Dear Four-Years-Ago Self,
Everyone’s telling you high school’s going to go fast for you and your kids. They say, “Don’t blink” or you’ll miss it. You already know and are dreading how quickly it’s going to go, but what can you do about it, right?
1. Be Present. The infrequent times the kids are home, put down your to-do list, phone, and quit cleaning. The dirt isn’t going anywhere. Clean enough to function and then be available. Sometimes they’ll talk to you or give you a hug and often they’ll ignore your existence and you’ll think it doesn’t matter if you’re there or not.
2. Remember Sixteen. Even though you’ll try to do everything right and balance lectures and love, they’re going to dislike you sometimes (If they like you all the time, you’re not being a parent, which they need. You’re being a friend, which they already have in abundance). They may answer you with grunts and eye-rolls. So, ask God to help you remember when you were sixteen. Ask Him to remind you those hard years of peer pressure and having then breaking up with that first crush. Being a teenager seems easy when you’re forty, but when God has let me remember teenager Laura,
I’ve parented with less regret.
3. Kneel. When parents would tell me their secret to raising teenagers was prayer, I smiled and longed for a practical, replicable answer. Now I know prayer is both practical and replicable, and thank God. Prayer is a treasure and it’s mostly for you. When you pray the first time they drive alone, go on their first date or take their ACT’s it will change, challenge and protect you. What you believe about God, faith and prayer will never be challenged more than it will the next four years and
4. Expect Mistakes. You’re going to try to ensure they don’t do what you did in high school. You’ll parent out of what they can become and what you’re afraid they won’t. You’re going to want to protect them from struggling, failing or hurting. That’s normal, but unrealistic. So, when they do mess up, pray and ask the Lord for wisdom. Don’t dread inevitable mistakes,
5. Don’t Forget You. It will not be pretty, healthy or beneficial for you to be a broken, co-dependent mess when they leave the house (and they will leave. And that’s good for them and you, though it will feel very not good). So, start thinking about your next season, now. Date your husband again. Remember what you enjoyed before kids. Learn that thing you always wished you would’ve. You need a life and they’ll want to know you have one when they leave.
The Lord is gracious, Four-Years-Ago Self. Try not to dread the end of next four years, but enjoy every moment, in the moment. Give yourself and them plenty of grace. The four years will go quickly, but when they end, you’re still Mom.
And that will never change.