To The Parents In the Trenches

I’ve been thinking about parenting. This week a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while asked how things were going. I gave some short, glowing reports about my children. A sense of well-being flooding me. My kids are doing so great!

Then I thought about a couple different friends of mine who are struggling with their teens. And I thought about how my glowing reports might not be taken so well by parents who are currently in the trenches with their own offspring.

When we are struggling we tend to look around us at how everyone else is doing. If our friends are doing better than us we feel condemned, less than. If our friends are doing worse than us, we feel validated, superior. If they are in the same boat as us, we feel encouraged, we’re not alone!

For those of you who are on the battlefield right now with your teen, I want you to know that you are not alone. I would guess that most parents of older children have fought those battles. We don’t talk about it much. We can’t. We can’t gossip or malign our own children. We can’t air our dirty laundry because it affects their lives too, not just ours. We can’t betray their confidences, their privacy. So, we mostly suffer alone. Privately. Perhaps sharing only with a very close friend. It is very lonely.

I want you to have hope. Not all problems with teens automatically mean that they are going to end up homeless drug addicts, wandering the streets. A big percentage of those kids conquer their problems. They move on to become productive, wonderful adults. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to cry and feel like I’ve completely failed as a parent. Bewildered at what colossal mistake I must have made to make my child act this way. Not sure if this child and I can live in the same house together much longer. Pondering how much boarding school really costs. Could I get a loan to cover that? Can I legally kick an underage kid out of my house?

Even though it is lonely in that we can’t share our troubles with the world at large, I really encourage you to seek help. Pastors, teachers, doctors, psychologists, prayer warriors…There are people that it is appropriate to share your troubles with. People who have seen it before. People who might have some wise counsel or are just willing to stand in solidarity with you. People who are willing to go that extra mile or one hundred miles and come pick up your teen and take them away for a couple days so that everyone can have a cool down period.

Here’s the thing…one day, you notice things aren’t as bad as before. And then a while later, you realize, things are actually getting better. And then one day, you look at your teen, and you swell up with pride because they have actually become someone you like.

Yes, there are many stories of parent/teens who don’t make it. It ends ugly. But, maybe, even for those horror stories we hear, maybe, down the road many months, years, possibly decades, peace happens. Reconciliation. Where there is life, there is hope.

I’ve only been in this parenting game for eighteen and half years. During that time I’ve had some pretty amazing highs and some heart-wrenching lows. I have a two year old. I am nowhere close to being finished. As I look at my large brood, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have some rough years ahead for some of them. It seems to just be part of growing up for some kids.

I hope you know that when I brag on how great my kids are doing, I’m just telling you the highlights. We have to stay positive after all. I’m not free to share all the crazy episodes I’ve had, but maybe you’ll feel better knowing that I’ve had them, and that you’re not alone. Here’s praying for all you parents in the trenches. May God give you peace and wisdom and hope. You are not alone.

 

 

Loneliness

Loneliness has been on my mind this week. I was reading through a total stranger’s blog that I happened upon and I was overwhelmed with the waves of loneliness that crashed through one of her posts. I had a physical longing to just reach through the computer screen and pat her on the shoulder. Tell her I would be her friend if she wanted. Somehow let her know that there is a personal, relatable God who would love to permeate her life, take away the pain, fill it up with meaningful relationships. Somehow let her know that there is an answer, a solution.

I didn’t say anything though. I didn’t comment on her blog, I ghosted on by. Mostly because if a total stranger started talking real deep to me I would probably not be real open to what they have to say.  But she has stayed in my mind and I have been praying for her. And I have been thinking about loneliness.

I wish that I had some kind of “5 Steps Solution to Curing Your Loneliness”.  I was trying to think about what the solution is and all I could think of was that every single person is so different, how can there be one plan that fits all situations? And it occurs to me that while there is no “1 size fits all” plan, there is a “1 size fits all” God. If you have asked Jesus to forgive your sins and you have given your life to him, then you now have access to the One who can fix all things. He can fix your loneliness. He wants to fix your loneliness. He didn’t create us to be alone. That theme starts all the way in Genesis. God created us for relationships. To be in relationship with him and then to be in relationship with others. When people complain that they are lonely, they are in fact noticing that something is wrong with their lives, and I think it’s a problem that is universally recognized…it is not good to be alone. We were created to Not Be Lonely.

I am more of an introvert. I have never needed large groups of friends. I prefer a couple close friends, small groups, one-on-one conversations. While my childhood friendships were typical up-and-down affairs, God did bless me with a close family so that even on those days when my best friend hated me, I still had a family I could fall back on. Later I was blessed with a husband who has been my best friend for the last 20 years. Even when my women friends moved away or entered into different phases of life that moved us away from each other, I have still had my husband always there. I am what you would call a blessed woman. But I have to tell you a little bit about loneliness. It is very nuanced.

Somehow it is possible to be in a room, surrounded by people who love you and whom you love and yet you still feel alone. I was this way. I’m going to speculate on why I felt this way. When I was a kid I learned very quickly that the more people knew about you, your likes, dislikes, interests etc, the more power they had to hurt you. If they knew which boy you had a crush on, they could go tell other people and embarrass you. If they knew that something had hurt your feelings they could rub it in your face and make it a hundred times worse. If they knew of a mistake you had made they could broadcast it to the world and humiliate you. I slowly adopted the attitude of “If you don’t know me, you can’t hurt me”. If the only things you knew about me were surface things, inconsequential things, then you had no power over me. I retreated into a shell where I was very good at listening to other people and speaking into their lives, but I never opened up too much about my own life. It was too dangerous. I didn’t want to be hurt.

Now we come back to the one God who can fix all things. God lead me to a small group of women who offered me a safe place to talk, a safe place where I could open up about myself and not worry about having that information used against me. We met together once a week for years and while there were seasons when I couldn’t go, I attended as faithfully as possible. As I gained courage to open up, God used that momentum to start revealing areas in my life that needed healing and as he started healing me, I found it easier and easier to open up more. I started having courage to open up more even in my relationship with my husband which I had thought was pretty transparent. I found it easier to share about myself. The fear of being hurt slowly lessened.

Nowadays, I still have parts of me that I keep to myself, but now it’s just because not all stories are for all people. If the right person comes along who would benefit from those stories, I’ll share with them. I’m still an introvert, I still don’t have a boatload of friends, I still prefer small groups, one-on-one, but I find that I don’t feel near as lonely as I used to. Probably because I am no longer hiding.

Everyone has a different history, a different journey. I don’t know what your past was like. I don’t know what your daily struggles are. But I do know the God who knows you. And I know he doesn’t want you to be lonely. Ask. He’s listening.