Friday, April 23, 2010

There are so many evils that pull on our children.

     That is the first sentence of Anne Lamott's new book Imperfect Birds.  You may remember a book she wrote many years ago called Operating Instructions which was a humorous and touching memoir of her first year with her baby boy.  My son Ethan was newly born then too, and I knew a lot of moms who read that book back then and found comfort in knowing they didn't have to be "perfect moms".  Well, her new book presents the "flip-side" of that earlier book.  If you think it is, or was hard taking care of young children (and I would completely agree with you there), parenting teens is just as difficult but in a completely different way.  Whereas taking care of young children, especially active young boys for me, was physically draining, I find that the teenage years are emotionally draining.  I have never worried more in my years of parenting.  I am not so naive to think that there are not some challenges to come, some heavy stuff with raising teens, and that my husband and I are going to have to deal with worse things than our sons getting a "detention" at school.  Sure, everyone would like to think their children are perfect and would never get into trouble -- I'm just saying that I personally want to be realistic.
     I look ahead to when by boys will no longer be here with me everyday and a great sadness encompasses me.  There is so much I still need to teach them, and so many more times that I need to tell them I love them.  To build them up, to help them make good choices.  It sometimes seems that time is a thief when it comes to parenting children -- you think you have them for so many years with you, and yet it is really so fleeting, and all the while you know that soon they must go out and meet the world for themselves.
     I am OK with that - I want them to have wonderful experiences, but what really throws me is how much are children today are challenged in ways that we never were.  Or perhaps what I mean is that they are challenged in very different ways than we were.  They are exposed to so much more with the Internet, texting, etc.  Sometimes I think this fast society is not allowing them to slow down - to take in the simple beauty of quiet.  But it is what it is, and we parents must do the best we possible can.
     Imperfect Birds details the ease with which teenagers can be derailed and how quickly adults believe the lies of the children they love.  So, I do want to know what is "going on" out there with teens today.  I want to be realistic about challenges that I know my children will face.  I've never been one of those people that won't see "sad" movies or read "heavy" books because both help me face the realities of life and deal with them head on.  I can take it.  When I do face these challenges with my children, I am certain they will throw me, but I just don't want to be completely shocked when and if they do occur.  I want to hone some skills to deal with the ups and downs of teen life.
     So where do we turn during these challenging years?  I say to the usual places: friends, family, and faith. With all of my imperfections, they are all I have, and they have to be enough.

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