Half our children are teenagers. On July 27th, we’ll be outnumbered with 4 teens and only two, sweet, precious, innocent, still- not -know-it-alls youngsters. I admit, I enjoy parenting teens. Maybe even more so than when they were all in elementary school. It’s not better, just different.
I admit that even now, knowing I’ve shed more tears and lost more sleep over my teens than I ever did when they were younger. I keep reminding myself this is the season we’re in. This is all a blink in the great scheme of things. Just like the elementary years and toddler years, it’ll be over all too soon.
This year, things have been rough for Brandon. Because of unfortunate situations with his mother, he aches from old childhood wounds and new bruises. I think sometimes the great mistake we make as parents is comparing our parenting success to our own childhoods. If we had awesome parents, we can never do enough to measure up. If we had crappy parents, we can never do enough to ensure our own children’s happiness.
I can’t understand what it’s like to feel the betrayal and hurt inflicted from the people who are supposed to love and protect you the most. I try to understand and “wear those shoes” everyday I step foot in my classroom or cry my way home after a particularly rough day at school. The mental illness our youth suffer is more often than not the result of ill equipped parents who, for whatever reason (circumstance, their own mental health, addiction, generational modeling, illness) cannot put their child’s welfare before their own wants and needs.
On those long drives home after spending time with students in crisis, I ask God for better understanding, determined not to lose hope. How, I ask, will these kids overcome their shitty childhoods? Are we enough? Can we, as teachers, mentors, members of the community, ever be enough? And then I pull in my driveway, shut down the car, drag my pitying self into the house, and fall into the arms of a man who not only loves me everyday, but also proves that we are far greater than our shitty childhoods. That the apple can fall far, far from the tree, wobble down the road, suffer the bruises and welts, create a new path, plant new beginnings, and grow stronger roots.
Brandon sometimes doubts himself as a parent, like we all do. He’s learned that sometimes “honoring thy mother and father” means not repeating their mistakes. For Father’s Day this year, we wanted to give him something to show him that, by us, he’s done alright. We love him for working hard, taking care of us, always putting our needs before his own, and being an apple that fell far from the tree.
In case I forgot to tell you, he cried like a baby when we presented him with our project.