My son has a book entitled, How to Survive Anything. It walks you through various calamities such as shark attacks and embarrassing parents, blizzards, being adrift at sea, being the topic of your classmates gossip, and other such perilous situations.
It made me think about what chapters I’d include if I wrote a book for parents on how to survive anything. I could only come up with three super perilous chapter titles thus far. At seventeen years into this parenting gig and the most catastrophic places I’ve found myself are year 3, year 9 and year 14. (Yours may be different but the point is – there are some strange phases kids go through, amiright?)
There are already dozens of books written about the terrible two’s so I’d likely just copy what they had to say and replace the two with a three. Two’s were easy compared to three. At least in my world.
At 9, my children became weird and ridiculous and I’d find myself unable to relate to them on any level. They’d grown out of the cute stage and their teeth were just altogether too big for their mouths. The things they say are no longer adorable but eyebrow raising. At 9 my boys think potty humour is the most hilarious thing on the planet and they want to talk endlessly (and I do mean endlessly) about things like Pokemon and snakes. I just don’t get it. It’s all a bit alien like.
Thankfully, there are a few years grace before they hit 14 because 14 is a strange culmination of 3 and 9 all put together. Don’t think on that for too long. Parents, I’m not trying to frighten you – just let you know that when your kids go through hard/weird phases that you don’t understand at all – it’s normal. Put on the armour which forces you to laugh, only to keep from crying, and know above all else, you are not alone.
It seems to me that at 14 our children are plagued with some sort of illness. It’s symptoms run like the warnings at the end of a pharmaceutical commercial.
Warning: being 14 years old may cause your child to speak incoherently about everything while simultaneously knowing everything about everything. It may cause eye rolls and general attitude all aimed in your direction because clearly, as a parent, you know NOTHING about everything.
Being 14 may also bring about lowered voices, pimples, hairy legs and a general bambi-like awkwardness as your child learns to cope with their limbs which are oddly long and flailing at this stage of the game.
The hardest part about 14 is the limit testing. Somehow 14 brings about this feeling of grown-upness in our children and yet their minds regress back to their 3 year old defiant self. They’re constantly shifting between adult and toddler, and I assure you, they’re just as confused about it as we are!
I’d love to say I have some sage wisdom on how to parent the 14 year old, but the truth is, I don’t. I’m simply here to affirm to you that your child is not the only one to have succumbed to the disease. It happens. Even to the sweetest and most loving of them, I’ve learned.
There are a few ways to cope, however. I’ve found the simple knowing that it will pass to be of enormous value. There were times I truly feared that this was who they’d become and that I’d somehow failed in every realm of parenting. That this person, who now towers above me and yet can’t remember one simple set of instructions, is going to have to function out in the world like this. But, thank the Lord, it passes. It really does.
Secondly, give them enormous amounts of grace along with your many (MANY!) words of discipline. Remember 3? When you felt like all you did was discipline all day? Yeah, it might feel like that again and that everything they do is just off and wrong and not what you expect of them. They feel it too, like they’re constantly messing up and just can’t get anything right enough for us. I know the temptation is to rant at them about all the ways they’ve gone wrong but at 14 they can simply tune that out. Instead, talk rationally and kindly. This is something they don’t hear from their peers and it might just confuse them into listening.
Lastly, love them well. There is no greater way to show our kids the love of Christ than when we love them hard through the messy, awkward and frustrating times. Keep hugging them, keep pointing out their beautiful qualities, (look hard – they’re in there!) and keep telling them with your words that you really do love them so much even when you think they’re ignoring you. They hear it. It’s going in. Keep filling their minds with your love and soon enough they’ll be 15. <enter huge sigh of relief here>