In which I plea too earnestly

Note: If you do a Google image search for a mom talking with a teen, there are LOADS of fabulous mother and daughter pics chatting effortlessly away, but the ones of mothers and teen sons?? Weird. Or scary.

When your children are toddlers, you can write pretty much anything about them in a blog, and they just won’t care.

Not so much when they’re teens.

I had a conversation with my oldest son today — he’s 15 — and I will freely admit that I did about 98% of the talking, so it was more like a talking-to than a conversation.  I don’t want to call it a lecture, because as I told him a number of times, “I’m not mad.  You’re not in trouble.”  Maybe it was more like an admonishment.  I want to call him up.  I long to help bring out in him the potential that exists in him.  I do want him to “man up.”  I do want him to “put away childish things.”  Not that he must be serious all the time, but as he grows into an adult, it’s so important to me that he recognizes potential pitfalls in his own life and has the Godly strength of character to avoid them… not because of the threat of some discipline I might impose, but because he can discern right from wrong and make some of the hard choices for himself.

It all sounds so cliché, I’m sure.

I was thinking though — and told him about — my own teen years.  I really had so little guidance.  My mom, a single mother, worked full-time.  By the time I was a senior in high school, I was working (usually) 30 hours a week, and that was during the school year.  I hardly saw her.  I was the oldest of three children at home at the time.  I actually went to two different churches (my mother’s, and my church of choice), for a total of four times a week, and I was very involved… but I wasn’t really discipled.  It was more like — I received teaching which did my best to apply, but it wasn’t… personal.  It wasn’t one-on-one.  My mom uses the guiding paradigm of, “You’ll learn from your mistakes.”  While that often works, she gave very little guidance, very little input, little correction, virtually no advice, no direction, no admonishment.  I felt like I was just tossed out into the deep end and she didn’t even watch to see if I made it to the side or not.  I’m sure she cared, but I didn’t feel it, and I know that she felt a vast measure of relief when I reached adulthood, like, “Whew!  Glad that’s over!” and that she could step back from directly mothering me, except that perhaps she started three-ish years too early.  Part of that was us just not seeing each other that much.  Plus, I’m sure she was just plain tired.  Our personalities are extremely different.  We almost never fought outright, but we just didn’t share much.  Virtually never.

I was very much my own boss from about age 16 or 17 onward, very much aware that if I stood or if I fell, the results were entirely on my own shoulders.

This wasn’t really a good thing, for a variety of reasons.

The odd thing was, I was probably more mature about my freedom than most 16-year-olds;  I didn’t get into trouble;  it was important for me, even from a very young age, to do the right thing, as best as I understood it.

But, I truly had no one who spoke into my life who said, “You need to trim those weeds in your heart.”

Part of this, too, was due to (unknown at the time) flaws in my character, where I rarely saw fault in myself.  I didn’t know any weeds existed!  I was an excellent student, very responsible…  I was often receiving various awards, commendations, and compliments.  It never really occurred to me that I might have areas — VAST AREAS — in my heart that needed tending, some molding, some shaping, some pruning…

The first person who really did that for me was a friend’s mother, starting about my senior year of high school.  She was probably the first person who truly counseled me, probably because she was worried about my influence on her daughter!!  Honestly, though, that woman cared for me the way no one else had before, and I believe her input radically altered the course of my life, and greatly for the better.

She’s the wife of my pastor.  I’m 39.  I’ve known her since I was 15, and have had good relationship with her since I was 17 or so…


Time flies.

Back to my son…

It seems like the blessing and the curse of motherhood is the “gift” of extrapolation.  I have insight to see, “If this attitude/behavior/viewpoint/sin/whatever continues on a similar path, OH! the damage it could cause!”

I’m never sure how much to step in and bring direction:  “Is it too little?  Too much?  The wrong time?  The wrong way?  Will he understand?  Am I over-reacting?”

I don’t want to bring condemnation on my children, ever.

Yet, I will not just toss him into the deep end and walk away.

I do the best I can, praying for wisdom, praying for the Spirit to impact our conversation, to give me the right words, for the good seed to sink down into the soil of his heart, and the overwrought chaff to drift harmlessly away.

I tend to… earnestly plea.

I wish I was a better encourager, to more potential good and know how, exactly, to bring that out, like Your Mother, the Motivational Speaker, communicating with aplomb, humor, wisdom, and interesting anecdotes.

Instead, I end up talking too long, and pleading too earnestly.


I continue, though, because truly, truly, truly, from the bottom of my heart, I wish that I had known in my teens the million-and-a-half difficult lessons that I had to learn the hard way in my 20s and 30s.  I wish I had had some direction in my teens — especially my mid-teenage years — from someone — my mother, especially — to help identify problematic areas in my character and help me nip them in the bud…

The good news is that, in the end, I checked in, and he did not feel condemned, and didn’t feel like I was angry with him.  But, he did feel discouraged.

I think we both need an injection of encouragement.

(NOT THAT I’M SOLICITING YOURS.  What I mean is that it’s hard to give what one doesn’t own.  On one hand, I’m happy that in my personal life and in my mothering, I have steered clear of feeling and communicating condemnation, and that is GROWTH right there, let me tell you.  But, taking it one step further, to learn how to tend blossoms until the branches are dripping with fruit, filled with hope and expectation and excitement for the future….  I’m not so great at that, neither in my personal life and relationship with God, nor in my mothering.  Not yet.)


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on August 23, 2012, in Bible, Character Development, Christian Living, Encouragement, Family, God/Christianity/Church, Introspective Musings, Motherhood, Parenting, Relationship, Sad Things, The Kids, Vineyard. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Where is dad? Right about now, I am not primary in my boy’s life. He needs a man to speak into his life, a man he listens to. Raising teen boys is like living with aliens baptized in testosterone. Blank stares, one word answers replace the warm love my boys showered on me before “the change” I see happening right before my eyes. Men bestow masculinity, I am I’ll equipped. Dad takes a much larger role, along with male high school teachers.

    I find myself projecting on to my kids the challenges I had as a teen now that they are that age. I am learning that the home we have provided is nothing like the home I had as a teen, thus, some of what I faced they will not, given our stable home situation. They will have their own set of challenges I may or may not be able to rescue them from. The good news is the growth that challenges bring. I too was way mature at 18, but have had to go to God and other women for the missing mother stuff in my life. Being the mother of teen boys is challenging and at times painful to my heart, as I have lost the influence I used to have. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

    • I was thinking about that, Lisa, as I was writing — that I hadn’t included anything of Martin’s input. He is absolutely engaged in fathering our children. However, especially as a stay-at-home mom, I have Ethan for a good 12 hours every day when Martin isn’t home, and I can’t just say, “Wait until your father gets home.” We had a particularly rough patch with Ethan this past spring, and I was pretty worthless — crying and feeling rejected and was pretty well unable to do anything BUT say, “Wait until your father gets home.” And I have blessed God a million times that I’m not going through parenting alone. But, on a normal, day-to-day basis, there are always things that pop up that need some direction NOW, from me.

      Ethan has a really fabulous youth leader at church. He’s also close to a number of dads at church. He goes to a Bible study at another church that is led by an amazing Christian man who is the father of a friend (outside of our church), and who is also a police officer… Super manly-man. And Ethan is very close to Martin. I completely agree that most of what he needs, to become a man, is Godly MEN who speak into his life. And, BLESS GOD, he has that. But, that doesn’t mean that I’m extracted from his daily life. And, it’s in those daily, “normal” interactions where I still step in. I find that much of my direction to him comes in the form of, “This is what your future family will need from you” from the perspective of a wife, a mother, a woman… The men in his life can call him up to true manhood, but I still think teen boys need to have a better grasp of what the women in their future (and the girls & women in their life now) will need from them.

  2. When I was a teenager, I thought my parents were melodramatic and too strict. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that almost all my best frinds were. like you. raising themselves, and how lonely that was for them. Mine may have been over the top at times but I;m so grateful they were fully present in my life.

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