A few years ago, I was sitting in a parenting course aimed at the parents of toddlers, when the facilitator made this statement:
“How your toddler is now, is how your teenager will be in a few years.”
One woman threw her head on her desk and loudly said, ‘oh God no!” We all laughed, but let’s face it, we were all thinking it. The idea that one day, our child would grow up and still be throwing the same tantrums, just on a larger scale, was a fate too terrible to imagine, and yet, so believable as well. And no one wants that.
Now I’m yet to reach the teenage years, but this is what I’ve learnt so far.
Babies are cute. Yeah they keep you awake, cry a lot and you will spend most of the first year cover covered in poop and vomit, but they are so much fun! They are just these squeezable, mini humans who seem to develop new personality traits and quirks over night and keep you constantly entertained. Plus they are so little and innocent, the possibility that they are actually out to get you, never enters your mind, because as if they could think that?
Then they turn into toddlers.
Toddlers are also cute. So cute. Plus they have the added advantage of learning words and how to use a bathroom, and feed themselves, and make your life a little bit easier. They make the world a brighter place with their gorgeous smiles and their cute little imaginations, and just when you think they are possibly the most perfect child ever, they turn on you. It’s like they wake up with a death wish: ‘I’m going down and I’m taking everyone with me! Including the mean lady who won’t give me juice in the red cup.” One minute the world is full of puppy dogs and rainbows, and the next everything is wrong and the only logical explanation is to lie on the floor and scream about it.
For both mother and child possibly. 🙂
And then, they grow up just that little bit more, and they are suddenly so pleasant. That gap between 4 and 8 they are just the most wonderful little people. Yeah there is a bit of an attitude drama that happens at about 5 or 6 (well it did with mine), but it’s nothing major. You weather it and you move on and you just enjoy how great your kids are. You are pretty sure, at this point, that everything is going perfectly and you are the wonder parents. There is the possibility that the teen years will be difficult but you’re confident they will be doable. Everything is fine.
And then suddenly, over night, they flip again and you have no idea what happened. That delightful 7-year-old is now a hormonal time bomb of a pre-teen, who may cry over everything, flounce out of the room after a logical suggestion, and get ridiculously angry over absolutely nothing. If you’re anything like me, you will be wondering why the teen age years hit before they were supposed to, and cranky at the lady who suggested toddlers and teens were the same, because you don’t have a teen yet, and this is just unfair!!!!!
However, also, if you’re anything like me, you will take comfort in other bits of wisdom gleaned from those who have gone before.
The lady from that course uttered those terrifying words all those years ago, but then she added something else: ‘But it doesn’t have to be like that.” If you work with your kids, from those toddler years, negotiating the conflicts, providing safe boundaries, and consistently work on training their heart, the teenage years can look vastly different. It doesn’t have to be the horror we all expect it to be; it can be easier.
I’m hoping she is right.
Recently, I’ve been refreshing on another parenting course by the same group, this time aged at the pre-teen age bracket, and I’ve drawn so much positivity from their advice. ‘This is the last hill,’ they tell me. ‘Don’t give up,’ the tell me. Yes these middle years are a lot tougher than I planned on, but it’s not the end of the story. This is the time when it’s supposed to be difficult, as they solidify how who they are before approaching adolescence.
Difficulty now does not mean failure, or the end of the road. It’s the time to concentrate on making sure those important family values and steady and consistent and settled firmly in the heart.
Basically everything I’ve ben doing since they were tantrumming toddlers, just in a different context. 🙂
The teen years doesn’t have to be the horror part of the story; it can be the climax to the happy ending; a wonderful friendship shared with children who have the same goals and values that we do.
What I’m really realising about the whole journey is this; it doesn’t stop. There is no time to ‘take it easy’ and think that they suddenly need less help than they did before. The issues change but the need never does. One moment it’s helping them get self-control and understanding that they can’t have the lolly pop, and the next it’s heaping them get self-control and understanding because they weren’t picked for a talking part in the school assembly. As parents we are never off duty or on holiday, but if we can do our best, and develop those common values for our children, then we are setting ourselves up for a wonderful future.
There’s a verse in the bible that puts it much better:
I guess what I’m saying is this: it’s not easy at the moment, and it very rarely is. But I choose to believe that it will get better, that it can get better, and that with a lot of patience, a lot of love, and huge amount of consistency the future is looking pretty bright.
Do you ever feel like daunted by the parenting process?