This post should be about something deep and useful, bullet-pointed for you to apply to ministry. However, daily I navigate my life with a youth group, leading it from the inside out. You see, I have one child in college, then one each in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. Three girls. One boy.
Everyone seems to have advice for you when you have babies. Then you start scrambling for opinions when they are toddlers. Elementary school brings a rhythm to life. Then one day you wake up and realize time is so short, before your kids will move out of your house. The repercussions of this truth seems to wash over you and a little bit of panic of, “Oh no I have to get it all together NOW,” happens.
Here is what no parenting book truly talks about :
Four Kids. Four Distinct Personalities.
Ever met those families where everyone seems to have a similar personality? Take my sister and brother-in-law for example. They are subdued and super laid back. They have two subdued and laid back teens. Not in our house. The college student is the artist. My 14-year-old is the perfectionist, who may or may not have had a breakdown recently because she “only” has a 4.09 and should have a 4.12. I’ll just leave that there. (She knows I said this and is mortified.) My almost 13-year-old (the boy) is my compassionate, sensitive, people-pleasing, ultra-competitive athlete. My youngest is our “powerful” child ( aka: strong-willed). She has no filter. Seriously, if it enters her head, it comes out of her mouth.
This means parenting uniquely 4 distinct ways, and that can get overwhelming and exhausting.
They have different love languages, learning styles, and points of view on the world. They each want all of our individualized attention. Just because we’ve been through this “once” means nothing- nothing at all. Also, as we are in the midst of this season with three at once right now, when is there time to learn anything? Think of that in terms of programming. Maybe the parent that “dumps” their child doesn’t know what to do, and they are awkward and approach it “wrong” and are feeling like they are getting it “wrong” anyway.
There’s No Real “Book” For That
There are books for parents on individual topics like “social media” or “the changing body” or “dating” or “understanding your teen’s mind,” however, there is no book that tells you how to handle everything at once. Where’s the book that talks about how you’re child is upset because they are not allowed to watch certain movies their friends are, while another child comes along and tells you that they want to talk about how their friend just “got their period,” while third child is breaking down because they need help with their homework? Then it comes out that your son is upset, because he isn’t as tall as his other classmates and why won’t his growth spurt happen again, you try to sit down and have a deep talk on identity in Christ with Him and open your Bible, when you learn that your oldest is posting on Facebook how miserable she is, and you have moved on to a debate with child #3 about how “unfair” it is that she can’t use her technology after 8:00 p.m. You are trying to help them be molded into fully-devoted followers of Christ while they navigate a world that is constantly screaming that this idea is for “grown ups.”
You see there are days when I wish I could just “go to youth group.” It is a lot easier. There with the other students I get to take time to plan my message and anticipate the questions that will come. However, at home they come fast and furious, all day, at any hour, and it feels like there is no amount of “preparation” that actually prepares us for what’s going on. Instead, we stand around looking like idiots who have no idea what we’re doing most of the time.
So yes, I tweet out when my kids say stuff that slay me. Sometimes it’s profoundly wise and other times profoundly hilarious. (They even know I do it.) All my husband and I have is a Bible, prayer and our Savior to make this parenting thing work. Thankfully, they aren’t “ours” anyway. We just have to believe that we can’t mess them up too much, because God is bigger than us. Follow our journey in our hashtag on twitter: #ilivewithayouthgroup
Tell me, what are you learning? If you have wisdom on all of this, we’ll take it!