Growth Spurts: Reflection Is Good for the Soul…and the Relationship
By Carrie Bevell Partridge
A friend of mine has worked with teenagers and parents of teenagers for more than two decades. During the particularly trying times of the teen years in a family, he encourages the parents to get one of their favorite pictures of their teenager when he/she was a young child and keep it in a place where they will see it often. It’s a good method for helping the parents have some perspective in remembering that the teenager, who might be hard to get along with right now, is the same person as the child in that picture. I think it’s along the same lines as watching your children when they’re sleeping or being apart from them long enough to miss them… A bit of separation and distance can often bring better perspective.
I actually like to take this exercise a bit further. Instead of just looking at photographs, I like to let my mind wander back to the years when my teenagers were babies and toddlers. I can still remember what it felt like to pick them up and hold them in my arms. They each felt different. I can picture them smiling at me with their sweet baby smiles. I can hear their laughs.
I remember that Callie liked to play with Fisher-Price Little People and that she always had them waiting in line for something. She memorized entire storybooks before she could even read, because she listened so carefully when we read them to her. She had imaginary children named Alice and Thorn. And she was always very busy and on-task when she worked in her little kitchen or baby station.
I remember that Caleb loved to be completely silly and make everyone laugh. He liked playing with Rescue Heroes, superheroes, and Star Wars characters. Watching movies was a favorite pastime, as was playing video games and football. He built plenty of things out of LEGOs. His sisters always wanted to include him in their playtime, but he didn’t always “play right” in their imaginary world. (He did make them laugh, though.)
I remember that Katie liked to tag along with her older brother and sister and play whatever they were playing. She loved to dress up in her princess costumes. She loved all things girly–especially makeup and nail polish. She always took thoughtful care of her baby dolls; they knew they were loved. And any chance she was given to play with or take care of a real baby, she was thrilled with the opportunity. She loved laughing and being silly with her brother, and she could make some of the craziest faces!
Since Brandon and Carlos didn’t join our family until they were nine and twelve years old, I don’t have memories of them as little kids, so I just think back to when we first met each other. I remember how intently they listened to the songs we sang and the stories we attempted to read to them in Spanish, their native language. (It was a bit of a struggle for us, but they were very encouraging and also forgiving of our mispronunciations.) I remember playing soccer together in a park in Bogotá. I remember laughing as I watched them play in the swimming pool with my husband, who was now their Dad. I remember bonding over many meals together. I also remember their not liking some of my cooking at first, but they eventually came to love it. (Same story with Chick-fil-A.)
Parents, if you’re having a rough day with your kiddos (even if they aren’t teenagers yet), start getting into the habit of remembering all the things about them that once made you laugh and smile. Concentrate on how you felt about them at that time and then remind yourself that this is the same child. But don’t stop there. Gather up these thoughts and memories and share them with that child. I haven’t met a kid yet that didn’t enjoy hearing cute stories about himself. Chances are, the conversation will cause both of you to soften toward each other, and you might even feel a bit closer to each other. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?