My mother believed that people were good until they proved otherwise. She tried to understand them. She gave them second and often third chances. She imagined “walking a mile” in their shoes before criticizing them. She made excuses for them when they didn’t have any of their own. But if they proved unworthy she was not one to withhold disapproval or punishment. I was often on the receiving end of both…especially during my teen years.
I decided long ago that God created the whole pregnancy-baby-child process of development so we’d be firmly attached to our children before they become those horrible alien creatures known as teenagers. And while I didn’t rebel on any grand scale, I did routinely declare my independence by dating boys mother disapproved of, wearing clothes she found distasteful (too short), saying things she thought were disrespectful, and doing things she feared were risky. I know she must have lost a lot of sleep over my actions, but at the time I wasn’t often sorry.
I was also the oldest child and only girl, so I was sort of the “test run” for my parents’ ideas about teens and behavior. In fact, because of our age difference, one of my teen chores was helping to raise my youngest brother. It wasn’t much of a chore…he was sorta cute! But I still think my brothers should thank me for paving the way because by the time they reached their teen years Mom had radically changed some of her expectations. She told me it was because they were “boys”. No fair! It was years before I realized that many of her hopes and dreams and fears for me were based on her own teenage experience. I guess I wasn’t that intuitive in my younger years!
I cut my teen years short by marrying young. My mother was understanding, but not pleased. My father was totally against it. I think they both knew I wasn’t ready to make that decision and they were proven right a couple of years later when the marriage ended tragically. However, once I made my plans they were supportive and encouraging in every way possible. The rode the roller coaster with me until it was clear that the ride was over.
I wish my mother was still here to give advice to our family members who are now raising teens. I think she would have lots of wisdom to impart. I do my best, but I’m not sure I’m always that helpful. I’m rather fond of quoting my paternal grandmother, who often told me “You’ll pay for your raising girl!” or Mom’s mom, who said, “This too shall pass.” Because I’m a “long distance” grandparent I’m not that knowledgeable about some situations and my influence isn’t that significant. Many times I’m not even consulted. I’ve come to terms with the disadvantages of being a separated family. But I still care and I still spend some sleepless nights wondering and worrying. Prayer is my first line of defense.
I think Mom would be very upset by the actions of some of the teens who have been in the news lately. But I also think she would be more understanding than most. Because of her own bouts of depression and anxiety she would be the first to say that many of the troubled youth of our country are suffering from illnesses that need treatment, not punishment. She would want to find the good in them before the bad took control.