Growth Spurts: Ch-ch-ch-changes
Two of my children are just about to surpass me in height. Granted, this isn’t an overwhelming achievement (I’m only 5’ 3”.), but it is still a significant milestone in the life of a child.
They’ve been w-a-i-t-i-n-g for it to happen–checking their height against mine on an almost daily basis. A year or two ago, Callie started being able to wear my shoes. And it was just a few weeks ago that suddenly Caleb could give me a cheek-to-cheek hug while standing flat-footed. They are growing and changing, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
Their rapid growing up has caused not only issues involving more frequent shopping for blue jeans and tennis shoes but also issues involving what I write about in my column each month. I have always strived to be sensitive to my children’s feelings when choosing what to share with 35,000+ of my closest friends (you guys) every month. Any time I’ve sensed that what I was writing might be embarrassing to my children, I have asked them to read the article ahead of time, so that I can get their approval prior to publication. And I’ll continue to do so, because I think it’s only going to get trickier.
Teenage issues, you see, are quite different from toddler issues. Toddler issues are easier to chuckle about. They may be embarrassing, in that they involve things like potty training and such, but they aren’t usually as serious or personal as some teenage issues can be. And so I want to be particularly sensitive to that for my family.
Do all of you remember being in middle school (or junior high, as it was called when I was in it)? No matter how ideal your home, family, friends, and school situations may have been, this stage of life is just rough. There’s just no way around it. Your body and mind are basically going through [somewhat organized] chaos, and you sometimes literally do not know what to do with yourself. There are emotions–and sometimes words–that seemingly cannot be controlled. You are on a journey of being part kid/part adult…and the journey is not short.
As we parent during this stage, we, too, can find ourselves getting quite frustrated and emotional, because that is a natural response. We don’t know whether we should treat our offspring as children or as adults. This stage is often accompanied by more freedoms and responsibilities for our kids, which is a learning experience for everyone involved.
I have found myself comparing this stage to the toddler stage, ironically. There are times when it is appropriate to just kind-of ignore the child as they pitch a fit. But there are other times when you need to just wrap them in a hug and tell them how much you love them. Sometimes they themselves don’t like the way they’re behaving, but they can’t seem to figure out how to stop it. (As a former teenager and a current victim of monthly PMS, I totally get this.) The right thing to do, which is also the most difficult thing to do, is to hang in there with them. Study them and know them. Ask questions but also know when to give them some space. What not to do is throw your hands up in exasperation and surrender. (Okay, you may do this every once in a while. Just don’t let it be permanent.)
At every single stage of our children’s growing up, we must fight for our kids and for our relationships with them. They must know that we are for them, even when they feel like we are against them. In time–maybe quite a lot of time–they will come to believe it.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is very hard work. But my, the joy that it can produce! The heartache, yes, but doesn’t that come with every close relationship we have? And aren’t those relationships worth fighting for? I say yes.
Carrie Bevell Partridge got her children’s approval on this article prior to publication.