“Mom! Watch this!”
I heard that a lot when my darlings were young. Both wearing super-hero capes (and in Margot’s case, a matching tiara) they would jump off the couch, their grandma’s picnic table, trees… yelling, “Watch me!” and I would always say, “I’m watching.” They would look to make sure and then perform their daring feats of awesomeness–and I never got tired of seeing them.
This morning as I was walking Fendi, I witnessed an ugly fight between a teenaged girl and her dad. Words I will never speak to my child (and ones they both had never speak back to me) were flying around like darts at 6 a.m. The last thing I heard was her saying, “Oh, yeah? Well, watch this…” And she stormed off. And he didn’t chase her. And she didn’t look back.
I shook my head, prayed a quick prayer and headed home to get my own teen girl ready for her day, saddened that they have that realtionship and so thankful I don’t have it with mine.
But I can’t shake it.
Why does “Watch this!” become “Come look” and, finally, “Do you want to see?” Why does “look at me go!” become “watch me leave”? I know it’s a part of growing up–the change that happens when children go from trusting they are the center of our parenting universe and begin to question if we are really interested in who they are but there is also something more. I was in the wake of that girl’s departure and it was spiritually thick with feelings of isolation, anger, and loneliness… And she KNEW her dad wouldn’t come for her.
Now, you may think I’m over-spiritualizing. Maybe I am, but having 2 teens of my own and having worked with teens too, I know that they are spiritual targets for the enemy–because they are spiritual “targets’ for Jesus.
Jesus loves kids and made sure everyone knew it. He made sure that his encounter with the church (and his family) as a teenager is included in scripture (because teens hunger for spiritual things and He shows us that as a teen, so did He).
We as parents need to wise up. We have an obligation to protect our kids from our enemy (through teaching and prayer) and we have a duty to show them the God who died for them. This Jesus, who is not afraid of their questions by the way (we might be, but He isn’t),who is standing there saying, “I’m watching.” This Jesus who can love them in such a deep, fulfilling way if they would let Him.
1 Peter 5: 5-11 could be titled “A Note to Parents of Teenagers” because it has a reminder for youth (v. 5) and it addresses the feelings we have as parents: false pride (that’s not gonna happen to my kid), anxiety (I am seriously f-ing this up), loneliness (rejection by your child hurts)… But it also reminds us why we fight for our families, why we rely on our God because:
(Our) enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
It also tells us fighting is worth it and that we aren’t alone!
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
(And, Lord, there can be suffering…)
But also, there can be great reward.
So, this is my advice for parents: kick the devil in the balls. Stop treating him like a school yard bully or an irritating coworker. He’s not. He’s an asshole and his sole desire is to destroy relationships–between us and our kids and especially between them and God.
War for your teens, Mom and Dad. They are so, so worth it. Don’t let them just leave to figure out things for themselves, alone and unprotected against lions. Be their sounding board (and occassional whipping post). Be their champion. Just be there.
It does matter. It is important. And it is NOT in vain.
And I promise, it does make a difference.