Admitting Inability: Raising Teenagers Edition

My boys are entering these already tenuous and tender years during a global pandemic, a fact which has their already-anxious mother desperate to get some handholds on expectations. My natural tendency is to deal with anxiety through research and preparation. As such, I began reading a book about the brain of a teenager last night. 

I woke up even more anxious, my own brain pounding with pressure. The author of the book was quick to recommend an environment of healthy attachments in which children are seen, soothed, safe, and secure.  He recommended teaching parents to help their children sift through the storms of emotions they would experience during the critical early adolescent years (SIFT being an acronym for doing self-scans on their senses, images, feelings, and thoughts). 

While I found the information helpful and plan to continue reading the book, the Lord was quick to remind me this morning that although wisdom is not less than information and research, it is far more than these. You see, this book, as with so many books published today, puts so much pressure on the reader as the point of origin. While the suggestions may be on point, they don’t start far enough back. 

I cannot even keep our fiddle leaf plant alive, yet I am expected to create a safe, soothing, secure environment from which our children can safely springboard into adulthood. To be honest, I don’t even feel like a full-fledged adult yet. I cannot keep my ducklings in a row because, most of the time, my ducklings are jumping on a couch or wrestling each other.

In fact, the more familiar I am with myself, the more confident I am in my own inability. Our culture would likely label this statement as neurotic, negative self talk that will only lead to defeat; however, this is verifiable truth, and far from leading to defeat, it leads me on the path of true flourishing. 

Rather than starting with all the positive self-talk or affirmation statements which our culture recommends, I took an honest assessment of myself and my parenting of these boys this morning. 

  • I cannot choose my children’s passions. I cannot even choose their friends. 
  • I cannot make the pandemic stop so they can be around the peer relationships they so hunger for right now. 
  • I cannot do or teach 8th grade math, especially not with all the changes of common core. 
  • I cannot create and maintain excitement in my children’s lives ( Read: I cannot make them have fun carving pumpkins, even if I have all the right carving tools). 
  • I cannot create spiritual interest. 
  • I cannot meet all my children’s emotional needs. 

My ownership of my own abounding inabilities press me into further dependence upon and trust in abounding abilities of God. 

  • He can help me see and shape the unique passions and gifts he has carefully placed within each one of these boys He has entrusted to me (Psalm 139). 
  • He not only sees into the deep recesses of their hearts, He cares deeply about what He finds therein. And unlike me, He is not powerless to change and transform at the heart level (Ezekiel 36:24-27). 
  • He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). As the Creator of all things, He stands at the center holding all things together with His powerful word (Colossians 1:17). He is not shocked by this season, though He sees with compassion the Zoom fatigue that is real in my boys’ bodies and eyes. 
  • His purposes will stand even when an abundance of human plans are continually thwarted (Proverbs 19:21). When their plans are disappointed and everything is on pivot, their God is unchanging and still has good gifts to give them (Hebrews 13:8 and James 2:17). 
  • He created math and smart people who make YouTube Tutorials to help my children (Romans 11:34 and 1 Corinthians 2:16). Seriously though, praise God for diverse passions spread out among His people, because probability is not one of mine!
  • He can stir up my children’s hearts and melt them with his kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). He can go where even my most thought-provoking, searching questions cannot. He already has maps of the complex topographies of their teenage hearts. And He  will guide me as I go, through His Spirit who will give me wisdom in all things (John 16:13 and 2 Timothy 2:7)
  • He alone can be their lasting and surpassing joy (Psalm 16:11). I can plan exciting outings  and socially-distant creative fun for them, but their lasting joy must come from Him. Eternity has been set deep in their hearts and they won’t be satisfied with anything less (Ecclesiastes 3:11 and Psalm 73:25-26). 

Having honestly admitted my own inabilities, I can whole-heartedly embrace God’s abilities. From the sure foundation of His Word, I can now employ common-grace-tools and tactics suggested by a plethora of parenting books without putting crushing pressure on myself or my children. 

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