Last week, Kaia, Jaiya and I drove up to Bowling Green to help Nia move into a new apartment. The day before we left, I got an idea. As long as we’re going to help her move, I thought, let’s do something fun. We had such a good time at the beach in Connecticut and Lake Erie last weekend, we’ll go to a new park near Nia. Here’s how it went when I told them about my idea:
Me: “Instead of waiting until Nia’s off of work to go up, why don’t we leave early, and go to Maumee Bay State Park? There are a couple of beaches, a nature center, and trails.”
Jaiya: “That sounds fun!”
Kaia: “Oh, no… can I stay home?”
Resolute, I woke up early, packed the car, and off we went. The threat of rain subsided the further north we drove. We finally arrived at the Maumee Bay, and I began to feel the excitement I usually feel when I get to a park for the first time – especially a park with a beach.
As my and Jaiya’s mood elevated at the thought of swimming in Lake Erie for the second time in less than a week, Kaia’s mood plummeted. By the time we found a comfortable spot, she’d decided she wouldn’t get into the water. We bargained, cajoled, and encouraged her, but she was steadfast in her refusal to enjoy the cool water on this hot summer day.
When dealing with teenagers, you have a choice: let their mood dictate everything else going on, or allow them to feel their feelings while you do something different. In this situation, I decided to let her sit and sulk in the hot sun while Jaiya and I enjoyed the lake. Once we changed back into our clothes for a hike, Kaia began her ascent. A couple of miles later, the dark cloud of her mood shifted to reveal sunny skies.
Driving north that morning, I prayed and gave thanks to God for the blessings of the new day. I thanked God for transforming my life to become a person who seeks new adventures. I thanked God for children who don’t always agree with me, but agree to follow my lead. I thanked God for Nia, who deviated from the path she was on to face her fears and do things her way, even though she knew it wasn’t what we wanted.
The biggest blessing of parenting teens is that I can’t ever predict what will happen. That’s the fun of watching them grow. All of the hard work that goes into parenting younger children blooms and flourish before your eyes. Those of you with grown children know exactly what I mean. Your conversations with them evolve and deepen; it’s as critical a time as when they were toddlers. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: teens don’t need you less as they get older. They need you more.
Writing for Grow Christians affords me the opportunity to reflect on my parenting, an opportunity for which I’m immensely thankful. A recent blessing in my life is my new position as Youth Director at Calvary Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, in addition to my work at Forward Movement. I realize now that my journey that led to me working with Calvary’s youth is spirit-led. I pray that as I continue to evolve and change, I can walk with Calvary’s young people (which includes my young people) on their faith journey and stand with them as they continue to build their relationship with God, Jesus, and Spirit. I’m excited to share my experiences with you here on Grow Christians — the sunny days and the stormy ones.
Here’s a prayer to start of the new school and church year:
Lord Jesus, who traveled with the disciples on the road to Emmaus: Be with us on the way, that we may know you in the scriptures, in the breaking of bread, and in the hearts of all whom we meet. Amen. – From Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book
How do you deal with the unexpected as a parent or youth leader?
Thank you so much for this important reminder, Miriam. I think is is easy to take a teenager’s mood personally and let it spoil your day. In reality, continuing the fun without them is a great lesson! You aren’t abandoning them; you are giving them space to figure things out. Thank you for sharing this personal story with your readers.