Summer with teens and a tween

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Cool update!  A devotion of mine was posted today on the devotion website I write for.  Hope you can stop by and check it out! ~Kristi

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When my kids were younger, a good summer day involved any of the following:  digging up worms in the backyard, a dollar matinee, blowing bubbles, swimming in a small plastic pool with a layer of grass floating on the water’s surface, nap time, teddy bear picnics, playgroups, board games for hot days, pillow forts on rainy days, snuggling in bed with my little ones and watching Blues Clues or Dora; and mother’s morning out for me to run my errands and go to my appointments.  This sounds picturesque, and I am blessed to say it often was, but our younger years weren’t without the occasional tantrums over refusing a nap; the ever-stressful event of one of us needing to go to the bathroom while in Target with a cart full of sundries and three little ones in tow; continuous mopping of the kitchen floor over a new baby food rejected by said baby or a youngster convinced they can pour their own cup of milk; and the endless hours before my husband came home from work and the loneliness that accompanied those hours.  It was an era of teaching them to say please and thank you and the instruction to share.  I juggled being a wife and a stay-at-home mom while holding down a freelance job – all of which are a blessing.

When they got a little older, summer meant play dates with friends, bowling with gutter guards, teaching them how to mow the lawn, television limits, more board games, lemonade stands, and the ice cream truck.  They were a little more independent and toys like LEGOS and Barbies entered the scene.  Dress-up time was regular and my daughter wanted me to paint her nails in bright, glittery colors.  My boys wanted more road pieces for their Matchbox cars.  The basketball hoop got a little higher, and although they had outgrown naps, the also outgrew the fits that required them.  They learned how set a proper table, to hold the door for Mommy and others who needed help, and that sharing was a good idea after all as they learned the justice and injustices of right and wrong.  Life got a little busier, and I often fell into the trap of trying to provide too much fun for my kids.  I am certain it was some psychological righting of wrongs from my own dysfunctional childhood, and I became exhausted from trying to please everyone all the time.  But, I loved organizing birthday parties, baking cakes, and got used to our house guests growing in number as sleepovers became a normal thing – as did pancakes that accompanied them the next morning.

My kids are two teens and a tween now.  I am the one stealing an occasional afternoon nap.  My daughter has discovered stick-on fake nails (though she still likes me to paint hers) and her dress-up time has shifted to wanting to don stylish clothes and highlights in her hair.  My boys have all but forsaken tv and video games for Minecraft – though LEGOS are permanent family members.  All of them mow the grass in clean, straight lines; they sleep in a little later; they handle the laundry and dishes and other household work quite well; and reasonable bedtimes are antiquated as we stay up late – all 5 of us – watching movies as a family.  Social calendars are much busier, and for the first year my eldest went on his first job hunt and now drives me around town.  They water ski and whitewater raft and travel internationally on missions trips.  They get grounded until bedrooms are clean and have succumbed to their regular housework – though they’ve tried to pay each other to do their work (but they don’t have any money,  so that didn’t really work out!)

They have their own opinions about life and love the Lord and have their own faith.  Sharing one bathroom is a daily challenge for my kiddos, but they laugh together and love each other, so we try not to sweat the small stuff.  When sibling issues arise, I remind them one purpose of families are to prepare them for the real world of studying for hard college classes, enduring a boss they may not like, and how to manage their time and money and get along with their future spouses.  They are all great cooks, which will be a bonus when it’s time for marriage.  All of the years of cleaning up splatters from mixers gone crazy or measuring cups falling off the counters or bags of flour spilling onto the floor, practicing separating egg yolks from the whites and how to properly handle raw meat – were completely worth it as they maneuver their way well through the kitchen these days.

I want to miss the “old days” when they were little.  Everyone tells me I should.  They tell me that at this point in life I should be looking back on the days when the worst thing that happened all day to them was a skinned knee from a bike fall.  They tell me I should be lamenting about childhood naivety, simple schedules and unconditional, endless hugs.

Well, I do have those moments of mamma sadness when I see how much they have grown, but the excitement of watching them grow is awesome!  Just yesterday, I had one of the best hours with my oldest all summer.  He and I were alone for about an hour.  As he washed the dishes and I folded clothes, we talked about tough stuff.  He asked deeply spiritual questions and I silently prayed to the Lord for the right answers.  He and I talked about the world – what’s right and what’s wrong with it and how he feels about all of it.  It was priceless time with him.  He talked.  I talked.  We both listened as we did the housework.

This era of our lives is way too important to miss physically, mentally or emotionally…and most importantly, spiritually.  We stay busy, but I don’t want to be so busy that those special conversations never have an opportunity to blossom because we’re never in the same room at the same time.  I don’t want to be so wigged out about college financial aid or the car we need to buy as ours is quickly dying, daily woes, or anything else that I don’t hear the prompting from my kids when they want to talk to me – uninterrupted, about the tough stuff of life.  They are so much more independent now, I don’t want to take advantage of that and begin my “next chapter” too soon.  If I jump the gun of life with grown kids, I will miss being a part of them finishing growing up.

Parenting this age is exhausting and exhilarating.  Terrifying, trying  and terrific.  Sometimes all at once!

When I hear my youngest talk about what he wants to build as the cure for cancer, or my oldest discuss genetics, or my middle girl be loved on by so many small children who she sits for and volunteers with who adore her – my heart swells with gratitude.  It’s these summer days that I want to remember as much as the early ones.  Days when we take a long bike ride or indulge in our favorite frozen yogurt joint and the world’s problems take a backseat – if only for an hour, but preferably an afternoon.

Do politics and problems and worries roll around in the back of my mind?  Sure.  But, while my kids are still in my nest, I will tend it as best I can.  I love the fact that my daughter chooses me to go back-to-school shopping with.  I will absolutely go, and go with great joy, as I help her navigate her through the aisles and aisles of inappropriate clothes and find the hidden jewels – clothes that don’t compromise modesty for style – as I help her understand how far up the leg rips in the jeans should go, how low a neckline should be and why exposing bra straps is never an option.  We talk about how modesty is the most beautiful form of fashion, and it can be found in her favorite stores!

I like when my boys talk at length to me about a computer game or movie and I have the precious opportunity to talk about our family’s values and where God fits into video games and television and books.  No topic is taboo in our house, and my husband and I have found that oftentimes they want to talk when we are tired or distracted.  When I am tempted to sluff off an open door in the name of more sleep or a little mindless time on Facebook, the Holy Spirit prompts me that I should embrace those moments, moments that won’t always be here.  Like puppet shows behind the couch and wearing Halloween costumes to the grocery store just for fun, these are historical days that one day will be relieved only in our hearts and photographs.

Thankfully, some things never change.  We still flag down the ice cream truck, still like lazy Saturday mornings flipping pancakes, and I relish receiving endless hugs. The teen and tween years can be challenging as we all continue to grow individually and as a family, but they are priceless in their own right.

We will milk this summer for all its worth, and when the new school year begins, I will embrace that season with arms full of special memories, tender moments and kids that still want my hugs.

3 thoughts on “Summer with teens and a tween

  1. I’m sitting here with tears running down my cheeks for that trip down memory lane and for the blessing you are to me…..Love “Mom”

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