence? They will lie, cheat, rebel, succumb, resist, disobey. They will do this, because they are no different than EVERY GENERATION THAT EVER PRECEDED THEM. But that is not the end of their story. It wasn’t the end of ours (thank you, Jesus) and their best years are ahead of them too. If they wobble, stick with those wonky kids. They will remember how their parents remained steady until they course corrected.
 
Most of all? Enjoy those crazy teens. These are magical, frustrating, insane, hilarious years. This season is so very short. It peaks and crests in minutes. No sooner do they get their first girlfriend then they are off to college. Parental anxiety is a waste of time. It will all be okay. These children are (mostly) a delight. And when they aren’t? Just wait awhile. They’ll come back.
 
That beautiful 3-year-old you’re tucking into bed? Blink, and you’ll be sending him to Driver’s Ed. I swear to the heavens.
 

We will probably regret all the years we wasted in fear and anxiety and control, but we will never regret spending those years in delight and joy. We have these children for around 18 years of THEIR ENTIRE LIVES. Let’s send them into the adult world at the height of our pleasure in them, grateful for the beautiful, funny, smart, interesting, special, precious children that God entrusted us with for this first short phase of their whole existence.

Moms of littles? Stop being afraid. Those babies you love now? You will love them even more fiercely in ten years. They will become the young adults you are raising them to be. And you will love them with the ferocity of a thousand splendid suns. And they will make you laugh and cry and shake your head and thank our good God that he trusted you with these extraordinary young people, and all that parenting in those early years turned into incredible teens that you don't just love...you like.
 
And don’t forget: In a few years, they will bring us grandbabies.
 
THAT WE DON’T HAVE TO RAISE.
 
Amen and hallelujah.



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310 Comments

Kim Marshall - May 27th, 2014 at 7:49 PM
I totally agree. And, as an Unwilling Empty Nester, it gets better!
Emily - May 27th, 2014 at 7:49 PM
oh my gosh... as a mom of 4 preschoolers in the circus, I often wonder if they will even survive to the teenage years; thank you for the encouragement that "they will become the exact young adults you are raising them to be"; it feels so small so often, but the bigness is sometimes lost in the mundane; needed that reminder that its not small!
Sonya Davis - May 27th, 2014 at 7:51 PM
Why do all your posts make me cry? Joy tears.
Aimee - May 27th, 2014 at 8:16 PM
Me too! It's like she reads my mind... :*)
Brooke - May 27th, 2014 at 8:53 PM
I could not have said it better than Sonya!!
Reagan - May 27th, 2014 at 7:53 PM
Right on, Jen! Thank you for writing this. The humor thing, that's my weak spot. They get me every time. It's an honor to be the mama of teenagers.
Steph - May 27th, 2014 at 7:54 PM
Sob. Let it be so, Jesus, in me. I hear you. Time to give up the reigns on my 15-year-old.
Julie - May 28th, 2014 at 12:47 AM
Yes Steph, I also must let my 15 yr loose ...

Emily - May 28th, 2014 at 8:54 AM
I'm struggling with my 14 year old daughter right now. She wants to live her own life, in her own way, & I want to control every single move she makes. It's so hard to have faith and turn her loose! LOL
Dana Vaudrin - May 27th, 2014 at 7:54 PM
Oh, Jen! I'm exactly 47 days into having a teenager of my own and you are so right. It's like my youth ministry days%u2026 only so much better, deeper.
Leanne Gribik - May 27th, 2014 at 7:55 PM
True and wise words Ms. Jen! Love my teens and adult children for who they have become... Their friends call us Momma and Poppa because they know we will always be there for them. And now, I'm adopting their babies as my grandbabies! And I love every second of every moment of all of this...
Anna C. - May 27th, 2014 at 7:56 PM
Oh, thank you. My oldest is 9, and I have no idea how she got so big. But that humor stuff you were saying is already happening, and I've never felt so much pride! Thanks for the boost of confidence. I'm still a little scared of mothering teenage sons. I've been through the mother/daughter relationship with my own mama, and came out friends on the other side. The mother/son relationship is just all new territory. Thanks for reminding me that the little guys are the same people as they'll be when they are bigger. I literally say that to myself several times a week.
Tracy - May 27th, 2014 at 9:02 PM
Anna~ You wrote exactly my story too :) Loved this article and I will tell myself the same!

Paula C. - July 10th, 2014 at 12:11 AM
My story too, to a tee. Where did the last 9 years go. I am thankful I get to stay home with them each day and share in all of the ups and downs that come. Thankful that there are more ups than downs. Love my 4 kids and cherish each and every day.
Melissa Mohr - May 27th, 2014 at 7:56 PM
My oldest just graduated high school this weekend. I miss him so much, and he isn't even going away for college! lol....
I agree about the anxiety part and I pray that they will be the exact mature adult that we have raised them to be!
Thank you for your encouragement!
Brenda - May 27th, 2014 at 7:57 PM
I remember when my first was born. Holding him, unwrapping him from the cocoon the nurse had him in. Counting fingers and toes and looking at every single marvelous wonderful inch. Later that night when he became hungry I realized...OH DEAR LORD I JUST SIGNED AN EIGHTEEN YEAR CONTRACT!!! What were we thinking!?!?! I'm not ready for this! There is no manual, no guide, no test to say we are ready!
Then I blinked. He is now a Senior at Baylor. I also was a stay at home Mom, THE SINGLE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD! The days of littles pass too quick and you are so right, the teen years you find out what they are really made of and just how awesome they have become!
Danielle - May 27th, 2014 at 7:58 PM
LOVE. My littles are so tiny and I just want to make them stay that way. This is because they are both asleep in bed and I am alone in quiet. Tomorrow, I will reread this post when I WANT TO LOSE MY FREAKIN MIND and rest assured that someday I won't change eight million diapers a year and will still love my baby-cakes :)
Alena@TheHomemadeCreative - May 27th, 2014 at 7:58 PM
Best words I've read in forever. This mother of a two year old thanks you!
Deb - May 27th, 2014 at 7:58 PM
So true Jen! And bring on those Grandbabies!!!

Anna - May 27th, 2014 at 7:58 PM
Goodness. Thanks for this beautiful encouragement. Just rocked my 2 yr old and left her in the bed. Thank you for reminding me that her sweetness and spunkiness will never disappear. These littles and bigs are all such incredible gifts!
emma @ {from my little pink couch} - May 27th, 2014 at 7:59 PM
I absolutely LOVE this! Every season has been fun ... after they got the hang of sleeping through the night, of course!
Tiffany - May 27th, 2014 at 8:00 PM
I'm reading this as I nurse my newborn and I'm all teary-eyed, thinking about how soon he'll be a teenager...
Linda - May 27th, 2014 at 8:01 PM
Fabulous! My kids are now 34, 32 and 28. My grands are 6, 4, 2 and almost 2. It just keeps getting better and better. Life is so, so good. Hang In there young Moms. Enjoy the ride. The best is yet to come!
Staci from PA - May 27th, 2014 at 8:01 PM
Oh, Jen you did it again! This should be a must read like the "What to Expect...." books for the little years. THANK YOU!
Melody Burroughs Reid - May 27th, 2014 at 8:02 PM
Oh Jen. My girls are 21, 23 and 25, and truer words have not been written. I LOVED the high school years, the friends, the boyfriends, the sports, the proms, the drama. Our nest is empty at the moment and I literally cannot wait for those grand babies. THAT I DON'T HAVE TO RAISE.
Keely - May 27th, 2014 at 8:03 PM
Thanks for this. I just tucked a 5 month old, 2 and 4 year old into their beds...and I kinda feel like you were speaking just to me. (Or maybe the lack of sleep and showering is making me hallucinate.)
amber - May 28th, 2014 at 1:15 AM
Lol!! I am so feelin ya, sister!!
Ember - May 27th, 2014 at 8:05 PM
That sounds like this post I wrote last week about my JH kids I teach--Enjoy! I love junior high kids! They are awkward, funny, in-between personalities, turn around and they're 6 inches taller, clumsy, forgetful, drama starting, drama receiving, this might crush my whole world, I don't want to say I love my mama, but I still want her to watch me in all of my activities and give me money, crazy "love" note writing, he/she looked at me, everyone else has _______ but me, I have more (money, muscles, of a mustache) than you, I'm (skinnier, smarter, sportier) than you, why can't I just wander the halls all day young people and they make me smile every.single.day! I'm thinking about how much each of them has changed as I am writing my "What If..." Academy Awards for the end of the year and getting kind of sad to let this class go. Parents of JH kids, take heart--they still want you and watch for you, need your advice and attention, secretly "like" your "growing up" speeches because you tell them things they didn't want to ask you but had questions about, and they write and say beautiful things about their families and tell me how awesome the people they do life with are every day! So, stay with those caterpillars parents, hang out with them, feed them, invite their caterpillar friends over to play and so that you can see that everyone else is also raising a very hungry, you didn't look like you did just yesterday caterpillar too. Hurry--they will be butterflies soon enough and then the secret that only you (and their teachers) knew will be out--they were ALWAYS a beautiful soul with wings to take them anywhere in the world. %u2014 with Ashley Jones and 33 others.
Jen Hatmaker - May 27th, 2014 at 8:08 PM
This made me CRY ACTUAL TEARS. Thank you, Ember.
Shawna Marquardt - May 28th, 2014 at 9:28 AM
Great reminders that we get so caught up in the moment of a forgotten home work, late assignments, the tired and hungry excuses to look at the big picture. I always ask the kids they ad for lunch, seems silly ,but trust me it is never intended to inquire about the calories or appropriate food choices :) I love my teens .....warts and all!
Laura - May 27th, 2014 at 8:53 PM
As a parent of tweens, this is just what I needed to hear. Thank you.
Jami - May 27th, 2014 at 9:38 PM
As a fellow JH teacher who just finished the year with my sweet ones, I am crying too at your words. Love them with all my heart. JH kids rock!
Jessica - May 27th, 2014 at 10:27 PM
Thank you, thank you...I am preparing to send my oldest son into the wilds of middle school this August, and SO needed to hear your words...thank you Jen Hatmaker for starting this dialogue and always saying those things that my heart needs to hear most. :) Thank you, Ember for adding your voice. :)

Britiney - May 28th, 2014 at 8:32 AM
Oh mercy. This hit me in the gut. Next year I have TWO JH kids. And this . . . well. . . thanks.
Jenn - May 28th, 2014 at 8:44 AM
Love love love this!
Julie - May 28th, 2014 at 9:51 AM
What a beautiful testament to middle schoolers ... and to you. YOU are the reason our schools turn out well-educated, well-loved students. Bless you to heaven and back!
Tracy - May 27th, 2014 at 8:05 PM
I so wish this was true for everyone....but I'm parenting an almost 15 year old son who refused to say happy Mother's Day (because he didn't want to be fake) and told me that he had zero affection for me. I love him so much, but the dark, angry person he is becoming is so not the sweet boy I raised. He says God isn't real, he wants no part of family, he insists that adopting two children ruined his life and he can't forgive us. And this is all after a year of counseling, antidepressant meds, countless emails, letters, texts I've sent that have been ignored. It is truly the most heartbreaking thing I've ever walked through.
Marie - May 27th, 2014 at 8:15 PM
I understand. I have 20 and 17 year olds, and they aren't becoming who we raised them to be, either, and it's heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching and I constantly ask what I did wrong. I tried so hard to do everything right. But I just have to keep trusting that He knows, and He loves them, and He is in control. I wish I had easy answers, but I don't. Just don't quit loving and praying and hoping for your son. My 17 year old didn't acknowledge Mother's Day, either, and both don't believe in God anymore. I wish I could give you a hug, Tracy, because I know all too well what you are talking about. Hang in there. Keep hoping. I will pray for you and your son when I pray for my own.
Jose - May 28th, 2014 at 3:05 AM
Jose- May 28 Hang in there my son is 23 somedays you feel you don't know who they are, then they will show some affection then you do not exist, they pick up so much on the computer today they think they know it all but I have been told some boys do not mature till they are 30 soI guess we just have to show love and hang in their while feeling like screaming!
Janice - May 28th, 2014 at 10:16 AM
Boys especially good through a time when we as parents are not cool, do not know anything, and are embarrassing to them.....hang in , those boys come back to you and love you again , respect you opinions and actually ask for your advise. Wait it out cause it will come. I have two spectacular boys , who each have a beautiful wife and glorious children which I want to eat up and they want to spend time with us. I know those years are hard but they will change
Sarah - May 27th, 2014 at 8:16 PM
Tracy, I am so sorry for your pain and his pain. I am praying even now for wisdom and peace for both of you. What a hard road you are walking.
Elle - May 27th, 2014 at 8:40 PM
You are not alone. I cried when reading this blog post because it's nothing like my experience with my almost 15 yos. Sometimes no matter how much love and attention you give your child they become someone so different than you could imagine. Counseling, total transformation program, unconditional love, tough love, being raised to know and love The Lord, every possible avenue and thousands of dollars and they still are beyond difficult. I have spent hours on my knees in prayer, hours in therapists offices, hours just trying to spend time with him and give him attention. I think it's important to not assume all teens are a mess but there are also those of us who are dealing with the reality of troubled teens.
Jen Hatmaker - May 27th, 2014 at 8:50 PM
Hey girls...I hear you. I left space for teens who are wayward and lost, but I am going to write for you this week too. Don't imagine we haven't dealt with some CRAP with our teens too. Sometimes the runway is waaaaaaaay longer. Don't give up. You've sown real seeds that may lay dormant for years. God still sees you and your teen. THE STORY IS STILL NOT OVER. Some kids have to take the long road home. This is not necessarily indicative of their upbringing at all. I am with you too. Parenting is the hardest job on earth, I'm convinced. With you in prayer tonight. Loving you and proud of you. Still hopeful for your kids and so grateful for your investment. All my love...
lindsey - May 27th, 2014 at 9:04 PM
I think the crap has to be included. I have 17 and 15 yr old girls..and a 12 yr old boy trying to live. 17 yr old for the first time is giving us grief. It's brutal. I can't stand parents who glow about their teens ( not you Jen, others at sports or whatever) and frankly make those of us who honestly think.."where did I go wrong?".. or " how can I find an excuse to go to grocery store again to get a break?!".. Fact is teens are good and they also suck the life out of you. Is this easier than when they were babies? Not at all ..it's just as hard as I knew it would be. However, if you had told me that when I was home with a 4,.2 and newborn you probably wouldnt be breathing today. So from me, I can't stand this age. It's a battle..I have less freedom than I have ever had due to activities or just having to spend every waking moment driving, tracking or arguing with them. Frankly, I'm eager for this time to fly by. For me Jr High was great..highschool, good riddance .
Catalina - May 27th, 2014 at 10:52 PM
I hate to take away from what Jen is saying. Her post is inspiring - but I have to also be the one sitting in the way back saying that I have a 17 year old that I truly wish I had more time because he will be gone soon and life has been hell. It's a daily struggle - he doesn't like us, we don't' especially like him. I agree with Jen's points. I value all of it. I do love my son's friends. But I am waiting for that 27 year old man to come back into my house and say, "Wow, mom, I was a real ass, wasn't I? I want a do over with this child. Jen, your post makes me cry because I feel I have missed the boat on what could have been.
Cat - July 8th, 2014 at 10:26 AM
That will happen too. That 27 year old man will come back and admit that he was an ass. I'm married to that man. He was terrible to his mother as a teenager. Not coming home at night, car accidents, drinking, skipping school and even a couple of arrests. The good news is he did all of his stupid crap before he turned 18 so nothing followed him to adulthood and he now knows exactly how terrible he was and he does everything in his power to make it up to her. By the time he was 20ish he realized what a complete jerk he'd been to his mom so don't worry. It won't last long.
Adam - May 28th, 2014 at 9:24 AM
I read this article after a particularly rough day with my two early teens, I also have two toddlers. It gave me hope, and I do have a great relationship with them. I love the jokes, the crude humor, the video games. What hurts my heart most, is when it seems they don't trust me. When they keep secrets and engage in stupid behavior, tell lies, and are cruel to their siblings. I don't show them these things, they just do them. I want them so badly to learn from my mistakes as they grow. But it seems they are as incompatable with adult advise as I was. Like Jen said, I guess I just have to be steady. They are out in the world, getting torn down, our family is the place we retire to at night to get lifted up and prepared for the next day of growing up.
Heatbroken - May 28th, 2014 at 1:36 AM
My beloved firstborn changed from the person I was closest to in the world, to someone I didn't know or recognize, when they turned 19 - OVERNIGHT. They suddenly left after a series of hurtful situations, and even though God brought them back a year later, our hearts and their younger siblings' hearts were completely wrecked from the experiences. Now, 5 years later, our hearts and relationships are still not the same, but our love for them is just as deep and steadfast. The pain and memories are there every.single.day.

Our second child attempted the same a year ago at 18, but we fought with all our might and they stayed (Thank God!!!) This has proven to be our hardest age, but we are working daily to learn how to best parent and love on an adult child and the expert juggling that requires.
Teenageyearssuck - May 28th, 2014 at 8:32 AM
I am going to post here, from the other side. I am the kid, now 48, that acted as you say but things changed very quickly for me. At age 16, my parents divorced. My dad had all the money and mom hated him for it. My dad told me he would send my little brother to college and give him a good job. He told me to find my own way in life. I attempted suicide many times and, twice, was almost successful. He did not care. My mom became an alcoholic and just did the clubs with her friends every night even though she hated anyone with a penis. My teenage years truly sucked and I hate remembering them. The fabulous lady that I married, and I, agreed to never have children.

Being a teenager is tragic, hurtful and harmful and most parents cannot handle it. All that is being glorified here is a big lie.
Susan - May 28th, 2014 at 8:58 AM
I am so sorry for your pain as a teenager, but I have to say, those years didn't suck for everyone.

While I had a highly dysfunctional family (but a mother who was a saint), and a dad I resented, I have really fond memories. I adored and respected my parents. I had great friends. Was I perfect? NO. But generally I was very content and loved life.

Fast forward to now: I have an 18yo boy in college who was on the brink of suicide less than two years ago (hormones? We don't know...his life in general was fairly nice all the way around) and I have a 14yo girl who now does home study because she has a lot of anxiety and can't handle how other kids act at school. She has 3 friends, period. (I'm 46 and still am in touch with 54 of my classmates, many who are close friends to me still.). It KILLS ME that I've tried to be engaged, supportive, empathetic, patient, and provide a stable existence for my kids--and yet, they're not all that happy in life.

So, my point is, every teen is not angst filled (my friends were much like me) but YES many sure are. I would never trade my kids for anything but I respect your decision to not have any. It's just a gamble!! Some of the parents I know who had the shittiest upbringings have produced the happiest teens--& vice versa.
Tracy - May 28th, 2014 at 9:35 AM
Prayer and hope is what keeps me looking ahead! I believe in redemption with every fiber of my being - that none of this escapes God. But...just in the last month we've walked through him stealing weeks worth of ADHD meds from our youngest and taking them, finding him drinking wine in the dark in the kitchen late at night, insistent pleas that we let him move out and live with a friend (because he just can't stand to be around us anymore). It feels like we should have reached the bottom by now, but it keeps getting deeper!
Leslie - May 28th, 2014 at 9:25 AM
Amen :(
Anonymous - May 27th, 2014 at 9:02 PM
I'm so sorry! I have a similar story, Tracy. I understand the pain. We adopted as well and we had some ugly repercussions. God has redeemed one of our children's stories and it's truly beautiful. Still waiting on another one...I have to believe it'll happen.

Rachel - May 27th, 2014 at 10:06 PM
I so identify with the mom who says "they aren't becoming who we raised them to be." One of the most hurtful things another parent said to me once when bragging on her wonderful teenage children was "I feel like we're reaping the good foundation we worked so hard to sow." Like we had somehow failed in my own "sowing" for our son to be having problems.
MO - May 27th, 2014 at 10:14 PM
Tracy and others in a tough spot with your teen: I highly recommend the book "Yes Your Teen is Crazy". A social worker at the hospital told me about it while my 16 year old was being admitted for major depression and suicidality. I'm sure there are other good books too, but this one I can attest is fantastic. It helps you understand how the teen brain is developing, what behavior is within normal teen angst and when you should seek help, and how to respond to the craziness. Also provides some hope that the sweet kid you birthed is still in there somewhere...just playing hide a seek for a few years. Meanwhile, you need tips to survive it and help your teen from doing irreparable harm. It's not faith based, but not resistant to faith either. Check it out, for real. As a mom in the thick of it, my prayers are with you!
Angela - May 28th, 2014 at 4:24 AM
Reading this at 4am because once again I can't sleep trying to figure out where I went wrong with my 19 yr old. I am the mother of 5 from ages 19 to 5. Sent them to Catholic school. Attended mass. He was an alter server. Talked about the dangers of smoking, drugs, sex etc. yet he still is making bad decisions. I don't even recognize this person he's become. I do have to say he still says he loves me (when he actually returns my hundreds of calls and texts) and still asks for my advise on things BUT the lifestyle he has chosen is FAR from what I raised him to be. Our family experienced some REALLY tough times that have nearly destroyed us so I can understand his acting out but now he tells me that for him it started long before. Now I look at my other 4 kids and wonder if they will break my heart too. I am trying really hard to put my faith in God and in the firm foundation I set for him but I just don't see any release in sight.
Connie - May 28th, 2014 at 7:50 AM
Tracy you are not alone. While I love many things about Jen's blog, and much of it is true, there is another side to many stories. And most of all, 13-14, is certainly not 15-18, or 20 for that matter. Much can change. The early teen years are not the same as the later years when they start really breaking away. I wonder if how she'll look back on this blog in 5 years. My prayers go out to you and your son.
CA - May 28th, 2014 at 9:00 AM
Tracy,
I went through this with my son too. I thought I'd done all the 'right' things & just couldn't figure out why I ended up with this angry, sometimes cruel, boy. He's just turned 21 now, and believe me, it CAN get better. I stuck with him through the rough years, as much as he tried to push me away, I kept coming back, telling him I loved him no matter what. And he's now on the other end of all those terrible years & is a loving and lovable man! I wish the same for you. Stick with him.
ehall - May 28th, 2014 at 10:21 AM
I have seen God take a 19 yr old mother of two, who left them in the playpen alone in the apartment to party all night every weekend, come around 7 years later to be a God fearing woman raising 8 kids with a wonderful husband. I pray for your strength and God's guidance to warm their hearts. Just keep telling him you love him. He does hear you.
Pamelotta - May 27th, 2014 at 8:07 PM
My combo pack includes a 15, 12, 10 and 8 year old and I gotta tell ya, you hit the nail on the head. So far, so good.
joni - May 27th, 2014 at 8:07 PM
Jen, I enjoy your writing and it sounds like your kids are doing well. I know you already know this, but not EVERY kid does well and successfully navigates through their teen years. They can and do break their mama's hearts. I had an extremely close relationship with my son and was completely shell-shocked when we under-covered his drug addiciton at 17. Sorry to be negative, but your post of acting like it is completely in the bag to have a great relationship with your teenager is a bit unrealistic and just adds guilt to the parents who have poured into their kids lives and things didn't turn out "happily ever after." Sometimes God has a different plan for our kids and we have to be patient while their find their way.
Robin - May 27th, 2014 at 8:15 PM
So true. It breaks a mom's heart. But God is good and the future is His.
Tea - May 28th, 2014 at 10:18 AM
I think the point is that so many people vilify the teen years. And for the most part, if we have better attitudes and softer hearts and give teens a break, we will find those years aren't as hard as we think they will be. Impossible teenage years can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we hope for the best and hold them loosely and encourage their good choices and independence maybe it won't be as hard as we thought it would be.
Edi - May 28th, 2014 at 10:31 AM
I felt as though I had written this take on raising children, except-there are times when teens don't cast a rosy glow. That's not a negative, just an opportunity to dig deep within the parenting self. You build on the strengths already present to eliminate the weaknesses. And, all the time, you never stop loving the child. Oh, and if you're lucky, you get to experience it all again with grandchildren; and you find that from your own childrearing, you now have a bit more tolerance and understanding that overflows into helping a grandchild learn and grow. So, yes, Joni, I agree with your post. Some great parents have had teens and even adult children lower their bar, and "happily ever after" doesn't always happen.
Heidi - May 27th, 2014 at 8:08 PM
It's like you took my words and wrote them down for me. Love this one! Thanks for writing it! I'm glad to know it's only up from here. I've been waiting for the bottom to drop out and so far it hasn't. Maybe it won't. :)
Harriet - May 27th, 2014 at 8:08 PM
Totally agree. Am LOVING being the mom of a teenager. Loved (LOVED) teaching him to drive! Never thought I would say that. And, laughing with your teenager is by far the best thing ever!
Courtney DeFeo - May 27th, 2014 at 8:09 PM
this.is.awesome. thank you so much. every bit of it. my favorite - "We will probably regret all the years we wasted in fear and anxiety and control, but we will never regret spending those years in delight and joy and pleasure." that's my favorite. in final editing of a book on that very topic (in this house, we will giggle). would love to send you a copy when it's ready. you've got the giggle/fun part nailed.
Marcie - May 27th, 2014 at 8:09 PM
I loved this, but I wonder about the (potential) differences in bio-kids as teens versus adopted kids as teens. My daughters were adopted into our family at ages 2, 7 and 12. We don't get so many years before they hit their teens. Building trust with them? A whole different story, as I know you're aware. Any chance you'll do a follow-up post to this when your adopted littles are teens? ;)
Maria - May 28th, 2014 at 11:36 AM
I had an older and younger (adopted) brother. They looked alike, acted alike. People would say I can tell they're are brothers. Who do you take after. Adoption issues should be left at the door, unless it's their issue, which should be dealt with to their comfort.
Julie - May 27th, 2014 at 8:09 PM
Jen you are spot on as usual. Beautifully wriitten!!!
Michelle - May 27th, 2014 at 8:09 PM
YES!!! I am a momma of 2 teenage boys (11th grade, 9th grade) and a 4th grade boy and a 2nd grade girl! What fun, awful, angry, hiliarious, crazy great years these teenagers bring us. I love it. And, I am weepy thinking of them moving along...but, am just seeing our oldest now talk, really want to talk with us/me. It is beautiful...and worth every second of every other thing we worked on/with him on. He will fail, he learns things the hard way...but, he learns things! love this post! thank you!!
Denise Ramey - May 27th, 2014 at 8:09 PM
You nailed it! My kids are grown and we do have grandkids! I love my kids even more now and the grandkids...Wow! Thanks for these words! Absolutely love it!
Dartha - May 28th, 2014 at 11:14 AM
I'm in complete agreement with this post from Jen, and this comment, Denise. Love my kids... love my grandkids... love my life. And I LOVE Jen's realness!
Betsy - May 27th, 2014 at 8:12 PM
"The time lapse between these two pics was four seconds." ABSOLUTELY!!
Lee - May 27th, 2014 at 8:13 PM
I want to believe you. No. I need to believe you. We are halfway through middle school- and I seriously feel like it is all just broke. All of it. I pray in earnest that in a few years there will be a drastic upswing, because for the first 12 years I was on a roll as mom. From 0-12, *that* was my jam. The stories and hugs a nd cuddles and boo boo kisses and rocking to sleep 3 times a day, the listening to the little lisping dissertations on all the imaginary things, the oohing and ahhingover ever single lego creation- that was me. All in. Now? With the armpit hair,acne, deep voice, sudden onset over emotional upheaval over everything, the sulkiness, sarcasm( of the non humorous sort) - it has broken me. I don't even know what to do with it all. I feel like pulling back but deep inside I know I need to dive in. You are the second person this week who has given me hope that these middle school years are short term and that joy comes in the morning somewhere around 15. Let it be so:)
Melissa - May 28th, 2014 at 10:31 AM
Lee....Im in the boat and rowing with you. I was all in for YEARS and now at 13 and 16, we are coming apart. Our joy in the morning has not come yet. We are just plowing ahead the best we can and I fully accept that it may not come until he is grown. Not everyone has this experience with teenagers Jen talks about. And it may not be because of anything you can do anything about. Some kids just have a really hard time navigating HS and the journey to adulthood. They are different than their peers, introverted, whatever. Hang on and just keep rowing.
eileen - May 28th, 2014 at 11:14 AM
We can only love them and hold the space for them so that they feel safe and loved. Blessings to you as you go thru this journey.
Jennifer - May 28th, 2014 at 12:36 PM
Lee and Melissa, indeed "not everyone has this experience with teenagers Jen talks about." In fact, I would suggest the majority do not. While I do genuinely treasure my teens' (I have three: 13, 15, and 17.5) gifts, humor, quirky personalities, intellect, and whatever else Jen urges us to treasure, the world in which we live is a very, very difficult place to raise children. Not that I think it's ever been "easy" per se. But the Internet and social media have been a game-changer. Drugs are more prevalent than ever and are easier than ever to procure. Missteps are digitally recorded, with the potential to haunt our children forever. It has been a solace to know that we are all in this boat together (to keep with the theme haha) so yeah--hang on and just keep rowing. And praying.
Jamie - May 28th, 2014 at 2:32 PM
I can honestly say I hate my 16 yr old. There is nothing you can do to prepare you for what is ahead in their teenage years. My prayer is that I can find a way to avoid this pain with the younger ones. You have certainly missed the boat with many readers of this article.
Mar Witt - May 28th, 2014 at 11:11 AM
"The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways."

Lee, as a parent of two born-to kids and dozens more as our 'chosen' sons (all grown up now), I know Jen's joy, and your pain. My heart goes out to you.
Michele - May 28th, 2014 at 12:12 PM
Lee, you said almost exactly what I was thinking. I pray to God that 15 will be the reverse switch that 12 was. Hang in there, I feel you. My 19 year old is a Mamas girl and I swear my 14 year old hates me most days. She wants me nearby but doesn't want to talk to me or receive hugs anymore. Too bad I say. It will turn around, we have to trust in that. Take good care.
jimmy - May 28th, 2014 at 12:18 PM
You will get through this...we launched our first into college across the country last year. This year is #2 and next year is #3. Middle school years are tough...for both sides, and thank God we didn't have social media when we were in middle school. Stay strong, lean on your support group, be consistent. My daughter as a 19 year old returning from college is amazing and she tells her friends how we are always there for her and she can talk to us about anything...then she freaks out about something random...some things never change
Janice - May 27th, 2014 at 8:16 PM
This makes me a bit sad I have to say. My oldest son is almost 12 but has high functioning autism (if I can call it that). Love the precious picture of the future but grieve a bit as I'm not sure that will be the same picture we have in our future. What a precious gift from God he is. A sweet and sensitive boy that loves life (and basktball and drag racing etc). Only time will tell his story. But what a beautiful picture this portrays of his possible soon to be future. I have high hopes:)
Penni - May 27th, 2014 at 8:34 PM
Yes, Janice, I understand. My daughter had Asperger's and I worry.
Carolyn - May 28th, 2014 at 3:43 AM
I hear you both. As encouragement, my youngest at 16 and a half has aspergers and yet has grown over the past five years into a young man that I am not only proud of, but enjoy being with...well most of the time anyway. It has been a joy to see this happen and with him I can relate to most of what Jen says. He is now doing exams and planning for his future and university in two years. My eldest at 18 is a different story. She has more special needs and independence will not come soon for her and she is currently fighting this at every step, from here are your meds to come down a meal is ready with why should I tell her what to do...and I so wish I didn't have to, but she cannot remember to take meds, cook a meal, shop by herself etc. However her very anger at this gives me hope as it is another step forwards, behaving often like 13 rather than 8. God has all our children in his hands and does have good things in store for them, even if those good things are not what we dreamed of when they were born. It can be very bittersweet seeing other children grow and take the path we wanted for ours, but I believe God feels our pain over our children as well as feeling theirs and has a future for them. Oh, and even with my angry daughter we have some shared moments of pure giggles.
Penni - May 28th, 2014 at 9:36 AM
Thank you Carolyn!
Glory - May 28th, 2014 at 10:35 AM
My 19yr old has Asperger's. His teen years were stressful. He was never a bad kid, but he was as smart but not as mature in social situations as his peers. After working with him, being there for him and just listening to him, he's now a wonderful young man who just finished his first year at Baylor University and is doing great. Keep up the hard work and pray for them.

My youngest(12) has classic Autism and is heading into Middle School. It will be interesting to see how his situation is compared to his brother's.
Andrea Wasson - May 27th, 2014 at 8:20 PM
I got through this article crying, as I have two GREAT kids, 20 girl and 15 boy. Going through a challenge with my son and a few bad choices (and friends!) right now, and this " But that is not the end of their story. It wasn%u2019t the end of ours (thank you, Jesus) and their best years are ahead of them too."

And for all you struggling mom's of boys out there, I truly believe the teen years are harder for boys than for girls. Been a tough few months with mine....my daughter wasn't nearly as bad. Prayers and hugs and love to all of you.


Jen - May 28th, 2014 at 10:01 AM
On the flip side, I've had way more problems with my 19 year old daughter than I have my 17 year old son. She's been obstinate and combative since she was 7. She's a rule breaker. She would break the rules and look me square in the eye and ask, What are you going to do about it? She's been disrespectful most of her life. We asked her to leave shortly after her 19th birthday and she did. It was the very best thing we could have done for her. Our relationship is much better and she's now holding a great steady job. She's just so much better.

My son (with the exception of 1 really dark period a few years ago when he got in with some bad kids and began experimenting with drugs, which we thankfully caught before it turned into a serious problem*aaaand breathe*) has always been a rule follower, hard worker, loving, kind and respectful kid. He's been a much easier child to raise.
Sue - May 27th, 2014 at 8:21 PM
Tracy I can understand. I have 4 teens and while they are basically good kids there's a lot of tension in our home. The boys (3) all have smoked pot and I feel like a police officer instead of a mom. They've all been baptized yet now say they don't believe. Right now I'm clinging to God's word. He loves these boys more than I do. Laura story's song Blessings has really helpede thru this season. I'll be praying for you.
Aven - May 27th, 2014 at 8:21 PM
Beautifully written Jen! I lost my daughter 9 years ago just before her 12th birthday. We were beginning to have conversations about boobs and boys and crushes and fashion and driving... I feel ripped off that I didn't get to finish mothering her. Thankfully, God placed nieces, nephews and so many more "bonus" children in my life. It still hurts me and fills me with regret when I remember the ways I failed my daughter then and when I realize I have failed one of my "children" now. Each day I try to do better by honoring God, the memory of my daughter and take a hold of the responsibility that God gives even the child-less to be a role model for those littles and bigs that might be watching.
Andrea - May 27th, 2014 at 11:02 PM
I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine your pain. We have all 'failed' as parents....I'm sure your daughter knew how much she was loved.
Karen - May 27th, 2014 at 8:22 PM
Simply the best post you have written. Huge fan, and while others may struggle with path that differs and is more complicated you still write and communicate such hope,,,my best fondest regards.

April - May 27th, 2014 at 8:29 PM
Right on! I SO dreaded the "teen years" but have truly enjoyed them! I found toddlers much more challenging! I wish I could go back and tell myself, "Hang on, the best is yet to come!"
Gabrielle - May 27th, 2014 at 8:35 PM
Um that was really touching...said from the girl with streams of tears rolling down her cheeks, %uD83D%uDE2D%uD83D%uDC59 pooling into her bra. Now that's cute.%u2714
Note to self: do not read Jen's posts on Day 1 of Aunt Flo's visit.
%uD83D%uDD34%uD83D%uDE2D%uD83D%uDCBC%uD83D%uDE47
This parenting ride has been ridiciously beautiful, hysterical, trying and incredibly entertaining. We feel like Jesus works for Publishers Clearing House, and He rang our bell to award us the winnings%uD83D%uDCB5%uD83D%uDCB4%uD83D%uDCB6%uD83D%uDCB7%uD83D%uDCB1 from the "best lil girl lottery". Each season is peppered with hysterics, insanity, endless joy, and a good dose of annoyance. I would't trade any of these stages of her 5 1/2 years of life.
I love this sweet beautiful human so much, it hurts.
Gabrielle breaks out in her best broadway version of Hall & Oats "Hurts So Good", (Will Ferrell style), jazz hands & full of verbrato.
%uD83D%uDC50%uD83D%uDC4F%uD83D%uDC94%uD83D%uDC9A%uD83D%uDC9B%uD83D%uDC9C%uD83D%uDC9F%uD83D%uDC4D%uD83D%uDC4C%uD83D%uDC94%uD83D%uDC83%uD83D%uDE4C%uD83D%uDE46%uD83D%uDE45%uD83D%uDE47%uD83C%uDFA7%uD83C%uDFA4%uD83C%uDFB5%uD83C%uDFB6%uD83C%uDFBC%uD83C%uDFBB%uD83C%uDFB9%uD83C%uDFB7%uD83C%uDFBA%uD83C%uDFB8
Jaynee - May 27th, 2014 at 8:35 PM
I loved reading this because I feel this way and
You articulate it so well! They are a gift!!! They
Are exactly the "perfect" files to file off
My rough edges! Thank you!
Jenise - May 27th, 2014 at 8:37 PM
Well...I just boo-hoo ugly cried. My boys are 26, 25, and 23....they are so awesome and I miss them...Incredibly.... They are doing exactly what we wanted them to do...grow up and be AMAZING young men.... I worried too much--they were always going to be awesome...:)
Lisa - May 27th, 2014 at 8:37 PM
AMEN AMEN AMEN!!! My oldest is 13 yrs old. After an incredibly rough 6th grade year full of many many mistakes and lots of disobedience we are seeing the fruit of our love, the grace we offered along with the consequences needed through that rough year. I know there is more bumps to come but man is she fun right now! And what's even more exciting? Seeing God move in your child's life. Opening their eyes to HIS forgiveness and how HIS way is better!
Amanda - May 27th, 2014 at 8:39 PM
My son was a wonderful child until he hit 14. I can honestly say he isn't the same person he used to be. Makes me sad :(
Jamie - May 27th, 2014 at 8:39 PM
Was reading this with my oldest child (18) looking over my shoulder...she asks what I'm reading...I say "it's just a post my friend Jen wrote for me". She looks closer and says "mom, it's a blog." :) I know it's a blog, but so many times I feel like it's written just for me! With my girl graduating next week and leaving for college in 3 months, I'm there! She's flying the coop just when she's getting to be so awesome! Sigh. Bittersweet. I hope we can survive without her!
Momofmany - May 27th, 2014 at 8:40 PM
Yeah, my kids are 9, 7, 5, 3, 1.5... and we're preggo again. and it might be twins (the ultrasound lady is booked f.o.r.e.v.e.r.) And we're raising my teenage sister. Did I mention we homeschool?
Loving life in the nut house, but terrified of the next 10 years. Thanks for the encouragement!!!
Angela - May 28th, 2014 at 3:05 PM
Congratulations! I'm one of ten!. Best way to grow up! Best days of my life. I hope they will all be friends, like we are.I'm still fiercely protective of my siblings. (Drives my husband crazy). Now we're ages 57 - 4 years old.We have 8 girls and 2 boys. People used to stare. Now I do the same, when I see a large family. God Bless you.
Denise - May 27th, 2014 at 8:41 PM
Reading this days after birthing what is quite likely my last baby. Struggling to come to terms with that idea. Praying I can embrace these years, not fear their passing.
Glenda - May 27th, 2014 at 8:43 PM
I adore my 5 teenagers! Yes 5, all at once. I didn't plan that very well did I? Or maybe I did. I love them, and have found they need me more so now than they ever did. Emotionally they are sponges, soaking up anything, but disguised as arguments at times. I love hem so much I pastor the teens at our church. They truly do delight me immensley.
CG - May 27th, 2014 at 8:45 PM
I have to agree with a few of the other transparent Moms on here. For many, it is not all roses. We all have given it everything in our hearts & souls to raise our children as strong Christian adults. I have very open, honest, and loving relationships with both my boys, ages 17 and 14. All was smooth sailing and wonderful and EVERYTHING you have described above until about a month ago when my 14 year old son "came out" to us that he is gay. Then just last night we discovered that my oldest (17) regularly smokes pot. They are both very loving Christian young men who are excellent students and extreme athletes. BUT, they are also humans living in a fallen world with every sick & twisted temptation thrown at them, as the enemy wants to devour them. So to say it is all joyous IS hurtful to some (probably MANY) whose ideas, hopes, and dreams for their children's futures do not match up with reality. Just sayin'. :(
Maureen - May 27th, 2014 at 11:25 PM
CG, I just came across this blog post this evening and thought that you might find it helpful: http://www.yarnsoftheheart.com/2014/01/one-of-my-children-is-gay.html
CG - May 28th, 2014 at 10:25 AM
Maureen, thank you for the recommendation. As you can imagine, as involved and loving parents, we have tried to absorb everything we possibly can on being Christian & homosexual, and the reconciliation of these two. Also, we are blessed to have a church that is not shunning us, as we have met with one of our pastors who is 100% supportive and prayerful with us in this unexpected journey. We do not have to agree with our son's feelings, but the fact remains that he is still our son, and we love him with all of our hearts. Finding understanding and acceptance in the "Christian mainstream" may be difficult, but we will stand beside our son no matter what, because who else will? If your parents are not there for you in your darkest hours/struggles, WHO IS???? (Besides the Lord, of course). My definition of being a "good parent" has changed quite a bit in the last month, and the Lord continues to refine and guide my heart. We are to walk WITH our children through the unexpected and hard times, without judgement and fear, because this is what Christ did for each of us, and we are to emulate Him in our daily walk. I stand on the promise that Christ has gone before us, and turns every situation for His good and ultimate glory. He is faithful until the end. Above all, we are to love because He first loved us. If we can remember this, even in the hard times, we will all become better parents. We are only trying our hardest, in this flesh as parents, to model our Heavenly Father who has done the same for all of us, and forgiven us all of our iniquities. ALL. Amen.
Kay - May 28th, 2014 at 3:50 PM
CG, your desire to stand beside your son no matter what is a beautiful testimony. I recently read an article that really moved me by a woman whose son was gay: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-robertson/just-because-he-breathes-learning-to-truly-love-our-gay-son_b_3478971.html
D - May 28th, 2014 at 6:08 PM
OMG I can so relate and it is so terrifying and heartbreaking and lonely all at the same time. Especially for Christian parents of children who have come out in one form or another (sexual preference, promiscuous lifestyle for "fun", wanting to leave the church, drugs, alcohol - whatever. Please know this one thing - there is someone sitting here right now at this very minute who has a sense of your pain because of her own!
mom in Arlington - May 28th, 2014 at 6:40 PM
Have to agree. We did everything we knew to do to raise christian young men, but they have made many mistakes and one is running from the Lord. So my advice, in addition to loving them, is to remember to continue to pray them through these hard times. I have to believe and trust that God will protect them and call them back to Him in His timing. My oldest son told me one day that his choices had absolutely nothing to do with how we raised him - they were his choices. Try to remember that when you feel like crying and crawling in a hole. I've been there! Praying for you.

Kris - May 27th, 2014 at 8:49 PM
As a mother of 4, ages 15, 10, 6, and 3 the oldest the only boy. Some days in wonder if I'll still be alive when the youngest one graduates lol! I will have a kid at home for what seems like forever. But looking at my oldest one who will be out if school in 3 years, I realize how fast the time really does go!
Danielle - May 27th, 2014 at 8:57 PM
Love this. I completely agree. My oldest is turning 16 next week, and he is just fun to be around now. It's amazing that they do turn out ok. I really do like him. He tells his 12 year old brothers that they are nearing the point where I won't like them for awhile.
Erin - May 27th, 2014 at 9:11 PM
So true.... Every word.
When I had three under the age of 4,a wise older mom told me, "The days are long, but the years fly by." Now as a mom of five, (big gap, then adopted two more), I couldn't agree more! I LOVE the teen years!!
Jude - May 27th, 2014 at 9:04 PM
My kids are 16 and 19 and I am crying tears because I feel like I failed my kids and have so much should have would have etc. oh my
Liz Reeves - May 27th, 2014 at 9:06 PM
Yes.
To everything here. Holy glory hallelujah, YES. I think we share the same brain. Gotta share this!!
Peggy - May 27th, 2014 at 9:07 PM
As a 60(ish) year old grandma, I find myself reading this and thinking, "Yes, it's totally true!" I cried as my eldest son left for college and said, "We just started liking each other again, you can't leave now!" (FYI %u2026 he cried too) Both of our sons, despite our well-meaning attempts at parenting (both as non-believers and (hallelujah) Christ-followers), spent some time in the wilderness as prodigals. Lots of guilt and "oughts and shoulds" but, in the end, when they "came to their senses," God ran to meet them and bring them back home! It wasn't easy, it wasn't particularly pretty, but we look back and praise God for His faithfulness to HIS redemptive story in them! These days we dote on our three granddaughters and watch our adult sons do a better job than we did and we KNOW that this is all simply God's story! They're not just our sons, they're good friends, too. As far as grandchildren go, I tell people, "Grandchildren are our reward from God for not killin' our kids!!" Jen, you're a jewel %u2026 love the way you encourage and spur us on to love and good deeds!!
Jamie Nygaard - May 27th, 2014 at 9:09 PM
as much as I love the cuteness factor of the itty bitty humans, and the itty bitty words and phrases that they say....I canNOT wait until they get to High School. End.Of.Story.
Mary Beth - May 27th, 2014 at 9:13 PM
Totally agree! I tell friends this all the time....humor....foster humor..in them AND you!!!!
RSH - May 27th, 2014 at 9:13 PM
Most of the time I love what you write, Jen, but like some other moms who have already commented, I'm struggling with the teen years. My kiddos are now 18, 15, and 11. The 18yo is scheduled to graduate from high school in 2 weeks. We have been waging war on his depression for about 8 years, and his cutting for about 2.5. He has systematically destroyed many friendships this year, and he is regularly disrespectful to my husband. He is an actor, but even performing has been difficult for him this year. His joy is utterly gone. I miss my sweet boy. Thank God he does not drink, smoke, or do drugs, but I worry for his safety every day. I am afraid that when he leaves us for college in August, he won't have his support system and will not find his way. My 15yo is finishing his freshman year, which has been much better than middle school, I must say. Most of the time he is still the funny, quirky, great kid I have always had, but I see signs that this is changing. I am clinging to my 6th grader's happiness and praying daily that she is able to navigate the difficult years ahead without losing hope like my oldest has. Jen, I am happy for you that you love these years, but it makes me feel like a failure that we are having such a difficult time right now. I talked to him about everything, but then he shut me out. I continually let him know that this is a safe place for him, but he cannot wait to leave us behind. He grew up in the church and still greatly admires our youth pastor, but I do not think he prays. I have done the best I can, Jen, and he is slipping away. Is it my fault? Didn't I love him enough?
LMB - May 27th, 2014 at 10:01 PM
RSH - I am in the same boat with you. My DD (15) is cutting, depressed and took too many sleeping pills last week. Counseling is not getting through. I am scared daily to leave her alone (we homeschool & I work part-time), and have made her go to work with me or text me every 30 minutes. The only thing that's worked so far is to limit her life by taking away her phone (and she likes it) because she was getting advice from so many people it made her brain implode. She was the most amazing girl up until 8 months ago, and I thought, "What are people talking about? Parenting a teen girl is fabulous!" Now I see. Lord, bless my mom for going through all the crap I put her through with my attitude! It is not something we've done to make our kids react this way, obviously, because we've raised them differently and still have the same issues. Many hugs to you!
RSH - May 27th, 2014 at 10:30 PM
Hugs back to you. Have you read Helping Teens Who Cut by Michael Hollander? I thought it was very helpful. My son's therapist recommended it. Very readable for parents, with explanations and practical suggestions. It helped mitigate my panic. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is helpful, too - if you can find someone who is trained in it. Wishing you and your daughter peace.
TieceyKaye - May 28th, 2014 at 11:36 AM
May I speak as a (former) teen who struggled with depression and cutting?
1. The depression has only begun to lift after medication (I had to try a few different ones to find one that fit), and even that is not a perfect solution. BUT it helps so much!
2. I have been to many counselors over the years; different ones fit for different ages. I've finally also found a doctor who himself deals with depression, so he understands completely the medical and psychological aspects.
3. The best advice I was given? The depression will always be with me, but it will become easier to manage as time goes on and I practice healthy ways of coping. *This advice was enormously liberating to me because it made it OKAY to have depression! It made me see that I'm not a failure; I just deal with a disease.
4. During my teen years, including some college, my parents were very controlling. I hated it. But it kept me alive.
5. My parents also delegated a lot because I wouldn't listen to them. Without my knowledge at the time, they roped in a number of people I did look up to to help support me.
Claire - May 28th, 2014 at 2:22 PM
TK - I think your comment will be very helpful to many parents on this blog who are struggling to help their teens who may be dealing with mental illness. So few people really understand that it is a genuine disease that genuinely requires medication, either episodically or chronically... just like asthma or high blood pressure or any other ailment of the human body. Love, love, love #4 and #5 - your post-struggle appreciation of your parents' need to do what they did, and their wisdom in finding multiple ways to support you. So glad you shared!
JRA - May 29th, 2014 at 12:14 AM
As a 28-year-old who is still struggling with depression and cutting and who developed an eating disorder in high school, please know that it is not your fault. I had a wonderful, Godly upbringing and still have a mental illness. I finally started seeing a counselor almost two years ago and finally tried medication a little over one year ago, and both have helped tremendously! I wish I had been brave enough to pursue these options years ago, so bravo for helping your child do that now, not ten years down the road!

Even with my meds, the desire to cut remains and I do sometimes still have bad days with the depression, even though my meds work very well for me right now. What I guess I'm trying to say is that it's a process, and very often a very long one that is not easily solved. I had stopped cutting for just over six months, when it flared up again just a few weeks ago. Mental illness is a constant battle and its obvious to me that you are in your son's corner and are fighting right alongside him! You are helping him fight for peace in his life and heart, and you are doing a great job! May the Lord continue to give you strength to be his fellow peace warrior and may He surround you with other peace warriors as well. Love and hugs! "...do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go..." ~Joshua 1:9
Stephanie Riley - May 27th, 2014 at 9:13 PM
I so appreciate this! It absolutely resonates with how we feel about our 15 year old son - like "hit-the-nail-on-the-head-with-every-single-word" resonate.

After browsing through the comments, I can recognize how hard this must be for those who have struggled with their children and I am so sorry for your heartbreak.

What I think is the beauty of this post, though, is that it encourages younger moms to know that not ALL of the scary stories we read or hear about comes to pass when your child becomes a teen - and to spend time worrying that that will be the case is counterproductive. I've spent so many years along the way worrying for "the shoe to drop", expecting that any day my son will refuse a hug in public, and its done nothing positive for any of us (nor has it ever come to fruition). I wish I had had this post to read through during those years, offering a different perspective and so much hope. I know I will be sharing this time and time again to the young parents who worry as I did that it doesn't always end scary and every age can, in fact, be more enjoyable than the last.

(But, as much as I can say I've come to the point of no longer worrying - it's now shifted to the recognition of how fast this time is flying by - and wishing I could stop time...cue the tears.....)
Lori Paterno - May 27th, 2014 at 9:16 PM
Seriously...I was banking (...ok, pleading, begging, bartering) that my overly dramatic & completely DIFFICULT 6 year old daughter would turn into the most laid back, sincere and thoughtful teenager. Now you tell me she'll be an older version of herself. I swear I'll NEVER survive. I mean REALLY...I will not survive!!!
rita - May 28th, 2014 at 8:45 PM
i feel your pain. My 9 year old daughter was rolling her eyes at me at about 2 and is such a drama queen.. i was hoping for calm in the teen years... after all, she has been acting like a teen FOREVER!!!> however, my son is HILARIOUS.. so I do have that in our corner
Susanne - May 28th, 2014 at 9:41 PM
My 3-yr old daughter was so difficult and loved to misbehave. She is now 9 and is the joy of my life. I couldn't ask for anyone sweeter. I also adore my 13-yr old son who has always been a good one. Sometimes the little ones grow out of their drama. Hope for the best!
Debra - May 27th, 2014 at 9:17 PM
Beautiful, powerful post. You are so right. I'm a mother of a 34 year old big. She is an amazing woman, her teen years were so fun, I loved having her and her friends around. Off to college, grad school, first jobs, wedding. We are still laughing.
Renee - May 27th, 2014 at 9:21 PM
Needed to hear this today Jen! My daughter turns 16 on Friday and she is oh so strong willed, stubborn,brave, beautiful,opinionated,and intelligent. Parenting her is such a challenge..but also a gift! Love her so much..need to tell her more and that I am so very proud of her!

~Karrilee~ - May 27th, 2014 at 9:23 PM
I can't even! I only have one and she is nearly grown and signed her first lease and paid her first month of rent and is moving out of hte only room she has ever known carload by carload and when her new roommate suggested that they spend the night in their new place even though they aren't all the way in yet - she came back 'home' to 'ask' if that was ok. Gah! I love her and like her so much and I can't even know how I will survive the next few weeks/months but I know that I will and I know that it is good!

Plus - yes... in the not too distant (but still far off, please Jesus!) future - Grandbabies!!! #swoon
Amber - May 27th, 2014 at 9:32 PM
Well, I'm glad you mentioned that exception for 5th-9th grade because we just finished 5th with our oldest and I am worried I am losing him! He was so difficult and strong willed as a little bitty (like REALLY difficult) and we had these magical years in grades 1 through 4! This school year was more and more challenging as the year wore on and I don't want to lose my funny, fun, affectionate, responsible, helpful firstborn! Bummer that I have to endure potentially 4 more years of this crap!
Alli Aars - May 27th, 2014 at 9:33 PM
Um, can I just say how much I needed this? I'm a SAHM of two littles, wondering how I'll survive these years, and not wanting them to fly by...ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I find myself dreading the day when my babies grow up on me. This gave me hope. Thank you. For who you are, what you do, and the truth you speak.

Sincerely from the trenches,
Alli

Ss - May 29th, 2014 at 6:19 AM
Aimee, F off;)
Ami - May 27th, 2014 at 9:39 PM
I have to join the ranks of those parents whose kids became different people when adolescence hit. Both have struggled with depression and anxiety that they came by honestly (no one picks their own genes) and that was set off like fireworks when puberty hit. Parenting teens has been very hard. Only when I laid down my expectations of them being what I would wish did I gain some freedom to love them and let God write their stories. So many days I have clung to the cross of Christ when I didn't know how to parent them through. Now I can find joy in the small moments of connection as they come and see the little miracles God brings them. Life has certainly not turned out as I would have planned it as a parent, but with God's help I can let go of my desires for my kids and love them in the middle of our messiness.
Amy K. - May 28th, 2014 at 5:48 PM
"...let God write their stories..." LOVE THIS! Parenting has been the hardest thing of all to surrender to God, but it goes soooo much better when I do.
J9 - May 29th, 2014 at 8:00 AM
Beautifully stated as this,too, is my story. Not until I surrendered expectations was I able to begin to fully enjoy them as teens. It has been a roller coaster of a ride but now wouldn't change it for the world. Thanks for sharing.
Jen - May 29th, 2014 at 10:03 AM
Yes Ami I feel the same way! My oldest changed due to many factors right in his adolescent years. He went from being a caring, loving, funny and carefree boy to being, well, just a crappy person in the blink of an eye. He has no respect for me and seems that he doesn't really have any aspiration to do anything with his life. I too let go a lot of my personal expectations when it came to him (such a smart boy but sooo doesn't apply it). I basically just said "You are getting too old for me to be telling you what you shoudl be doing (like going to class, doing homework, etc.) You are two years from being able to legally come and go as you please. This is your path to walk, not mine." It is tough seeing him self-destruct in some ways but all due to his choices at this point. I do long for the days when he used to want me around and respected and listened to me. Seems that just doesn't happen anymore. I have glimpses of who he was every now and then and I embrace them and am so thankful to God when they happen. But unfortunately they are fleeting.
Angie - May 29th, 2014 at 11:19 AM
I feel your pain! My oldest is struggling right now and my husband and I are struggling right along side of him. We struggle with how much to push, knowing the pitfalls of not succeeding in school, in not having any aspirations, in not communicating with us about things going on in his life. We'd like to think he's been raised to make the right decisions, even if he has to fail sometimes to learn the lessons life gives us. A lot of days I just don't know. And a lot of times I don't know how hard to hang on or how to give him the space to make those mistakes. Every decision we make seems to be the wrong one and I can't bear the thought of him failing or suffering because we didn't do the right thing or didn't do enough.
Susan - May 29th, 2014 at 10:24 AM
Great article, and so full of hope and promise, as is every soul born into this world, but unfortunately, as some moms commented, some kids do change in adolescence, and walk paths that were never imagined, despite good parenting, good genes and Godly values instilled, - so let go and let GOD is applicable in exponential measure in those situations, and letting go of expectations is critical as stated. You can not appreciate that trial unless you have experienced it.... and some will say - " well, they must have done something wrong"... and that is so nave and superior..... I used to feel that way on some level, without realizing it, and God has taught me humility, and patience and gratitude for His grace and understanding of His disappointment in His children (us) who choose to walk wayward paths...... May you not experience that grief, of wayward children, and may you have compassion on those who have dealt with that situation, and I pray you petition God on behalf of all His wayward children
Katie - May 27th, 2014 at 9:42 PM
I'm sitting next to my 3 yr old as he's falling asleep and now the tears are flowing. He is so funny, caring, full of adventure and he peed on the potty for the fist time all-by-himself today, so he's pretty brave, too! I'm completely in love with this sweet boy! He takes my energy from the moment he wakes up until he's tucked into his bed, but every night I sit by him and hold his little hand as he falls asleep, and tonight I'm reminded to be thankful!
Kaye Hoover - May 27th, 2014 at 9:49 PM
I could have written this myself a few years ago. I have always said that the junior high years are horrible but once they get in high school, they develop a brain and they are so much fun to be around and when you least expect it they leave you.... It's soooo hard!
Amy - May 27th, 2014 at 9:50 PM
As I read this aloud to my husband, our 6yrold flops over the back of the couch, butt in air by our faces, and proceeds to rip one. Right on cue, as if to second your message. I can drop the dress of teenage years. Please Good let him be more reasonable than I was. I need to apologize to my momma from now till eternity.
amy - May 27th, 2014 at 9:53 PM
oh me. i wish i could relate. wish soooooo badly i could relate. parenting my teen absolutely sucks. thankfully he was an angel baby!!
mat - May 29th, 2014 at 8:39 PM
i agree, my teen has not been fun to parent. reading this article makes me feel like a failed!
Karyn - May 27th, 2014 at 9:54 PM
It just keeps getting better and better doesn't? Everyone keeps saying "You're gonna miss this" nonsense....I wouldn't go back for all the money in the world. My 10, 13, 13 and 17 yr olds just keep making me more proud with every passing day. Do they still make me want to poke my own eyes out nearly everyday? absolutely - but proud momma moments are in abundance and I wouldn't change a thing.
Summer - May 27th, 2014 at 9:57 PM
As a mom of a 5 year od and a soon to be baby this was beautiful. It gave me hope , and it eased some of my fears. Then I read some of comments of parents who are struggling, and my heart breaks. I have no words of wisdom or insight at all for those. I am reading through 1 Samuel, and I thought of Eli and how his sons didn't follow The Lord , and I read unto Samuel and neither did his sons. I want to depths of me for my children to always choose Jesus, but I hope within myself as I read this article I hope I can love them even when they don't choose to follow Jesus. I think that is what the article spoke to for me. I am so afriad of "falling out love " for them. I pray that I will have an even deeper reality of the Christ love when they grow into teen. And maybe am holding out hope to have fun moments likeyou describe Jen.
Rebecca - May 27th, 2014 at 9:58 PM
Loved this encouragement - every word!
Amy - May 27th, 2014 at 10:00 PM
Dang you autocorrect. ^^^^ I meant "drop the dread" not "drop the dress." Sheesh. Autocorrect tryin to make me sound like a straight up herrrr. (Please read that in British accent. Thank you.)
Shellie - May 27th, 2014 at 10:06 PM
As I'm currently struggling with bedtime and naps with our first babe (5 months old), reading all the things on all that sleep stuff, this was needed. Thank you :)
jill p. - May 28th, 2014 at 7:58 PM
honey, most 5 month olds don't really have set bedtimes or nap times. Enjoy the flexibility. They just need sleep. Lots of sleep. And, a few decent naps a day, whenever they can get them. By the time they are 9 months, there is a bit more of a routine, though. (at least that has been my experience.) It will get easier. As a mother of 3, I was in the same boat as you with my first one. Reading books, stressing about sleep. My third baby is now almost 6 months, and she is a dream baby. No set nap schedule but she took a 2 hr nap today in the baby swing, yay, and a few shorter naps. And she is asleep now at 9pm. She will likely wake to feed in the middle of the night.
Gigi - May 27th, 2014 at 10:13 PM
This article actually made me feel really bad and very sad. Those who are experiencing only the good side of parenting teens should consider that it is not the case for so very many of us. I already constantly battle with feelings of inadequacy and outright failure as a mom and this only added to that. Sorry, Jen, it's not all roses on the teen parenting front.
Melanie - May 28th, 2014 at 10:19 PM
Same for me Gigi. You are not alone, and not a failure. Myself, my husband, and my husbands ex wife all struggle parenting my 16 year old step son. Hang in there.
Shelley - May 29th, 2014 at 6:56 AM
Totally agree. Believe me this woman is not the norm. I am glad she loves parenting her teens but it is not the case over here. My 17 year old son can be nice but is way more work then when he was younger. His dad did pass away last year though...but he was still hard before that.
TxRedhead - May 27th, 2014 at 10:24 PM
This is the gospel truth. Make the investment and do not fear. Our God loans them to us for a season and if we raise them to love Him, we will love love LOVE them as teens and our hearts will be knit together as friends for life. I'm a mom of a 20yo dd and 18yo and 17yo sons. Fear not!
Courtney - May 27th, 2014 at 10:30 PM
Jen, if you read all of these comments, which I suspect you do, I want you to know that I LOVED this post. Reading through many of the comments, some people have quite a different story than yours (obviously%u2026 aren't we all human with different lives and different little human children wondering around our houses?). Some people may read your article and think, "Oh, must be nice for HER. My situation is soooo different." I'm sure, Jen, that your parenting days of teenagers haven't all been hearts and roses, but I for one LOVE the hope that you inspire. Looking past the rough moments and enjoying these little people that God blessed us with is how we make it through. I have littles (almost 4 years old and 16 months), and I am a former-teacher-now-SAHM%u2026 Not all days are easy, that's for sure. But I LOVE IT! What's that phrase? "The days are long, but the years are short." YES! And I am so thankful that you give me hope that I will love them even more fiercely when they are teenagers, because man, I sure love them to pieces now, and I can't even imagine them as teenagers (seeing as my fiery "threenager" already keeps me on my toes). Thank you for letting God use you to inspire HOPE!
Bethany - May 29th, 2014 at 11:04 PM
I agree--life is about perspective and LOVE and hope. You inspire awesome and real love here. Thank you! What I cherished as a high school teacher, you mention here as a mom and that makes me *uber* excited for all there is to come. There will be good, bad, and ugly, for sure, but faith, hope, and love will prevail!
Tonya Pleggenkuhke - May 27th, 2014 at 10:47 PM
Funny- with every new stage my children were in- I'd exclaim- "THIS is my favorite!" And with one spreading her wings in college and the other keeping us laughing through her teenage years- this truly is my favorite! Great blog- great perspective! Thanks for sharing.
Ashley M - May 27th, 2014 at 11:00 PM
i want to bookmark everything you ever write. You're never allowed to let this site go anywhere because my daughter is only four and I need it for atleast the next 14 years.
Leah - May 30th, 2014 at 10:57 AM
Yes! And my daughter's only 2 months, so add a little extra to the 14 years!
Susan - May 27th, 2014 at 11:02 PM
Texas-sized tears and a snotting nose, Jen. Our little surprise arrived on December 29 of last year, just 11 1/2 years younger than our first and nearly 8 years after our second. To say my adolescent drives me nutty at times is an understatement. But, oh, the joy I feel when I see him with our newest. God is full of surprises and he loves humor, too. I am trusting God for the grace I will need for tomorrow and every other day he allows me. Love you, Jen.
CC - May 27th, 2014 at 11:16 PM
Your article was nice but like several others my children did not turn out the way I wanted either. Thank God my oldest has gotten his life together (who is 25) my oldest daughter 23 who acts like we owe her something very sarcastic & ugly at times thinks only of herself and just uses us for what she can get really does not want anything to do with church at all anymore and them my youngest daughter 22 who got pregnant at 18 and has had another child since then and yes I am help raising my grandchildren. All three were raised in a Christian home with Christian values and who are loved dearly since they were all 3 adopted. The really sad part of it for parents like myself is when your so called Christian friends abandon you when you need them most. But I know God hears my prayers just like he did for the prodigal son's father it may take years but my prayers will be answered for my children & grandchildren.
SB - May 30th, 2014 at 10:54 AM
I can't imagine how hard it would be but it sounds to me like you need to stop helping your 23 year old with anything until she gets a clue! Maybe she needs to hit rock bottom on her own to realize what she has.
Krp - May 27th, 2014 at 11:30 PM
This is so sweet to read and with my 6, 9, and 11 years olds I pray we enjoy the years ahead. However as we are at the cusp of the teenage years with our oldest, I already see reason for concern. Can anyone recommend a book for him that is encouraging and offers help for Christian teenage boys as they enter these challenging years?
Heath - May 31st, 2014 at 3:57 PM
I cannot recommend these books highly enough. "How To Really Love Your Child" is a wonderful parenting book that is a must read for everyone, even if you don't have kids. It will help you in every relationship in your life. "Learning All The Time" and "The Teenage Liberation Handbook" are both about a learning philosophy called unschooling that is a parenting philosophy/homschool style that fosters closeness between family members. The parents help their children find their own interests and help them chase them AS their schooling. Children learn to read, for example, because they want to learn how to read. It happens universally because it is fascinating, and happy people are curious. The philosophy is exemplified in buying the 13 yo daughter the camera. I think you should read these first and pass them on to your children. We did this with our children and the change is remarkable. Our rebellious teenagers have a hard time rebelling against us helping them do what they already want to do.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Teenage-Liberation-Handbook-Education/dp/0962959170/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401568227&sr=8-1&keywords=how to quit school and get a real life and education

http://www.amazon.com/How-Really-Love-Your-Child-ebook/dp/B009H7J72E/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401568669&sr=1-1&keywords=how to really love your child

http://www.amazon.com/Learning-All-Time-John-Holt/dp/0201550911/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401568703&sr=1-1&keywords=learning all the time by john holt
Randi - May 27th, 2014 at 11:40 PM
If we're afraid, it's because of the Debbie downer parents with their "just wait" warnings, which seems like 95% of parents. It's such a breath of fresh air to be encouraged by parents who actually like and enjoy their kids (teenagers). Thanks for this. I stopped and enjoyed bedtime with my 3 littles a bit more tonight.
Patti - May 29th, 2014 at 10:16 AM
Exactly why I loved this article. :) There are trials in the teen years, for even the BEST relationships, and there are some kids who just struggle during those difficult years, and parents too. But it seems like we hear all too often from the doom and gloom crowd, so it is nice to hear someone saying happy things about raising teens. :)
Michelle - June 1st, 2014 at 10:34 AM
Amen sista!!!
Dara Nugent - May 27th, 2014 at 11:42 PM
Ok love this post - I mean LOVE this post. Must have missed the part where you stated or implied that it was all happy and roses %uD83D%uDE33. Just that raising kids is a gift even when you pull you hair out bald- there is no better visual of how deep the Saviors love is for US- His kids that He wants to slap silly sometime. But crazy enough He still delights in us in our temper tantrums- trust me - I ain't been easy to parent!!! I have a 17b, 14g and 11g. Today I like them all- that's crazy!! Tomorrow I may claim none of them but that's the best part of the journey we are all growing and every moment if precious to get to have "adult" talk with people you adore and pretty much have to adore you it's so awesome- it's so great to actually have them when you all choose to spend time with each other rather than go separate ways- is that everyday- of course not- but I don't even want to spend everyday with myself. No fretting no hating everyone's journey is different and that's why each story is so compelling and winsome because it's just that OURS- none should look just alike- plus everyone hates a "copier"!
Missy Froeber - May 29th, 2014 at 1:07 PM
Oh, I agree! There are so many blogs and articles out there about younger kids, but very few about dealing with the heart aches and joys of teens. I think we all need reminding to let go of control, trust in God's plan and enjoy our kids even when we want to give them away! I would add to Jen's instructions and recommend you get your village involved. Lean on your family and friends to help when you are overwhelmed with teen. It's good for you and good for them. My 13 year old and I had locked horns for the thousandth time that day when I heard, "I am giving you to the next person who comes to the door. And don't think I won't!" fly out of my mouth. I knew my sister was on the way over to take me to lunch and I figured when the doorbell rang, it would give him something to think about. My sister took one look at my face and the sulky 13 year old standing next to me and loaded him into the car instead of me. 45 minutes later they came back and he had a much better attitude and so did I! It also made quite the impression on my younger son who has been heard to comment, "I don't want Mom to give me away," whenever his brother tries to talk him into something naughty.
Gigi - May 27th, 2014 at 11:49 PM
Raising our children to love the Lord is no guarantee that they will. We cannot make our children love the Lord. I hang on to what the Word says about training up our children in the way that they should go. I trust that my daughter will remember her love for Jesus before she is "old". There is no easy formula for raising godly children and loving them well is not always enough. Ultimately, our children make their own choices. We begin to see that in the teen years -- for better or worse. I will continue to love my Father and trust that He knows how to keep the righteous from stumbling and that His plans for my children are good and full of hope. My heart goes out to the other moms who have or are enduring difficult teen years. My daughter struggled through anorexia and still struggles with anxiety, depression, and poor choices. She just graduated high school and will be going to college in another state in the fall. I constantly pray that God will work in her to will and to do His good pleasure.
Ginger - May 29th, 2014 at 5:32 PM
Thanks for your words. I cling to that truth as well for one of my children. And am able to rejoice in seeing Him in action with my other.
Carol - May 27th, 2014 at 11:53 PM
It's so interesting. I've often thought that kids of different ages need different parents (or at least different parenting styles). It's hard to be good at every phase and maybe we are naturally suited to particular stages. I do think we don't do ourselves any favors with all these comparisons. Our children are only partially a product of our parenting. We can't take all the blame for their mistakes any more than we can take all the credit for their gifts.
Terese - May 28th, 2014 at 11:58 AM
Carol, I love your idea that "kids of different ages need different parents (or at least different parenting styles)". As a parent it is difficult to find that right balance that works with each child. Think about it...as an educator...I chose to work with hs and college age students because the thought of working with pre-school and elementary children made me want to run for the hills. I definitely think that philosophy you propose has some truth to it.
Alissa - May 28th, 2014 at 12:44 AM
I read this with my big, soon-to-be-awkward 11 year old sitting on my lap. (Just a note, he would like me to correct this and tell you all that he is actually 12 and I was all like "no, you're 11" because there is NO FREAKING WAY he is going to be 13 in December so he is 11. To me.)

My two much younger brothers had a some very very very difficult teenage moments. I now realise that this was probably due in large part NOT to the fact that all boys inevitably turn into hideous monsters/ mutant aliens when they become teenagers, but more because they had a SAHM and two insufferable know-it-all older sisters telling them what to do EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF EVERY SINGLE DAY. I get this now in my brain, but I still have a hard time not breaking out in hives whenever I think about my own boys becoming teenagers.

So thank you Jen, from every fiber of my being for yet another amazing blog. You have taken the weight of years of future worry off my shoulders. I promise to take your advice to heart and, as of today, I will allow Xavier to be 12. And tomorrow I will schedule some quality YouTube funny video watching time.

PS: My boys showed me 'If Google was a Guy' last week and we almost killed ourselves laughing.
Darlene - June 2nd, 2014 at 10:26 PM
I can tell by your comments that you have what it takes to raise a healthy young adult. You took notes and learned well. Your 12year old sounds delightful. Enjoy the moments!
Mikala - May 28th, 2014 at 12:52 AM
Freaking amazing.
Jennifer Garner - May 28th, 2014 at 1:04 AM
Eeeeek. So nice to hear! I'm a therapist for mostly teens and love them but still wonder if I will be good with my own when age 12 arrived. Needed to hear this. So thanks avton!
Sabine - May 28th, 2014 at 1:07 AM
True, it gets easier. Although I don't agree you have to love everything they do. If they want that camera because they "love" taking pictures (read: taking selfies with their phone), go babysitting and earn the money for it! That way the'll appreciate it even more, because they know how hard they had to work for it. And set clear bounderies. They try. Just like when they where two. Believe me... they WILL try.
Paula - June 2nd, 2014 at 12:03 PM
I too am a firm believer when our kids want an expensive item that taxes our family budget, they get out & earn it. We met our kids half way about 95% of the way, including their first cars, smaller 4 cyl. vehicles with low power. We were blessed to have a decent income but contributing to their passions, their dreams, their interests meant they had to contribute some effort too. I think that is good common sense & very fair !
Ashley - May 28th, 2014 at 1:44 AM
This is just what I needed to hear. My day has been full of everyone else's needs and somewhere around 1.2 million questions from a 5 and 3 year old. Thank you.,
April - May 28th, 2014 at 2:53 AM
I loved this. I am a mother of two littles still, (4 and 7) and it still made me weep because already the time is just flying by and I'm seeing glimpses of years to come in my 7 year old girl. I completely understand the huge variety of response you've had. I'm no parenting expert, but I'm sure like you've said you've been faced with your own share of crap and your teenagers have had their moments.....but I suppose it's all about taking the long view. Some parents truly feel it's the end of the world if their child even does X, Y, or Z, It's helped me a lot to realise my job is to not raise children who will NEVER do X Y or Z...but a lot more simple. I once had a wise youth leader who was also a parent of teenagers say to me that she "wasn't really that strict" with her kids, when it came to things other parents were making issues of (secular music, TV, etc) but the one thing she wanted them to learn, was how to worship God. I've tried to remember that. I want my kids to know Jesus....I try to keep that front and centre...rather than "I hope my daughter never has sex before marriage" or "I hope my son never gets drunk" Of course i don't want my kids to get hurt...and I'm not saying I my heart will not break if they deny God or go into major self destruct mode, and of course we have to talk about these things...but..I never want it to be all about their behaviour or about what other people think of them or of me as a parent. I think the sort of attitude that upsets people is when parents brag about how well their kids behave. In this post Jen, you haven't gone on about how "on fire" your kids are for God, or how morally perfect they are, you've simply talked about the fact that you are enjoying them, their personalities, in this season, and taking delight and choosing to revel in the laughter....not tie yourselves in knots of fear over their imperfections. This post was not "My kids are amazing and wow I've done such an amazing job parenting" it was just a general encouragement for us to make the most of the time we have and to find the beauty in the midst of the crazy. I can only hope and pray that I feel this way in 10 years time! I am learning to be safe now...so I can be safe later. If I scream at my child for spilling milk, they're unlikely to come to me 10 years later when they've really blown it....
Kristi - May 28th, 2014 at 2:53 AM
Oh glory be, Jen Hatmaker - I'm sitting here in tears reading this post. I've been anxious recently that my oldest is almost 10, my baby will be in 1st grade, and how fast I'm seeming to lose my "babies". Worrying if I'm creating a relationship with them that won't develop into rotten,angst-filled teens that I dont recognize. But this helps me so much realize to just relax and let it go, be open and unconditionally loving with them and they will be fine. Thank you. Honestly. Hit the nail on the head. Bless ya!
Tammy - May 28th, 2014 at 3:01 AM
That's great that this has been your reality, but it is not the case for me and many others who have tried to raise our kids right and they just want to against the grain. Many times I feel like a failure as a mom, but then I have to remind myself that God is in control and He is working everything out for the good to those who love Him and oh. how I do love Him. I just pray that He will complete the work He has started in her. Your prayers are welcomed!
becky - May 28th, 2014 at 6:48 AM
my daughter is 14 and completely amazing! love her with every fiber of my being. we are just now getting into the more independent stage where she wants to do stuff with friends more. a boy likes her at school:o there's texting involved and it's just a new phase. i trust her, and know that i know that we've raised her right...it's just that tearing away part. that letting go little by little and trying to do everything right that is stressing us out. we constantly recall our own teenage years and how our folks did it and there were major flaws. hoping to balance it all out.
Amity - May 28th, 2014 at 7:04 AM
Crazy. Thank you Jen. Yet again I swear you can read minds. (I have 4 kids, 2 of which are teenagers... 1 is adopted.) I always appreciate your loving and refreshing honesty... thank you!
Ruth - May 28th, 2014 at 7:14 AM
I am the "Grammy" and wept as I read this...I went through it with my children and now walking through it with my daughter...as I see my grandchildren whizzing through life, growing so quickly, changing, and my constant prayer is that they will "stay close to Jesus" no matter what!!! Thanks for this beautiful writing.
Stephanie - May 28th, 2014 at 7:20 AM
Well, crap. Now I have to go re do my mascara. And I wasn't going to be late today!!! Thanks, for real. I adore my teenagers, too.
Audra Blumn - May 28th, 2014 at 7:21 AM
Oh, Jen...I am just sobbing. One, because as always, you hit the nail on the head, and two...because 6 months ago, my daughter decided to go live with her dad. There was no conflict or bad blood between my daughter and I. WE ARE TIGHT!! She just wanted a change, and I let her go, and now...I miss the daily stuff, and it's not gotten one bit easier! I still can't go into her room without losing my mind, a few tears and breathing in the scent of her.
Sarah - May 28th, 2014 at 7:25 AM
Jen, I could have written this if I had any writing talent whatsoever. You spoke my heart and what I have tried to convey to moms of littles. Put in the time and interest when they're little and your teens (and now my young adults) will be such a blessing. Thank you for this. Especially poignant reading this on my youngest's 25th birthday :)
Natalie Witcher - May 28th, 2014 at 7:26 AM
Oh glory this is so perfectly written!! Love my teens!! And....AND I get to do it again. I have a six year old and a four year old. Boom. Then.... Bring on the grand babies!!! Four second time lapse? Yes. Yes everyday.
Cindy M - May 28th, 2014 at 7:27 AM
Loved this....and my kids are grown! But the grandkids are getting to this stage. Can't wait now! = )
Laura - May 28th, 2014 at 7:55 AM
Gloriously true. Sharing on the Free Range Learning fb page, because so much true must be shared.
Louise - May 28th, 2014 at 8:00 AM
There is some GREAT advice here, and I'm really glad you are concentrating on the joy - we all need to do that. However, I have to say, this really doesn't match my experience raising two now-grown teens. I remember the exact day I cried myself to sleep because my new teen didn't like me anymore. That's how it's supposed to be if you are doing your parenting job, but it is a shocking downer - and not very joyful. In addition, I can't say they really became the people I raised them to be. I'd say they became the people God always meant them to be, but that's a different thing and not always joyful, either. I love my adult children and anticipate learning to love them even more through various stages of life, but they are decidedly NOT my babies anymore. Most moms feel sad about that at times. But, for some of us, thank you, God, there are the grandchildren...
Bekah - May 28th, 2014 at 8:50 AM
Louise - I want to stand up and cheer for you. "I can't say they really became the people I raised them to be. I'd say they became the people God always meant them to be, but that's a different thing...they are decidedly NOT my babies anymore." I came from a home with a clingy mother who still doesn't realize the dangers of emotional enmeshment, and my husband (we are in our 30s and newlywed) came from a home with an extremely manipulative, dominating, spiritually twisted mother who still thinks we need to repent of our sinful independence and live in the same home with her, and has gone to extreme measures to try to force us to do so. I wish I could say our stories are rare, but in my large friend circle it's uncommon to have parents who recognize that their adult children are ADULTS and that they belong first to the Lord, before belonging to their family, and that these children very well may follow God's path for them and it might not align with the parents' wishes. It is so very good to hear you express your mingled feelings of pride and disappointment, because it's obvious that you have given your children a gift as precious as the gift of giving them life - you have given them freedom. What beautiful love that is! Whether they are grateful for it or not, know that there are those of us out here who are so very glad that there are moms like you in the world. Thank you.
Martie - May 29th, 2014 at 5:58 AM
Thank you for sharing! Amen and remember: it is for freedom Christ set us free!
Our controlling parents were ruling from fear, the opposite of faith. God bless them...and us...and the
Generations! You are not alone!
Ann - May 28th, 2014 at 8:06 AM
In many ways, I appreciate this post. It helps dispel some of the crazy dread that almost everyone feels about parenting teens. But I want to add one plea: please, somewhere in there, add a caveat, a proviso, some recognition that the strategies that have this far worked so beautifully for you will not necessarily work in the same way for everyone. Specifically, it is simply not always the case that "they will become the exact young adults you are raising them to be." I am raising three kids, and I now have a teenager who is struggling painfully in multiple ways: social isolation, self-harm, a scary suicidal phase. We are very unsure what the future holds, and this has pushed me and our whole family to our very limits. We did our best to incorporate every principle you mention. My husband and I spent a thousand unhurried hours with this child. We read stories; we took walks; we talked. We prayed. We encouraged her interests. We gave her space, we held her close. And we're not giving up yet. But the suffering involved has been tremendous. So.... I agree that people should *not* harbor general dread about adolescence (in fact, our two other kids are more and more fun all the time); you offered some great suggestions about how to move forward confidently. I'm rejoicing with you as your kids "turn out" great. But Jen, the terrible truth is that there simply are no guarantees. A post like this, as wonderful as it is in many ways, might lead some people to suspect that there are. And that can only lead to a temptation to judge people whose lives are the counter-example--and an even deeper pain for those people themselves.
Name - May 29th, 2014 at 10:56 AM
ann you nailed it
T - May 29th, 2014 at 1:29 PM
I'm on teenager #4 and two of my children have mental health issues...I can't tell you how horrible, painful and lonely it is to be the parent of children and teens with these issues because of the ignorance and stigma that mental health issues carry.
Jane - May 29th, 2014 at 8:14 PM
Absolutely right...there are parents who do everything right, or as right as possible and they have terrible problems with their children. And there are children who have absolutely terrible parents, home situations, hard, hard lives, and yet as teens and young adults they flourish. There are no guarantees. And I hate to tell you, but parenting young adults can be just, if not more painful.
Shelly - June 2nd, 2014 at 11:16 AM
Ann, I am sorry for the difficulty with your teen. We have had many similar years with our two. Their childhoods were blissful and they have the life of Riley but are not really spoiled; they just changed and took us by surprise. They are still changing, but I do see improvement with maturity (during college) and that helps me stay sane with the high schooler. By the way, each of my kids has different issues and problems but both have had to see doctors due to the extreme nature of their behaviors. At the same time, there is a LOT of good in them and I can only hope their good foundation will serve them (they have turned away from God because the church turned them off with "rules" they vehemently oppose in their grown up minds and I agree with them more than the doctrine). I did not expect the teen years to be so painful for me and my husband. We stick by them and try to continue to "like" them even when they have been horrid. I've found that like the pain of labor, you forget about it later, especially when they do something amazing and are again sweet and loving. They are not as expected but in some ways they have been better!
Jen G - June 3rd, 2014 at 12:57 AM
Thank you Ann. I think there are a lot of parents out there who have given their babies all the love, affection and healthy boundaries required for a wonderful childhood and still need up one day crying themselves to sleep for fear of the future. My beautiful daughter just turned 16. She is healthy, gets straight A's, plays violin and has many many family and friends who love her. And she still suffers from depression. We are still and always have been incredibly close and when she shared some very troubling feelings with me, more then anything she was afraid that I would either not believe her, or be disappointed. We are now getting her the help she needs, but it is terrifying to think that my baby may be anything thing but happy and successful in life. The only thing that matters is that we love them no matter what
Susan - June 24th, 2014 at 1:21 PM
Ann, thank you. Same here with my daughter, and I read articles like this and try really hard not to feel I have failed. You nailed it.
Brandie - May 28th, 2014 at 8:10 AM
...and I'm crying. :)
Ginny - May 28th, 2014 at 8:41 AM
After reading through this and the comments and reading through it all over again I really wish you had just written this as your personal experience rather than telling all these young moms the way it will be. Because it might not be that way for everybody. And when you are told that this is the way it will be (if you "do it right") and things don't turn out that way, the guilt can just about kill you.

I appreciate what you are trying to do, Jen, but your description is far beyond the scope of realty for so many parents. Your very words would have been like eating candy to me 12 years ago, before I had yet to enter the teen years. Those same words would have been like a knife to my 3 years ago, when we were going through the depths of despair (and I was going through menopause....yay!), but now, to be honest, these words come across as idealistic and naive and insensitive.

I am on the backside of parenting teens (my kids are now 18, 20, 22, 24). Among my 4 kids we have wrestled through ADHD, anxiety, depression, thyroid disorders, Apsergers, and all out rebellion (resulting in a beautiful grandchild) all while trying our hardest to be a loving family who poured the grace of God into our children.

The truth is we have so much less control than we think we do. God is writing their stories. He is writing OUR stories, too. They may just not look like yours.
Jilly - May 28th, 2014 at 4:05 PM
Well said, Ginny.
Jill - May 28th, 2014 at 9:04 PM
Yes! Yes! Yes! I thought that exact thing as I read through some of the comments from moms of littles. Before my oldest became a teen, I would have been all, "amen and hallelujah!" Our kids weren't going to be those rebellious, selfish, disrespectful teenagers that hung around the mall looking for trouble. And while ours doesn't hang around the mall (because he's completely anti-social) he can certainly be rebellious, selfish and disrespectful. In my mind, my home would always be open to laugh with and enjoy our kids' friends. Our kitchen would stay messed up and food eaten up by hungry teens that would inevitably end up hanging out with us. But that hasn't happened. No, my 17 year old tells me that he won't even attend his own high school graduation next year because it doesn't mean anything. We've always homeschooled (because, you know, that was supposed to be the answer as well) but he does have an umbrella school with a graduation. He can't wait to leave home and tells me how it means nothing to him anyway. He has five little brothers and sisters whom he adored until he hit about 14. So don't tell me they don't change, Jen. Maybe in YOUR experience they don't, but in my experience, the teen years have been a hard, hellish road where I've cried out to God everyday to shape my son to look like the Jesus he claims to follow. Because right now, there's no joy. There's no love. There's nothing but self absorption.
Sarah - May 29th, 2014 at 11:04 AM
THIS is my story too.
Tina - June 1st, 2014 at 7:11 PM
Yes, our story too with our 18 yr old, oldest of 6, and we thought we did all the "right" spiritual things, too. Praying DAILY for heart change.
Richelle - May 28th, 2014 at 8:42 AM
Pregnant with our 3rd, we have our babes spaced out 15,8 and fetus! As I parent my first born, I realize it has been tough at times but seriously God is crazy good with the benefits of tough times, like becoming a faith filled prayer, seeing prayers answered and the entire family be a witness, integrity, that moral compass becoming ever more important in endeavors, watching a struggling kid cling to God for direction (yep mind officially blown)plus so many more. I looked down at my insanely big belly growing our 3rd boy and I just can't help to Praise God!! Legit if you can't praise God in the storms are we really raising our kids with Him?
Jules - May 28th, 2014 at 8:59 AM
Your four paragraphs following the "time lapse" photos... My oldest of four (three of them teens) graduates high school this week, and for months I have been thinking those exact thoughts about sharing humor, loving his friends and how generally amazing the teen years have been. You nailed it. Wonderful post.
Kari - May 28th, 2014 at 9:18 AM
Ahhhh. Yes! These stinky footed, food inhaling, girl obsessed, sports loving boys that inhabit my house still want their backs scratched and a good long hug from Mama. Its FUN (99% of the time). I love watching them turn their cool on in front of the girls and joking with their buddies after school. They're turning into young men, and I love to see them overcome a good challenge. I found myself in tears the other day when I realized I've only got 5 years before one flies the coop. Which I found to be TOTALLY unfair because my oldest sons came to me through adoption at 11 and 12. That first year plus home was unfathomably hard...nearly killed all of us. But now, to have a love and joy we've all worked so hard for and only have 5 years left seems SO NOT FAIR. (well, at least so not cool).
Lisa - May 28th, 2014 at 9:18 AM
I didn't want to read "another" article about how to raise teens. :) But I'm glad I did. We have 5 boys. Ages 22, 21,19, 17,16. It has been the ride of my life. Right here, right now, I feel so under experienced and wonder if my parenting is good enough. Don't get me wrong, these boys are awesome, but trying. Each of them has that one thing I wish I could help them overcome, but I know God is using just that thing to draw them closer. I sat last night with my 21 year old and told him I wish I was a better parent, but he told me they each had to blaze their own path and experience life in their own way. I have learned to seize the moment when each one of them is open and ready to talk. It makes the hard times a little easier. And yes, I try to remember that I also made some wrong decisions, but here I am today, on the other side. That is where I am teaching them to go to Jesus, He will help them through, He is their ultimate Rock He is strengthening their faith.
Lisa - May 28th, 2014 at 9:18 AM
I agree with you. I LOVE having teenagers in the house. Still hurts when they are snarky or mean. I am happiest with a house full of teenage boys - they are all different, unique, and perfectly themselves.
Becki - May 28th, 2014 at 9:27 AM
Tears are flowing...my 22 year old son just graduated from college and is back home "trying" to find a job. This mom is having a horrible time not trying to control the situation and "help" him find a job. Your words,"This is tough for me, but work really hard to not control everything. This is super important. Your bigs NEED to develop independence. Let them bring their problems to you without obeying the immediate instinct to solve it. Ask good questions. Lead the witness. If they think you are only capable of %u201Cfixing it,%u201D the well of communication will run dry, because their hearts are chasing adulthood and they need to know you respect that. Be a listener, a gentle guide, a confident parent willing to let their child blow it for the prize of maturity." spoke to me IMMENSELY!! I need to constantly remind myself to break out in song, "Let it go!" GOD is in control...not me, not my son!
My 18 year old daughter will graduate from high school next week. It's been a great journey but I need to work on listening and not trying to solve HER problems too!
Thank you for your words!
Heather - May 28th, 2014 at 9:34 AM
I so needed this today as I struggle with my tender
Hearted 13 year old boy. Thanks Jen!
catalina - May 28th, 2014 at 9:38 AM
I am having great trouble with my teen. it is not at all bubbles and floats. there are more days that I do not like him than like him. I feel i have failed him and want those toddler days back. it is awful when your son doesn't like his home, his parents, etc. I have two following right behind him and enjoy them tremendously. but enjoying this one only is fleeting. i wish i could be that giddy parent that smiles with flipped pancakes upon the plate each morning, but sometimes it takes everything inside of me to let him know he is loved, whether he receives it or not. This teen has been hell. Jen, I appreciate your words, they are well said and worthy of all compliment --- this is just from a mom on the the other side.
Joelle - May 28th, 2014 at 9:39 AM
I needed this post soooo bad. I'm the same age as you but I said Yes ma'am to you out loud at least five times while reading this. I asked God for a word this morning to help calm my nerves while raising these teens literally minutes before I started reading this post.
Katie - May 28th, 2014 at 9:40 AM
I love this Blog, I have a almost 9 month old daughter who I adore and I constantly think about what is going to happen in the future. Your right the time does fly but I'm going to make sure i invest in her and love her and guide her ( the best of my ability ). All in all, thank you for this post reminding the busy mommas to just relax and enjoy our babies. :D
Megan - May 28th, 2014 at 9:40 AM
I have a 15 and an almost 13. I love them both fiercely. Sometimes it's easier to love them, and sometimes it breaks my heart. BUT, I absolutely love the comment about sending them to college from 5th-9th grade! Brilliant. Because it's soooo true! I have one in high school and one in the throes of middle school. When my girls are in middle school, I feel like I'm in middle school all over again...
Mindy - May 28th, 2014 at 9:46 AM
This is not how things play out with all of us. It's not everyone's "jam". And that makes it harder. Trusting God in all of it, is key. No matter the season. Pray. Be open to change. Grow. Pray. Follow the Holy Spirit. Pray. And love your kids the best you know how.
Kassi - May 28th, 2014 at 9:54 AM
This post read like fiction to me. Sadly my reality is the exact opposite and I find myself wondering where did i go wrong? Do i love them too much? I am a mother of a toddler and a teenager. My biggest request is that my straight jacket comes in pink.
jamie - May 28th, 2014 at 9:56 AM
totally disagree, those sweet babies can change in a big major way and you are no longer "talking" to the same person. You have wrapped this up all nice and neat, it doesn't quite work that way for many of us.
Julia Lowcher - May 28th, 2014 at 10:07 AM
I'm happy for you Jen. It seems like you are doing something right, however, beneath a veneer of happiness, sometimes "good" kids aren't always as they appear. Some are excellent actors during the teen years too. My teen girls are not great actors. Every bit of anxiety, anger, depression, laziness, low self esteem, and more rears it's ugly head on a daily basis in my home. For my freshman, I thought switching her to a small, private Christian school would help, but alas, sexting, bullying, drugs, bisexuality, cheating & lying were rampant there too, only worse for her since it was impossible to get away from with so few students. Parents, open you eyes, I mean truly open your eyes. Kids are posting their illegal & illicit activities all over social media. I can bet with a little sleuthing, you can uncover potential drug or pornography issues before they are out of control. And if you think your kid isn't using social media, they are. If you think that to limit usage in your home works, you're wrong. They are always ahead of us. Tell your boys not to ask for nude photos of girls & not to send them out, unsolicited. Tell your girls not to cave into boys constant requests for nude photos. Some of the most Christians boys & girls are doing this and it starts in 6th grade. The best thing I have done as a mother up to this point is allow my kids to tell the truth, the real truth of what they are encountering everyday. It all started with learning social media though. Many times I know what is going on before they do. They can't lie because they know I will find out anyway. Do they always tell the truth right from the start, of course not. They're teens. These are difficult conversations to have, but I refuse to be that mom who finds out my kid is addicted to drugs or has child pornography on their phone and it is news to me. My mother parented me that way. Yes, it's easier and there's a lot less daily drama to deal with if you stick your head in the sand, but in the long run, is it really helpful? Don't get me wrong, I hate the daily drama, but good or bad, they are communicating with me. And don't get me started about international adoption. My sister's adopted son from Khazakstan is now 14 and the issues he is experiencing are like nothing any of us has ever even heard of. Let's suffice to say, he absolutely can't go online because of the dark world he has sought out because of issues formed in his head during his 3 years in an orphanage. Even the best counseling can't fix some things. Good luck moms & dads. Let's be in this together.
Sue - May 28th, 2014 at 10:20 AM
I can relate to those who have said that what you wrote is not their experience in parenting a teen. But I think that this part acknowledges that there will be difficulties: "There is a super high chance your teen will ENORMOUSLY SELF-DESTRUCT. Need I remind you of our adolescence? They will lie, cheat, rebel, succumb, resist, disobey. They will do this, because they are no different than EVERY GENERATION THAT EVER PRECEDED THEM. But that is not the end of their story." And the part that I cling to is that whatever difficulties some of us may be going through, it is NOT the end of the story! We cannot know that... and at times it seems like the rest of the story might not be good. But my 15-year-old has surprised me at times. She made the jv cheerleading team and it is not something that I, or anyone else, would have ever expected her to do! And she is on the list of freshman who will get an award this week. I have no idea what for... but I am going to relish it. It is a roller-coaster ride, for sure.



Alison - May 28th, 2014 at 10:35 AM
Bawl Fest.
Mendi - May 28th, 2014 at 11:03 AM
BAM. SPOT ON. NAIL ON THE HEAD. We have 3. 19 yr old daughter, 17 & 15 y.o. sons. Chick Fil A, the Pool, baths, home schooling, wanting them to be 7 or 15 when they are 13.... YES AND AMEN. We don't have a basement or a pool (and I remind the Lord of this often ;), but last Friday night there were 13 college aged girls in our home and 6 spent the night. They are messy. Then, they clean up after themselves when you least expect it. Do they disappoint us? Sure....and we them. Do we still have to be the bad guy? Absolutely. Does your heart break when theirs does? you betcha. Do I hate Snapchat? 110% YES! Every summer my hubs and I travel on summer mission trips across the country with our two boys and 50 other teenagers and adults. In vans for 15 hrs of travel at a time. I wash their stinky laundry. We feed them, We serve along side. We laugh, cry, talk, play. WE LOVE IT. Teenagers are our jam, too. Thanks for putting my heart into words.
Cindy - May 28th, 2014 at 11:09 AM
I agree with so many of the other comments. My one and only homeschooled teenage son just graduated on Saturday. I had 3 teenage boys (him and his buddies) sprawled sleeping around my house AS I read it! Bawled AND laughed! I was not a fan of little kids and terrified of the responsibility of mine but the teenage years have been the BEST EVER OF MY LIFE! Awesome post! Great advice!
Angi Long - May 28th, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Love this. I'm on the cusp of breaking down every time I think of them leaving home. I will have a freshman and sophomore next year (and a 4th grader- thank goodness)! They are all boys. I have no idea how to communicate with a teenage boy. I studied early childhood and elementary education. That did not include anything about teenage boys. But, they are really fun. I truly enjoy my teens. The thought of not having them around to laugh with each day makes me a lot sad! Thanks for this blog post.
KD - May 28th, 2014 at 11:40 AM
As a mom with 5 adopted who are all teens and young adults, there is/ was nothing fun about the teen years! Holy heck hang on to you hats!! It's the hardest most unrewarding thankless job. Just praying for each of them to make good choices and get on a straight path. Don't doubt I don't love my kiddos i do, but I'd trade a teen for a preschooler anyday.
Diana - May 28th, 2014 at 11:47 AM
I could relate to this on so many levels. Agreed with ALL of it. I could have written it (if I had any talent as a writer!) My beautiful, wonderful girls are 13, 15 and 16 and although they aren't perfect (they did have ME as a mom, so were bound to be a bit off kilter) they are a complete joy and I am extremely blessed to be their mom.
Olivia - May 28th, 2014 at 11:49 AM
I so need this reminder. I have allowed myself to become weary. And that balance between sadness that my kids are growing up and will leave the nest soon and the excitement that MY KIDS ARE GROWING UP AND WILL LEAVE THE NEST SOON! - Yeah. It leans toward the excitement. That and the anxiety that somehow I am missing something and that I have failed to teach them what they need to know. Most heavy is the burden to see them follow Jesus. Here's to finding the joy again in raising these amazing people who I am so in love with and in allowing them to become the people God has made them.
Judi - May 28th, 2014 at 12:18 PM
Sure wish I had spent more time being "in the moment" when they were little". You are right - they become more fun again after they get past middle school. I LOVE my teenage daughter. We now have the relationship I dreamed of. Thank you God for this blessing. (Still working on the son - relationship is not as easy since he has decided he doesn't need God).

Beth - May 28th, 2014 at 12:29 PM
This is the most true, funny and inspiring essay on parenting I've had the pleasure to read. What a gem!! I am the mother of 5 teenagers and you completely READ MY MIND. This is the advice I would give to every young mom out there! Fabulous!
Paula P - May 28th, 2014 at 12:38 PM
Thank you! Love this!

Terri - May 28th, 2014 at 12:41 PM
Glug, glug glug! Still trying to come up for air!
Mom to 3 girls: 17, 15 and special needs 13 year old
Michelle W. - May 28th, 2014 at 12:43 PM
I needed this! So many times I get caught up in the anxiety of what's to come. Thanks for a little peek on the flip side.
Louisa - May 28th, 2014 at 1:01 PM
Thank you for your encouraging words! My {last} baby just turned 1. It is so easy for me to get mournful of the end of the baby era instead of looking ahead with faith and anticipation at what is to come. I want to be the kind of mother that treasures each season.
Christina - May 28th, 2014 at 1:01 PM
YES! As the mom of two teens... Yes, yes, yes!
Casey - May 28th, 2014 at 1:29 PM
Thank you for the encouraging words! I do have to disagree with the comment that your child won't magically turn into someone you don't recognize. My definitely turned into someone that I didn't recognize, but she eventually found her way back.%uD83D%uDC9C
Laurie - May 28th, 2014 at 2:12 PM
Yes, I too loved the teen years for 3 of my 4 kids. But the struggles we had with our oldest took much of the enjoyment away from the rest. Our oldest is now 37, and has struggled with mental illness for much of his life. We "lost" him to his disease when he hit puberty, and he will never fully recover. I have seen several posts regarding depression and other mental illnesses in this thread. It's good to know I am not alone. Right now we are walking through that same valley with our just-turned 20-yr-old precious daughter. A death in the family 3 years ago triggered her depression, and once she started college, the signs of bi-polar disorder began. My heart is broken. This precious child of mine is our miracle baby. She loves(d?) Jesus and has always wanted to be a missionary. She's articulate, wise beyond her years. Yet today, as yesterday and the last 3 months, she sits in a recliner. We had to withdraw her from school this past semester; she could no longer cope. We are working with her counselor and psychiatrist on proper medications to help her return to a somewhat normal life. Right now, it is very hard to imagine that God will restore her. So we prepare ourselves mentally as best we can for a new "normal"....again.
Me, too - May 28th, 2014 at 10:15 PM
Oh Laurie. I am so sorry. Reading this article had me trying so hard to smile and nod, smile and nod. But the truth is, it's not our story. I got to your comment and that's when I could nod, but not smile. My 15yo has been in a downward spiral of severe depression (sub acute but without hospitalization because our home is safe for him), anxiety, OCD, bipolar 2, and on and on it goes. I almost hate to say it. Because I know there are those who will say "overdiagnosing" or "well, they must have done something wrong". I know I've been assured by friends who've known us inside and out for years that we haven't been able to control this. We both come from healthy families. The other nieces and nephews are turning out beautifully. We've also been assured by the psychologists and psychiatric providers that we are doing EVERYTHING RIGHT (to get that from both Christian and secular circles is kind of interesting ... but we've been very affirmed in how carefully we have parented). That he is in the right place at the right time. Our home is like a residential treatment center for him. The only thing wrong with that is ... it's destroying our family. The treatment of our family is horrendous from him. It's sent our second into a spiral of suicidal depression directly related to the treatment from his brother (and this second child is the most forgiving and kind person I've ever met). We've prayed, and cared, and loved, and read all the books (excellent ones) and talked to people (amazing ones) and so far ... we're not very far. It scares me for his future as I try to breathe and accept today. The truth is, as my second becomes a teenager today, I mourn the loss of the fun in our family, the delight, the enjoyment of each other. Every day is a battle. My 4 year old daughter doesn't know what life is like without this. All of the four youngers kids are deeply affected.

Thank you for sharing your story. We're pretty emotionally exhausted and heartbroken and at a loss for what to do. We know nothing about how long this could last and if it ever gets to a point of management for this child or if any other children will begin to emerge with these difficulties. But, yeah, we can be pretty amazing parents (not perfect, but man ... we've been fun and balanced and loving Jesus and kind and ... we've honestly done really well, and thankfully we know that - we can admit our faults but know that in general, we are just not to blame for this). Anyway, we can be pretty amazing parents and have things derail in a more destructive manner than I could EVER have anticipated. There's more. And our hearts are just really broken. The amount of stress our entire family is walking through is beyond tremendous. As I'm sure you know.

I'll tell you something I've learned from it, though, I really DID used to believe that "excellent parenting = excellent kids". I don't know how in the world to get our heads out of water from this (and we have a wonderful support system in our friends and church - in prayers and meals and other loving acts).
Holly - June 5th, 2014 at 11:24 AM
I agree with what you said:
"I'll tell you something I've learned from it, though, I really DID used to believe that "excellent parenting = excellent kids". I don't know how in the world to get our heads out of water from this (and we have a wonderful support system in our friends and church - in prayers and meals and other loving acts)."

I don't see how we could think that we could be a better parent than our heavenly Father. I don't think anyone would come out and say this, but isn't that kind of what we are thinking when we do this? God is a perfect parent and He has children that walk away from Him treating Him with contempt. I am one of those children who strayed and came back later. I also realize that in those times God continued to be a perfect parent loving me when I felt unlovable and protecting me. That does not mean that I did not experience bad situations, but He has always been close even when it didn't seem it to others. I now have a 16 year old and we have had some very tough days and weeks. My prayer for her is that no matter where she is at, she will have a genuine relationship with her heavenly Father and always keep an open line of communication with Him. The truth is parenting is one of the most difficult but valuable roles we play as a Christian. I pray for you today as you continue your very important self sacrificing role as a parent.
Kelly Newman - May 28th, 2014 at 2:27 PM
Amen & hallelujah times ten. Just when I needed something like this the most. Girl, boy, girl...15, 13, & 10. And they are funny...by golly. Thank you
Elizabeth - May 28th, 2014 at 2:27 PM
If you and your teen have not yet discovered Flula, you really must. Start with the "Jennifer is a party pooper" video. Hilarious.
CyndeeLu - May 28th, 2014 at 2:53 PM
I loved what you wrote, yet I can sympathize with the moms who have commented about their struggles. I loved it because, like you, I love humor. Laughing just feels good, and to be able to do it with my teenage daughter is wonderful. We do it a lot... to the point of tears rolling down our cheeks. But, there are the other kinds of tears as well. My daughter is now 15 and in high school, but her depression, cutting, and suicidal idealism began in middle school. The last couple of years have been an emotional roller coaster for my family. I still worry, and she still has her moments when I try to help her cope with stress or disappointment in a healthy way, but she has come a long way. I spent much of the first year of our roller coaster ride asking what I was doing wrong as a parent. It took me a while to understand that it isn't always a result of something I'm doing or not doing. I've turned it over to God, and let her know that I'm always here for her. My advice to other moms is this... hold them close, ESPECIALLY during the middle school years. They aren't emotionally equipped yet to handle the bullying and peer pressure that seems to rear it's ugly head during those years. And, watch who they surround themselves with during those dark and trying years. It's hard for them to overcome emotional struggles, and see the world in a positive light, if they are surrounding themselves with other negative people. In middle school, my daughter started hanging around people with emotional problems and traumatic backgrounds because she felt like she could help them by being there for them. She truly does have a heart of gold, but unfortunately, they pulled her more their direction than she pulling them hers. That's when the cutting began. That's also when I pulled her from her school, closed her FB account, changed her email, and changed her phone number so that those "old friends" wouldn't be able to contact her. (This was in 8th grade.) I didn't give her any advanced notice, did it all in one day, and told her when I picked her up from school that afternoon as I was withdrawing her. I expected a fight. She honestly seemed relieved. Yes, she still finds herself trying to "help" others, and I can tell when she is starting down a dark road, and I try to re-direct her path before she gets started on that road. If nothing else, she knows that I will do anything in my power to help her, and to keep her safe. But again, I do love your post because, even though it isn't all roses, I still LOVE being around my daughter, and being goofy with her, and laughing with her, and watching her become the adult that God wants her to be. She is artistic, and creative, and not afraid to be her own person. She's fun!!
Emily - May 28th, 2014 at 3:00 PM
I really appreciate this perspective. I agree wholeheartedly. I am loving watching my oldest two enter into their teen years and grow into the people God made them to be. That is not to say they are not frequently ornery as they navigate growing up, but let's call our kids into something greater and be amazed at God's faithfulness. I love these years - hard, messy, beautiful years.
Andrea - May 28th, 2014 at 3:34 PM
Right there with you Jen. I am loving the teens and dreading them leaving. They do wear me a bit thin some days! They are mostly good and do cause me angst but I love the stories, their lives and who they are turning out to be.
SL - May 28th, 2014 at 3:59 PM
This has me sobbing... Because it couldn't be farther away from my reality.
Leigh Ann - May 28th, 2014 at 4:38 PM
Dear Lord I hope I grow up with them, because I am terrible and uncomfortable around teenagers. But maybe if I grow WITH them, I will adjust and be someone they don't detest. All the time.
Lisa - May 28th, 2014 at 5:10 PM
Wow. Glad you have had such a great experience. Not all of us have had the same experience. I'm sure it was well intended and very much appreciated by moms of littles, but your post made me feel completely inadequate as the floundering parent of a difficult and disrespectful teen.
Mary Beth - May 28th, 2014 at 5:38 PM
Today I just read this, a few hours after watching my 25 year old drive away to his new beginning in another city! Your words brought on more tears but I loved what you had to say.
Stephen - May 28th, 2014 at 6:37 PM
Perhaps many of you are overly religious with your kids. Born again Christians use very descriptive, vivid words to tell their kids that they are lost sheep damned to eternal pits of flames for the slightest infraction, then in the same breath praise the glory of the kingdom of heaven. Imagine what that does to a young impressionable mind. It scares them. It's really child abuse. Verbal, mental abuse. Treating your gay child like they are cursed with demons or diseased is ludicrous. Homosexuality is as natural as air. It occurs in every species. Think we are not part of the animal kingdom? Think again. Stop using your bibles to hurt your children and others. You're using it wrong.
Kerry - May 28th, 2014 at 6:39 PM
I loved this article when I first read it, shared with my friends, etc. then I started reading the comments and my heart broke. I was there...in that dark place only the parent of a depressed/suicidal/cutting child can understand. Where all you do is pray and sob because you are sure that somehow this is all your fault. I also quit work when kids came along, so I felt that I failed at my only job in life: get these two boys safely to adulthood. There was a time I didn't care if he graduated or went to college or played sports or anything. I just didn't want him to die. My life was a facade because how can you talk to "friends" about clothes, decorating, the weather, anything, when your child is in such immediate danger? But you certainly can't talk to them about that! Even when we discovered that a good portion of the cause was medical (a horrible combination of Lyme disease and a genetic mutation,) I felt (and knew) who still viewed us as flawed parents. The road back was hard...and long...but successful enough that when I first read this article my only thought was, "Yes! I love being mom to these two teens!" My son is going to college in the fall, and while I worry about any type of relapse, I know that all I can do is what I did during those long, horrible months: pray like crazy and love him no matter what.
CyndeeLu - May 28th, 2014 at 10:26 PM
Bless you, Kerry. I understand what it feels like to wish that you could be interested and relaxed enough to talk with your friends about things like clothes, decorating, or even the weather. But instead, you become the quiet friend in the group because you can't discuss what it is that occupies your mind all the time. It's a dark place, and praying like crazy is the only thing that has helped me to keep my sanity. Thankfully, the good times are really good, and there seems to be more good than bad lately.
mom - May 30th, 2014 at 1:20 PM
I discovered that when I decided to share, I was judged....but also found a few great friends who also were suffering in silence, take a chance. I understand every emotion your expressing. Life or death issues, failure. It's not always the parents fault, forgive yourself and accept that God is in control. Set boundaries when you need to. You'll always love them, but not always like them.
Carley - May 28th, 2014 at 6:55 PM
I loved this perspective. I have two little girls--two and eleven months. And everyone always says, "Just wait until they're teenagers"! (Which is the most obnoxious "advice" ever...because it's not even advice...it's more like a threat!) And while I don't know what the Lord has in store for them (or me), I want to believe (and in fact, I will believe) that this will be my reality too!
Kiera - May 28th, 2014 at 7:33 PM
Thank you... That is saying alot, thank you for reminding us that as they grow older they are becoming, for me, the young men they are suppose to be. My boys are 14, 12 and 9 and this makes me realize how much they have grown. In addition to how much they still have and to enjoy the "In Between". I love everything that they do, I love everything they are becoming but we can get lost in who they are going to be. Just thank you for reminding all of us to enjoy each and every moment. I hope that on the "interesting days" I can remember this. I know that I will on the easy fun filled laugh days... Thank you so much for sharing and reminding us that the little time we have with them makes a huge difference in who they will become and to enjoy the time in between.

Katie May - May 28th, 2014 at 7:53 PM
I LOVED this! I may be extremely odd, but I have been looking forward to the teen years since the moment my first baby was born. Now four years and three baby boys into motherhood (the boys being 4 years old, 2 1/2 years old, and one due in September), I still cannot wait for the teen years. It's a good reminder to listen now, to take interest now in their interests, to build trust%u2026and most of all to enjoy and delight. Why is that so hard during this little people stage? To just enjoy and delight? I. must. remember. this. Thank you for your post!
gaw193 - May 28th, 2014 at 9:30 PM
Well, I stumbled on this blog via a Facebook acquaintance and it has been interesting to read. We are in a place of almost two worlds. One teen doing pretty well and about to graduate and the other in a facility in another city. Both had terrible middle school years and our oldest came out of it stronger while the other has gotten into more trouble with friends, the law, drugs and who knows what else. He wants nothing to do with us and has only blamed us for where he is at rather than stopping to see what got him there. He is in a place where no one can tell him what to do. Not us, his teachers, his court appointed lawyer, the judge, his therapist... I keep myself busy so that I don't sink into the sadness and dispair I feel for missing my happy carefree little boy. I try to remind myself that one day he may come back and I/we will bring out the fatted calf, put a robe on his back and a ring on his finger. All this while we have to keep living and loving our oldest into his future. Hold on to them because we don't know where there stories will lead.
Jenny - May 29th, 2014 at 1:05 AM
Thank you to all the moms who wrote that children do change, sometimes a lot, and their experiences do not mirror the author's. Hormones and navigating teen peer culture can wreck havoc on a child; the most wonderful bright affectionate 10 year old can morph into an angry depressed withdrawn and academically struggling high schooler before you know it. As a SAHM it is so easy to blame yourself for all the difficulties your teen is having, but we cannot. Some parents like to take credit for all their teen's successes too, but that is equally wrong. Each baby is a unique individual that we have been given to usher into adulthood, all we can do is love and cherish them and parent them the best we know how; they are not lumps of clay waiting for us to turn into the kind of adults we want them to be. Raising babies might be physically exhausting, but raising teenagers can be emotionally exhausting. We must remember, no matter what age they are or what stage they are going through, to enjoy our children as much as possible, through all the ups and downs, because those 18 years will fly by while you're not looking.
I am saddened by the few people that have stated that they can not wait until the teen years because they do not like the early years: please do not wait to see if you enjoy your children as teenagers as much as the author claims to; you might but you might not. Try to cherish them now, as they are today. You never know what the future will bring.
Tracy - May 29th, 2014 at 1:25 AM
Today was my youngest (twin boys) last day of high school. This post was like reading my own mind. Thank you for reminding us to have joy in the journey and to be in the the trenches with them while God writes their story. Years ago I read a book by Amy Grant where she said she wanted God to be as real in her children's lives as he has been in hers. I remind myself of that in the hard times. He is working it all towards their good and I am so thankful to have a front row seat in watching it happen. The good and the bad%u2026I have loved the teenage years.
Tracy - May 29th, 2014 at 2:37 AM
Jen, thank for eloquently reminding us that not all teens are difficult mutant rebels! My oldest has just turned 18 - she finishes school at the end of the year. My next daughter (nearly 17) finishes school at the end of next year and we have a 14yo son as well.

I was the mother who pleaded with God that the second coming had to happen before my children became teenagers. My oldest daughter hit the Terrible 3's with a bang (worse than any Terrible 2 I'd met)....after I'd had my second child and was pregnant with my 3rd. It was too late to turn back by the time I knew little people could be such hard work! She, however, turned 13 and settled down. No second coming, but a waterfall of grace - and she set the tone and expectation for the teens coming along behind her! I'm loving having teens. That's not to say it's all been smooth sailing. It's not!!!!! Even good kids have moments where they do really, horrendously dumb stuff. And I give them 14 to be moody and whatever 14 is. When they turn 15 they get to snap out of it. These people, all of whom are now taller than I, are funny, smart, entertaining, capable, beautiful young people who are happy to spend their weekends at home with us and just 'be'. And they more than tolerate their mother working in the same space where they spend their day.

I thought I didn't want to be the parent of teenagers. Now I wouldn't want to go back to having a houseful of teeny little people. I love to work with little people - they still think grown-up's are great. I love to live with bigger people - they are actually useful for more than eating your food and making a mess!
Laura - May 29th, 2014 at 8:54 AM
OMG!!!! you just made me cry!!!! I have an almost 6 years old beautiful, caring daughter, and this is exactly what me and my friends talk about......how our kids are gonna turned into teens.......thank you so much for taking away some of my fears of this not too far away phase.
Tina Bausinger - May 29th, 2014 at 9:18 AM
I love this so much. In my blog Southern Mom, I write about raising teens and some of my most popular posts deal with Teen Speak: A Translation for Beginners. My own teen is a 15-year-old giant (he's 6'4" and wears a 16 wide shoe). I always expect the unexpected!
sandy - May 29th, 2014 at 9:21 AM
We raised our two sons for the Lord. We committed them to Him when they were babies. They are 24 and 25 now and we released them back to Him. I don't grieve that they are sowing their wild oats now. They have the Word in their hearts and minds and the Bible says that will not return void. Their behavior now is between them and God. We are their parents who love them. If your grown child is not living right, get a piece of paper and write their name on it, pray over it, release it back to God. Put the paper in a decorative box and place it on a high shelf in view. Whenever you start to dwell on it, look at the box and remind yourself that you have turned this child over to the LORD.
SearchingforHope - May 29th, 2014 at 9:30 AM
I both LOVE this post and HATE this post because it is 100% true for me and 100% not true. I have two sons - my older one is 19 and every single thing you wrote captured my experience with him - he is a crazy extrovert that lives life to the fullest in every moment. Before I sent him off to college last year (SOB) we spent high school years where we laughed together, cried together, and installed a metaphorical revolving back door for all of his friends to come here and be fed, loved, challenged and encouraged. This is their first summer home from college and they are all back together on my couch and it is amazing and breathtaking and I love.every.second. they are here. I also have a 17 year old. As a baby he was sweet, precious and sensitive - he bounced when he walked as if joy suspended each step. He was like capturing the perfect sunny day. He loved music, played the guitar, had a heart for worship that we shared together and loved Jesus with total abandon. Being his momma until the age of 13 was a breeze and I marveled at the ease of the path (should have seen the storm coming I guess). Puberty hit in 7th grade and I watched that child evaporate before my eyes. I kept thinking it would pass, being a teenager can be filled with angst - it is hard growing up. However months turned into years and he hit high school as some version of himself I no longer recognized. The sweet, sensitive sunny little boy I knew was seemingly gone. In his place was a young man wracked with social anxiety, paralyzed to leave the house (and often his room) by a major depressive disorder who barely speaks a word unless he has to - would choose to never eat if not encouraged, would go back to bed most days if given the option and fully believes God has totally abandoned him. We have spent six years praying long past what words could ever capture and crying more tears of heartbreak than I knew a heart could hold - we found the best possible psychiatrist, therapist, doctors and medication balance we could. And yet today, as I write of this 17 year old headed into senior year in August in the moments where I forget God holds all things together and loves this child more than I ever could, I am wracked with fear for his life - praying to God he does not act out on suicidal thoughts, wondering if he will ever experience joy again - if mental illness will hold him bound in darkness...filled with guilt beyond words that somehow if I had parented him better, loved him more, seen the signs sooner and a million other regrets that this would be different. Parenting a teen can indeed be amazing...but it can also break your heart in ways I truly never understood a heart could break. As a mom of a child with mental illness I can tell you I would give everything I have to see him experience joy, hope and belief that God loves him again.
michelle - May 29th, 2014 at 9:58 AM
Yes. They're my jam, too. Love my two teens. :)
Lori - May 29th, 2014 at 10:52 AM
The best piece of advice from this blog is to talk to your children (about everything) - and listen to them. Both my kids are teenagers and although it is definitely not easy, because they know they can talk to me about anything (without fear of judgment or punishment), I really don't worry about them getting involved in drugs, etc. Keep in mind that I used the word "punishment'" not "consequence." It is not a free-for-all in my house. They understand and accept logical consequences and they know that I love them no matter what mistakes or poor choices they make.
Patty M. - May 29th, 2014 at 1:07 PM
Jen I could hug you and I could kiss you........ Not because I birthed you but because you wrote this!! Thank you a million!
Mom of 20yr old girl, 17yr old boy, 16yr old girl, 2 yr old adopted Niece,,,,,,,yes what were we thinking!
Renee - May 29th, 2014 at 1:15 PM
Ugh, I have one in college and one in middle school so I'm at that awkward in between stage of missing the oldest as a teen and waiting for the youngest to become one. I'm in total agreement - teen years are awesome and not a season to fear but one to embrace with everything you have in you :)
Reva C - May 29th, 2014 at 2:07 PM
PREACH sistah! Teens are the bomb. And the battle. Resources and encouragement for parents of teens is far too limited. I'm a mom to 3 teens and a social worker. Teen appreciation is my life's mission. I admin a FB group for parents of teens who want a safe place to vent, problem solve, and rejoice about their teens. Happy to have any parents who are striving to be committed, conscientious parents of teens ages 12-20. The group is called Parenting Teens Today.
Hayley - May 29th, 2014 at 3:14 PM
Wow. I really love this. Thanks for sharing. I just became a mama in October to a sweet baby girl and I've totally already had the "ughhhh WHY is she going to eventually be a teenager??" moments. This is so encouraging for my heart to read. Thank you for your work! It is so refreshing for so many.
Karen - May 29th, 2014 at 6:42 PM
I love everything about this. Teens are my jam too. I am loving the 13th year of my sweet daughter. We share everything and I have left the lines of communication open so that she feels she can come to me about anything. She's such a good kid with a big heart and while her face is always looking at a phone screen she shares that with me too.
Elizabeth - May 29th, 2014 at 8:14 PM
I'm glad you are having an awesome experience raising your teens. Either they are EXCEPTIONAL kids or you are on some really good meds :)
A - May 29th, 2014 at 9:01 PM
carole - May 29th, 2014 at 9:04 PM
I asked my first born-- my 16 soon to be 17 year old son why he wasn't dating and he said that the reason to date is to find the person you want to marry and he looks around his class and he doesn't want to marry any of those girls. God, that was an awesome answer. Lol. They are funny, these teens! They are deep thinkers and are figuring out their world. It's awesome to witness.
Kim - May 29th, 2014 at 9:30 PM
As I read this, my 15 year old was studying for finals, as he claims. We had a little spat earlier today about his math final, and of course he told me "he hated me." As much as that hurt, I know it is short lived and later this evening we hugged each other and said we were sorry. Me, for recognizing that my way is not his way, and he has to own his grades. For him, he realized that you just don't yell at your mom, at anytime. Thanks for sharing your thoughts because it helps those of us realize we are not the only ones out there that experience difficulties with teens. If you can hug you kid at least once a week, that is a great thing. Remember they will lie, cheat, rebel, disobey, but so did we. Thank you Jesus for kids as they are gifts from God.
Mom - May 29th, 2014 at 9:36 PM
This is a comment in regards to the article, not a critique of views. It sounds very nice and promising to moms of all littles out there. However, I would be hesitant to imply that this is, or is a promised reality to all good moms out there. Not so, many loved, delightfully enjoyed children who were "trained in the way they should go". Blow Up and become teens and adults that in no way resemble the child you rocked and cared for. God is good. However, I believe scripture is misquoted and leaves a Christian parent questioning God if they are cheated out of an implied promise, of which you heard preached by others and in church. It's not always poor training that causes a child to self destruct. You have to factor personal choice, social influence, abuse caused by adults in society, living in a fallen world. All are an influence to child. There is no greater sorrow than parenting your "grown baby" in this situation....especially when the child you rocked, behaves like an alien has invaded. No...for multitudes, raising a teen is not just like raising a bigger version of the little child. Praise God for everyone who has this reality. It is by Gods grace, not just an extension of good parenting. God will sustain you even if your children disappoint and burden your soul.
Susan Bonifant - May 30th, 2014 at 7:08 AM
I read enough of these comments to see that people both adored and rejected your observations based on how they themselves were affected by their changed relationships with teens. We owe our teenagers the right to pass through what I call their "tunnel" and we owe them the patience to wait it out at the other end. The unhappiest parents of teens I've known choose to view their teens in terms of how they aren't anymore, how they don't relate to us like they did, over who they are becoming and how we might meet them on new terms to keep close.Our adult children had their ugly moments, we all did, but I made no lasting decision about them as people because as you found, there were too many child traits that were evolving into great adult traits.These are my favorite people in the world today. You are on the money in my view, because you've chosen to flip the perception that "it's all over" when they're teens, and keep your focus on the old/new things that are still joyous. That, and you have a kick-ass sense of humor which parents need like, well, air.
Tonya L - May 30th, 2014 at 8:21 AM
I am currently struggling with a teen. I needed to hear this. Thank you.
stef - May 30th, 2014 at 12:02 PM
I'm with Jen on this one--she couldn't have said it better, for me.

I was crazy, crazy crazy about my girls at 2 and 3 and 5, and worried about them endlessly...Now that they are 15 and 18, and one is graduating and going off to work and college and England, while the other is coming out of a cast and crutches and back to her beloved sports...I'm even crazier about the women they have become. I have loved watching them grow and learn and mature.

They are my two best friends. They drive me crazy. They make me laugh and cry and curse. I love that we share an odd and somewhat dark sense of humor that is like our secret superpower. We talk about every topic under the sun, and I have imparted all my 1980s Valley Girl wisdom to them ("Guys. I was 15 like yesterday") along the way, complete with all the misteps I made. I like to think it has saved them some drama, and they seem to agree.

And their FRIENDS. I adore their friends, for all the same reasons you mentioned. Most of them, I have known since they were about 8 years old as well, and it's been amazing to watch that group of cute kids turn into this awesome group of Christian young adults.

I am blessed beyond words to know them, and proud beyond words at how they've turned out. I know not everyone has the same experience, but for me--- Jen, every word...just...yes. I hear you.
Mom - May 30th, 2014 at 12:56 PM
I'm speaking about teens who are now adults.....parents, some problems are big! Heroine addicts, thieves and liars....not just normal teen rebellion....give us hurt parents a little credit....my response was just to show the other side of that coin....which unfortunately is the situation of a lot of parents i know. Also no one could have made me believe or prepare me for it... God forbid anyone have to cut out of their life, the beautiful child one day because the person became so toxic to you. It is the most awful feeling in the world and your left feeling like a total failure. Somewhere inside they are the same, but as time passes and they do not repent....you wonder where that kid is and will they ever be the same (or you) after the bruises. Anyway, thats why i don't feel the same as the author.... I just wish I could communicate to young pre teens/teens how detrimental their choices are....to everyone. How crippling and permanent the consequences, what your left to live with afterwards could be a mess! Even when repentance comes, consequences and damage is left on everyone....not at all what you envisioned for your lives....Like, its not normal to think that your sweet child will grow into a monster, but some do. My experiences certainly haven't been horrific in the grand scheme of things. I feel little children have little problems, big ones have big problems and its very hard to understand, totally unimaginable to sometimes wish you could forget the little person you knew because the train wreck your watching is so gut wrenching....your not seeing that same personality, it's vastly different. Honestly, how can I describe how horrible it is when the person on earth who gave you the most delight and pride, later becomes the source of your worst sorrow? Prayer is what you have, and the prayer is that it is the will of God that you will see that personality again. Without Gods intervention the child can't find his true self. Wow, I am terribly pessimistic, yet very optimistic as well. I have blessings and I have sorrows all from my children. Pastor told me once, a parent can only be as joyous as their most sorrowful child. That is truth! Comes a point where you may have to step away from a child to preserve what you are and to have anything left for others you love. Never, ever, ever does it not hurt tho. never did you believe it could be so. Soooo my point...don't rush through your kids childhood because it may be the best years you ever have with them. This is all not exactly the point in the article, I realize the author makes valid points based on her reality....makes me want to poke my finger in my throat, or in an eye...JK! Teens and adult children are de bomb, a bomb on my home. Please consider everyone doesn't have it as good. Pray for those.
Rosalyn - May 30th, 2014 at 2:40 PM
Thanks for this Jen - my girls are 4,7,10 and instead of being impatient with them just now, wanting them to be quiet and go to sleep, I went in to their room and had a giggle with them about something silly. Thanks - these are indeed precious days
Ann - May 31st, 2014 at 10:40 AM
I am a recent college graduate stepping into adulthood. In my teen years, I used my academic and extracurricular success to mask internal suffering. I remember sitting at the computer at 4 am once taking an "are you experiencing depression" quiz online, checking each box that was a sign of depression. It wasn't until I came to college and my church did an entire sermon series on depression and the Bible that I realized the feelings I had experienced in high school weren't weird or shameful but actually common. I'm thankful to this day for that sermon series because, with it, I was able to better understand some of what I had felt and to turn it over to the Lord with hope and trust. But I still walked away wishing my parents had somehow had a magic looking class that could see my struggle. Don't get me wrong- my parents were saints. They loved me and taught me to love the Lord. They have been great leaders, friends, and teachers to me. But that doesn't mean I didn't struggle. So my advice to the parents of kids who look like they have it all together:
1. NO KID IS PERFECT: even if you teen seems to have it all together, ask questions. If you notice changes in mood or attitude, don't gloss over it and assume it's a phase. When I started spending every minute of the day that I wasn't at school or extracurricular activities sleeping (usually 14 hours a day), my parents took me to a doctor for blood tests, but they never asked about ME and my soul. Maybe they didn't think about it or were scared. I don't know. But the right question could've made me feel safe sharing the confusion I was experiencing.
2. BE MINDFUL OF WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT OTHER FAMILIES: I was too embarrassed and ashamed to ask my parents if I could go to a counselor because they had made comments before that made counseling sound like it was for weak people who weren't strong in their faith. While I now know that is not their view of counseling, the 17 year old me interpreted one or two judgmental comments and never reached out for help.
3. BE OPEN TO NEW RESOURCES: In college, I have seen what a difference medication and counseling has made in some of my friends' lives. Several of my friends go to counseling just to talk- they don't have eating disorders or struggle with depression. Consider suggesting counseling or a mentor to your teen. Even teens who seem to be on the straight and narrow can have feelings and doubts that they want to talk about. Mentors and counselors can be great venues for this.
4. PLEASE FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEYVE DONE: I didn't realize until five years after living at home what a brat I was at times. I was so unappreciative of so many things my parents did for me. Also, I was caught up in my own depressive feelings to the point that I didn't realize struggles my family members were going through. Keep up the good fight and know that one day we'll lay in bed on Mother's Day at school and start weeping when we realize how wonderful our mommas are. Your love, compassion, carpooling, cooking, and advice might go unnoticed for a season, but they will have profound influence on our lives as a whole.

While I can stand here now and make comments on what my parents did, I am still thankful for every step that we made. Maybe they should've asked questions or offered counseling., but they're not perfect and neither am I. I still love them. I have still achieved a lot both in spiritual growth and in terms of success. I hold no resentment toward them! I just wanted to offer my two cents in case one of your kids might be too scared or embarrassed to discuss something without a little promoting from you, amazing parents.
Claire - May 31st, 2014 at 10:48 AM
THANK YOU for the hope this conveys to the rest of us. I'm so weary of the "just wait" comments. The more encouragement the better!
Cindy - May 31st, 2014 at 4:26 PM
Here here!!! Huzzah!!!

We are deep in the midst of teenagerhood with FOUR who are a year and four months apart. DELIGHTFUL! WONDERFUL!! AWESOME!!! We are enjoying this stage just as much as years prior, and in some ways even more. Our culture has convinced us parents that we lose our kids at 13 and, if lucky, regain them about 25. NO NO NO!! It doesn't have to be that way, and often I think it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We parents have to work harder at staying connected, we have to realize it WILL be harder as our children move gradually into independence, and we have to WANT to continue to parent. I know so many who, essentially, want to be done and are tired of it all...then complain about how distant their teens are. Thank you for a post that supports what we are saying about this time in our lives, as others roll their eyes. We are so grateful we didn't "buy" this story about how we are supposed to dread these years.
vforba - May 31st, 2014 at 4:43 PM
I think one thing I have learned is not just having patience and realizing that each child is different. But when your kids hormones went bonkers try and remember what it felt like. Give them space or extra time if they need it. Don't frustrate them more by being angry or shortsighted. It's not easy. Learn to know when you need to tell them know. Because even in the heat of it and they are angry as heck they will cool down and hopefully learn something from it. But don't be vengeful. Help them to understand why you did what you did even if they never forget it. They will hopefully understand why.
Tammie Haveman - May 31st, 2014 at 9:30 PM
So refreshing to see a positive post about teenagers. I teach teenagers and they are wonderful but usually get a bad rap. Thanks for pointing out the positive.
Amy - June 2nd, 2014 at 12:24 AM
The challenges I have with my kids are extremely difficult but yet I know they are not unique. I find it difficult to be around parents who seem to breeze through the teenage years as if there was nothing but an attitude adjustment on their part. To them I say you were blessed with easy kids. Some parents don't have colic babies. Some kids sleep 16 hour a night from the day they bring them home (as my 1st two did). Some it's years before they get a decent nights sleep (as I did with my 2nd two). I find people have more empathy with parents with babies than they do with parents with teens. It's as if we give grace to them because much of a babies behavior is out of their control. Yet we think teenagers behavior is in a parents control. Really??? To think a teenagers brain is working and functioning as an adult is just dumbfounding to me. They haven't finished growing they haven't finished developing. They aren't who they were as a child and they are not yet who they will be as an adult. They are in a process of becoming the who they will be and for many of us it's a huge challenge. They do have many of their same tendency and temperaments but the passage is often times far more difficult for some than others.
Heidi Knepper - June 2nd, 2014 at 10:35 AM
LOVE this post. It brought tears to my eyes and is so true. I am the mom of an almost 20 year old and an almost 16 year old and I agree that the teenage years are by far the best, if I could keep my kids with me all the time I would!! Watching them become wonderful adults has been my greatest joy. Thank you so much for this post, I read many many things about parenting littles but very very few people post about the teenage years......thank you thank you.
Tammy - June 2nd, 2014 at 4:58 PM
Reading this with tears in my eyes as I have been trying to articulate what an amazing time I had on an 8th grade 4-day field trip to California with 80 kids. This was a trip that I didn't expect to enjoy as a chaperone, but came away with such different experience and perspective on these kids. You summed it up perfectly. Thank you for saying such perfect and manful words!
Amy Bobbitt - June 2nd, 2014 at 7:25 PM
Thank you so much for this insite. I have a wonderfully goofy, empathetic, stubborn, hard headed and sensitive 12 year old who is growing before my eyes. I find this upcoming teenager not very hard to navigate due to my experience of being the oldest of three girls (poor dad). My husband on the other hand is having a difficult time!!! The once lovable daddy's girl is not giving daddy her total attention and not coming to him with her problems. She is coming to me more and more since I think she is finally figuring out "Hey maybe mom went through the things I am going through now" (light bulb). I have to remind him that her once wise father who sometimes was the know all, do all and instant superhero for her is now only "dad"(GASP not even DADDY). Even some nights I am finding myself consoling him more than her. I however am sliding into this "ok I must be doing something right" parenting when recently she came to me about a young lady who was getting bullied by some of her own friends. She went against her shy self and went to an adult to ask for help. She then came to me for someone (not mom) to tell her story of heartbreak (one of her close friends was the drama) but going against the crowd. Proud mama moment indeed.
These growing adults are fun, and watching friendships evolve not from the play dates we as moms orchestrated, but they actually came about because she found someone as playful, goofy but honest and forever as herself. This is awesome.
Yep I totally agree with you, and now I must go. She is calling me to tuck her into bed. She is still my baby!!!
sally jackson - June 3rd, 2014 at 11:50 AM
Love this. I am in the little people stage of life and often wonder what life will be like in 10-15 years?? I love that you reminded that they will be exactly the same, only bigger. Reminds me to embrace their weirdness now, as it will probably only get weirded. lol
Jenna Ford - June 5th, 2014 at 11:38 AM
Love this, love your blog!!! I have two teens and two younger ones. You are spot on.
Dulleya Woods - June 5th, 2014 at 1:12 PM
I loved this story! I have a 10 year old daughter and a 4 year old son. I can remember when my daughter was just a wee little one and now she'll be approaching teenager status in a short few years and I cant believe it. I am not prepared nor will I ever but this story really opened my eyes and was very down to earth. I really loved the part where you said "I BIRTHED YOU AND I WILL KISS YOU IF I WANT TO". My son is at the age where cuddles are ok but most of the time hes like "OK MOM, STOP" and hes only 4 :( I will remember to tell my children this for sure. I'm so glad I read the news on MSN cause if it wasn't for that I wouldn't have run into your blog :)
mary - June 8th, 2014 at 3:08 PM
I have 3 teen boys. The experience with my oldest is exactly as Jen described. He is a joy! His friends are like my own sons. I can never get enough time with him.

The exact opposite is true of my other teen boys. My youngest uses alcohol and drugs. Lies roll off of his tongue like honey. My middle son struggles with brain damage caused by exposure to alcohol prenatally complements of a drug addicted biological mother.

All of my children were raised with the same amount of love, religion and discipline. I have always believed that raising kids is one giant crap shoot. There is too much that is out of our control. God, let you will be done.
Missy - June 10th, 2014 at 1:18 PM
Love this, especially the pics. Why is it that your sweet babies who crawled into your lap, wrapped their little arms around you and gave you sticky kisses any time of day, turn into those head averted teens who would rather die than be kissed by Mom, let alone have to kiss her back! Horrors. My oldest has actually entitled mom kisses, as the "kiss of death" and has been known to drop to the floor with his eyes rolled back and his tongue hanging out after having received a good night kiss from me. He either secretly loves them, but it would be uncool to admit, or he really does hate it. Either way, I'm going to keep giving kisses. He does lots of stuff every day that I hate and I figure kisses are a much better form of revenge.
Kim - June 11th, 2014 at 12:39 PM
Wonderful article! This was my experience with my first two teenage boys, despite going through a very difficult divorce with their father during their teen years. I loved having them as teens, having their friends over, the whole nine yards. I'm having more challenges with my third boy (I posted on the troubled teen article as well). He misses his older brothers, as well as his friends since we moved two years ago (though they moved too- can't go back and even see them). He has asperberger's and many of the social and maturity challenges that go with it. He's a great kid but failing school and having problems. But he has an amazing heart for others. I don't know what the future holds. But you are right, they are the same kids, just older. Some of the problems are bigger too.

I think we need God just as much, but probably a thousand times more when we're raising teenagers. We can't be everywhere, and it's probably a blessing that we DON'T know about all the mischief they're up to or thinking about getting into when we're not around. By the grace of God we all get through these years, somehow!
Sterling Purdy - June 12th, 2014 at 1:56 PM
Holy Crap!! This is one of the best posts I've ever read on raising teens. A wonderfully, transparent reminder to love 'em & trust 'em. Most importantly to take time to listen...really listen.
brita - June 17th, 2014 at 12:20 PM
Great insight! I am the mom/step mom to three- aged 18, 16 and 12. I had absolutely no idea what mothering teens was supposed to look like. I love your comment about not controlling everything. That's a very important lesson for parents to learn- asap. I messed up, our kids messed up, we grew up- together. It's not over, I've got more to do, and so do they. But I've learned a lot. I mean A LOT. If there were ever a time I could have a do-over, it would be the last few years. But, since I know I can't, I started blogging about my experiences and insights in hopes of helping others. Consider reading at www.backwardparentingbybrita.com
Barb - June 18th, 2014 at 4:03 PM
What if your child has never had close friends to hang out with? My heart is breaking because my son (who is almost 20) has never, ever had close friends. Yes, he has acquaintances, but rarely have other boys of his age invited him to hang out with them.
Dana - June 19th, 2014 at 8:58 AM
Ahhhh... thank you, Jen! I'm right in the throes of it with my middle child (9th grade). He's a very different child than my first who is now 22. He is such a sensitive, bright, highly social yet introspective person who is blaring worship music in his room one minute and heavy rap the next. He's all over the map trying to find his way and I keep praying he lands in the right place. He's defiant and sarcastic as all get out but I see glimpses of hope and I know God is with us. The Lord has provided us with such an amazing community of friends, leaders, mentors and other parents who are traveling along with us during this time. He's currently at BigStuf camp in Panama City and I'm praying BIG for his heart this week!
Sarah - July 11th, 2014 at 7:48 PM
Awesome, Fun read!!! Thank you so much!
Rosalinde - July 24th, 2014 at 1:24 PM
I am the mom of 2 teen girls and 2 teen step boys ... mine range in age from 16-20 (I suppose mine aren't all teenagers anymore ...where'd that time go??) - my girls are 18 and 20 ... so we pretty much have one left ... sigh ... he's 16 with a disability so we're counting on him being with us for a little bit longer than age 19 like the other two ... For the most part it was fun ... but we've had our share of tears ... all I can think of is, "thank God it's over" ... school was difficult for my 18 yr old but my heart is filled with so much pride for everything she went through ...
amanda - August 1st, 2014 at 7:09 AM
http://www.thegrommom.com/what-a-teenage-boy-needs-most-from-his-mom/ maybe not plagiarism but this sure sounded familiar and like a take yours when I read it....
Jess - September 8th, 2014 at 8:45 PM
What a wonderful post! Thank you, I really enjoyed reading it :) I run the dearholly project - where I ask people to send in a postcard of advice for teenagers and each week I publish all submissions online so teens around the world can benefit. I'd love for you to contribute... just an idea! Have a great day, Jess x
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