Better Late than Never

This past 9-11 was interesting for me.  I suddenly got interested in the events of that day 18 years before.  Yes, every year our country has a day of remembering, and every year I have felt melancholy as people shared different memories from that day. But I did not feel like I was entering into the mourning like my friends were. 

 

When 9-11 happened, I was living in bush Alaska. I had an almost one yr old baby. I was pregnant with my second. I didn’t have a tv. The events of that day seemed very far away. I did not sit in front of the news and watch the events unfold. I just heard about it after the fact, in a tidy little written news article I found on the internet. I also had a very complicated history with the US, having lived in Haiti while the US put that country under a strict embargo. Seeing firsthand the suffering that the Haitians endured because of US politics made me feel very ambiguous about being an American. 

 

When 9-11 happened, I saw it as an outsider. How sad. Those poor people. It was some kind of crazy disaster that was happening far away to people that had no connection to me. 

 

So, this past 9-11, I suddenly felt very curious. I started watching little video clips that people had posted about various aspects of that day. Then I got on Youtube and found where someone had posted an unedited clip of the news, playing straight from 8:30am to 11am on that day. Over a couple days, I sat and watched the whole thing unfold. I cried a lot. Suddenly feeling very connected to the confusion and pain and bewilderment as people watched their country being attacked. I went and found another video that was made a year after, that showed what was happening at the government level during that time. I watched an amazing clip of a fireman who had been in the building when it collapsed and somehow he got out. He gives God all the credit. I watched some footage of different news camera men who had been on the scene, watched their live footage as they lived through the chaos. I watched an amazing little documentary about all the boats that spontaneously gathered to help evacuate Manhattan. And I cried some more, this time at the wonder of people coming together to help each other, uniting.  And then finally, I felt like I had watched enough. 

 

And I wondered. What was that interest all about? I’m still not sure. I do know that I hate mourning. I hate entering into emotional pain. I distance myself from it. It’s not good that I do that. Instead of feeling the emotions, I just shove them down. I used to be pretty purposeful about it too. If something was getting too overwhelming for me to handle, I would literally envision a big walk-in closet. Then I would envision myself going in, taking an empty box, setting the problem into the box, shutting the box, and putting the box on the shelf, and then I’d walk away. 

 

Perhaps God is letting me do some catch up. Let’s open that closet door and start unpacking all those boxes. One at a time. 

 

The Dreaded 8th Grade Angst

It’s Saturday night and I’m home after a very busy day. I took my six youngest children with me to my parents house by the lake and we spent the day swimming. The kids had a great time. And the big bonus, they all got along well today. It helped that I only had the six. My four oldest, the teenagers, are all off having adventures of their own. 

My oldest is in Alaska and, as I write, she is embarking on a wilderness adventure that involves bush planes, isolated lakes, river rafting, and hiking. She will be off-grid for seven days. The people she’s adventuring with are close family friends and wilderness experts. I know she couldn’t be in better hands. But still. Moms can’t help worrying a little. 

The next three teens are on an inner-city missions trip in Buffalo, NY. This is their 4th year of going on this trip. They spend the time leading kids camps, being involved in a large food pantry, doing “intervention” where they visit low-income homes and see if they need basic furniture items like beds and then help deliver the furniture. They are moving from early in the morning till late at night. And my kids love it. Every year when we discuss the summer plans all the kids put the Buffalo Mission Trip as top priority. If I can only do one thing this summer, then I want to go to Buffalo. 

Right now I’m kind of basking in that “My teens are so awesome!” glow…Of course, it helps that they aren’t home to burst my little proud bubble. 

I’ve been thinking about my teens today and my mind drifted to the dreaded “8th grade year”. This is the year when all of my teens have lost it. It’s like they get all the way through 7th grade and then one day they wake up and think, Hey, wait a minute! I just realized I’m my own automonous person. I am not an attachment of my parents or my family at large. Maybe I should isolate myself in my bedroom while I figure this whole thing out. And  while I’m at it, maybe I should start testing my ability to be my own person. 

Of course, how that comes across to the rest of us is that our sweet family-oriented child suddenly doesn’t want to have anything to do with any of us and they have an attitude every time I ask them to participate in the chore and family times. 

Every family is different. I’ve talked to other friends of mine. Some of them have had all their children become problematic at the same age, but the age is different. Others have had each of their kids choose a different age or stage of development to become difficult. I haven’t talked to any parent yet who just skipped the whole process. If you are out there, don’t tell me. I might feel bad. Right now I take comfort in the fact that everyone seems to go through it with their teens. 

The benefit of having a large family is that you get a chance to learn from your mistakes. By the third child I had adopted the strategy of becoming very hands off. Here, I’ll slide a plate of food under the bedroom door occasionally. See you in a year when you start 9th grade. Just kidding…Kind of. 

Even my sweet, mild-mannered 4th child seems to be heading into the dreaded 8th grade angst. It’s rather shocking when your “good” kid starts to have attitude. Like someone just threw a bucket of cold water in your face. Et tu Brute? Of course, being one of those mild-mannered kids myself, I fully understand that under that sweet facade can lie deep depths of turmoil and anguish. So, I have grace even for my sweet kid to become moody. (No, I don’t have favorites, but I’m honest. Some kids are just programmed to be sweet while others aren’t!)

I don’t know what you are going through with your teen at the moment.  I just want to share with you parents who are still relatively new to the teen thing. Let you know that I too have struggled. And my kids are turning out ok despite it all. It’s not easy. It helps if you dredge up your old memories of being a teen and try to remember what it’s like. There are no magic formulas for parenting teens. Lots of grace. Lots of love. Lots of patience. Lots of prayer. And hopefully, they’re going to be ok.