I love singers and songwriters because their lyrics drift through my life on a daily basis. Music has a profound impact on our brain. It’s Prom, graduation AND birthday season in my house. My youngest will be 12 in less than two weeks and my oldest graduates from high school in less than a month. There has been one Prom and about to be another as my high schoolers go to different schools. I’m headed for a weekend at Stagecoach with one of my oldest and dearest friends and three 18 year olds, so I’m bouncing back and forth between Fast by Luke Bryan and Keep Yourself Alive by Queen.
There is a scene in my head that I flash back to frequently these days, the sky was on fire with one of those almost summer sunsets and I was riding around in the back of a truck around Woodward Park probably 10 days before I graduated from high school with a bunch of friends. It was as if God told me to time stamp this memory for later, a simple moment I would want to come back to, my old soul knowing for some reason that life wouldn’t be this easy again.
I was a late bloomer. I didn’t drink or smoke in high school, didn’t have sex, didn’t sneak out, or try to do any things that are so normal for the teenage brain to flirt with on a daily basis. It’s a time of exploration, of feeling grown up, but I wasn’t a risk taker, I was a pleaser and the idea of getting in trouble scared me to death. All of our brains are wired so differently, I don’t judge a single kid (or try really hard for not anyone), as humans we all have impulsive moments and are capable of the greatest triumphs and the worst choices. And then there’s the stuff that is just outside of our control...which is a lot.
Now I’m raising teenagers of my own and there is so much compassion in my heart for what goes on in their days and the choices they are faced with at every turn. I’m trying hard to be faithful, graceful, and not let it be such a scary place, knowing that this is their time to figure out so much about the freedoms that they feel, but wanting to hold tight to the boundaries that I have always put up for them as I still try to communicate those messages on a daily basis when they fly past me. I can see the time on the horizon where we will be friends, because they are capable of such amazing conversation, and I can remember being their age and feeling so grown up, but we aren’t there yet and my job isn’t done. I’ve got more than a few thoughts as I watch my kids take in these rites of passage that are still so fresh in my own mind that I can see my own graduation cap flying up into the air.
Like yourself, lead yourself.
Sometimes it’s a tall order at this age, especially today in the land of 24/7 likes, knowing what everyone else is doing (or at least thinking you do) and a lack of time to be by yourself unless you exert the extreme discipline it takes to make that a reality. It’s tough to know yourself, which is a must for liking yourself, and to start to get your feet set on your own path.
Know that you are enough, just as you are today, without trying to conform or impress.
Pushing limits is a hallmark of the teenage mind and heart. Even today, I’m a bit envious of that sense of freedom, unattached to our own numbered days...that feeling that life will go on forever that comes with being a teenager. Remembering that feeling makes it scary as hell on the parenting side. But it’s also a tough age to feel comfortable in your own skin, to be who you want to be for yourself, not to impress anyone on either end of your world, be it friends or parents…fitting in on one end, expectation on the other. It’s not about either, being true to yourself, is the key.
Don’t let the story you put out there separate too much from the from story behind the scenes. It’s a raged and exhausting race you don’t want to keep up with.
You can never go back and life gets complicated fast. Things like addiction, the dangers that lurk in this world, especially when your consciousness is altered, are a parent’s worst nightmare. Let sleeping dogs lie for as long as you can. Yes, experimentation is normal, but you will either find out that altered states get old pretty fast, or end up having to reverse course down a road you really never intended to go down. Scary things that can’t be taken back happen fast to the best of us...and yet teenage brains aren’t developed to feel these feels yet. It’s why we as parents sound like broken records. It’s never about judging “good kids” and “bad kids”, because we have the years to know that we are all one decision away from our next greatest or worst moment.
Trust that there is no judgment, the greatest thing about being a parent is knowing that you couldn’t love a being any more, no action required. There is no expectation of greatness, my most sincere wish is just to keep you breathing and safe and watch you take it from there. With all the love in my heart, finish this season strong, there is so much good ahead. And Matthew...I may want to stop you at 12 for awhile.