My youngest child is 13 years old. It sure does change things! I can run out to the store, meet someone for lunch, attend meetings. Gone are the days of searching for a reliable babysitter! The kids can stay together and they get along well. If there's a problem they can call me on my cell phone or call nearby friends from church.
But I have to be careful. My job with them isn't finished. I still have so much to pour into them and I can't do it unless they are a big, big priority. It's easy to think that because they CAN stay alone that I can take my hand off that "plow" of parenting them full time (and I have seen parents who both have to work do this by making themselves highly available to their kids) and pursue other things.
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
I've heard so many times...it's not the quantity of time together but the quality... And it's true...partly... If I am with them all day but they are on the PS3 and I am on the phone, the computer, doing other things...well, I might as well be out of the house. There's no quality to that time. BUT, I find that it takes *quantity* to earn *quality*. If we get too busy with other things and then throw a family night amidst weeks of chaos, I am likely not going to hear their hearts that night. Distance begins to grow.
But if we're living, loving, working, playing, talking, praying and just BEING together, THEN I find they'll open up and tell me what is on their heart. And still, sometimes, I must dig a little. "I noticed your eyes look sad, what's up?" or "You seem a little aggravated, anything wrong?" or "When you got in the car after church, you looked hurt. What happened?" And when they say, "Nothing", I say, "No really, what's up?"
It's tempting to think our teens are independent and don't need us. But I think they need us more then ever! It is such a tough time in life. So many temptations, so many decisions to be made, so much of their belief system is being formed. SOMEONE is going to pour into them, if not us as parents then who? All the wrong voices are screaming for their attention. I shudder to think what happens when the parent has stopped walking that path with them.
There's a lot of pain in the teen years. Boy, honestly, I had forgotten until I started to see my own kids go through it. It's hard to walk with them sometimes. It hurts and I wish I could put my head in the sand sometimes (or at least hide under the bed), but I can't and really in my heart of hearts I don't want to. I want to pray for them, listen to them, love them through. It challenges my own walk with God as I have to trust that He is working amidst THEIR trials, guiding them through, making up for my lack. I fail them and have to repent. I am tempted to be bound by fear. It feels like a war sometimes because it is. We are fighting a spiritual war for the hearts and souls of our kids. But we don't fight alone do we? We put on the whole armor of God and fight through together! It's rewarding, SO rewarding!
Yes, they still need us, big time!! They need to learn from us how to walk through the fires of life and trust God through it. They need to learn how to pray, how to have faith, how to not give up. They need to learn that Jesus is the answer. They need to learn to put their relationship to God above all others. They need to see it daily, hourly, minute by minute... They need to see repentance, forgiveness, grace... And it's MY job and my husband's job. God gave them to us...and He'll help us! Quantity counts...
C'mon my child, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1)