Parenting teens has been a challenge for me on occasion. Heck, being a teen was a challenge for me. I haven’t lost sight of those years as I watch each of my children grow through them, struggling at times. My mother and step-father divorced in my teen years. I became rebellious and negative. I was challenging for my mother during a very difficult time for her. I failed to see her as a person, an individual with tough issues of her own. Sadly enough, I was very judgmental of her and definitely not supportive.
In fact, it wasn’t until much later in life, that I was able to see her as a separate being, rather than someone whose life’s circumstances affected me. Only then did I appreciate all that she’d been through. As a teenager, and for many years after, I felt my parents’ struggles ruined my life. I could pick apart all the things I believed they could have or should have done differently. My mother always stood strong in her faith though, trusting God regardless of her circumstances. When I was young, I could’ve cared less about that and mocked her for it. Obviously it hadn’t helped her much, I’d felt. If God had been in her life, her life would’ve been great. Right? Ultimately, years later, her faith ministered to me when my life as a young mother fell apart.
When I was a teenager, a young woman, I observed life at home and around me, trying to determine what my adult life would look like. Mine would be the perfect image of a happy family life. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and have many children. When difficult realities of life occurred and my parents split up, it disrupted that image in my head. I lost hope in the happy family possibility. I lost belief in its reality. I lost trust in relationships. I blamed my parents for that loss of dream and blamed them for the negative direction my life afterward.
At that point, I easily disregarded my mother’s directions. She obviously couldn’t keep life together for herself. What made her think she could direct mine? I was a tough kid. My rebellion brought me trouble and a lot of pain.
After being such a judgmental teenager, I look at my children’s teen years with my old teen mindset close at hand. I hope that they can see me as a person, just like them. I’m no better, or worse, than them. I go through life as best as I can, just as they do, mistakes and all. I try to encourage them to trust that God has a plan, even when circumstances seem overwhelming. I remember how powerful and tough reality was for me when I was a teenager and take their concerns seriously, knowing that tomorrow will feel different than today.
You see, your parents are people, living in a rough world, dealing with issues that are hard, just like you. You may expect that they should’ve already settled into a “happily ever after” state of being for which you can aspire to achieve. That isn’t reality. They have pressures at work, pressures from each other or perhaps exes, financial pressures, and pressures from you. Everyone’s expectations, as well as their own, can be overwhelming.
When you’re feeling frustrated at the choices your parents are making, take a step back and look at them. Strip your mind of judgment and really see them. Consider the realities of what they might be enduring, and have compassion. Allow that you might’ve made different choices given the same circumstances. Allow that individuals are just that, individuals, unique people shaped by life events and challenges. Allow that you may not know many of the details of your parents’ lives that have influenced the decisions they make: their childhood, their harbored hurts, their strong convictions, their feelings.
Life is intricate and complicated for all of us. In my novel The Light Within, the problems of a controlling mother and a cheating father divide a household. In my novel Marie’s Watch, mental illness rears its ugly head unexpectedly and tragically alters life for a family. In my novel The Truth Will Set You Free, trust of a person, unaware they intend abuse, leads to a lifetime of altered struggles. There are so many real life things such as these that impact our lives, many of which we don’t share. There are so many things that have impacted your parents’ lives, creating who they are and affecting how they react, that you may not know about or understand. Have compassion on them. Separate from the idea that they are or should be perfect. Let them be people, fallen and in need of grace.
When God touched my life as a young mother, my eyes were opened to see things differently. I’ve come to accept that life will have its struggles, no matter who we are or what we believe. What I hope to highlight in my writing is that we can have peace even so. When we focus on Jesus Christ, when we invite His Holy Spirit in, when we trust Him, we do perceive things differently. Difficulties will still happen but we endure them with peace, knowing Who to cling to during the trials. I also have come to see the importance of praying for those who I feel have hurt me, rather than focus on my anger toward them or what I perceive as their downfalls. This has given me freedom to accept that we’re all in need of God’s grace, all of us, including me.
If you separate, seek that powerful relationship with God for yourself, and let Him guide you, you’ll surely appreciate your parents for who they are rather than who you think they should be. You may just open a door to an amazing relationship with them.