Parenting Teens: A Certain, Tearful Angst

My mom used to tell me that on the first day of kindergarten, I took my brother’s hand and walked out the door, and never looked back. There was no wistful backward glance. No yearning to remain home. My eyes were set toward what was ahead. I guess I’ve always been a teen at heart.

I’m sure there are moms out there who can understand what I’m going to say. We see our teens growing up, forming their own set of ideals, deciding upon a path…and it feels we are not needed anymore. Their eyes are turning more and more toward that exciting path ahead, and away from the humdrum of home. We need to be okay with it.

That stalwart independence changed for me as a freshman in college. Plunked down in a southern culture that was strange to me, into a room I had to share with two other girls (having never shared a room in my life), into an academic setting where I was so on my own…I felt lonely. No familiar friends. A new church. New ways. I felt like an immigrant, and it was good for me. It made me turn to the only One who is unfailingly there for me. The One who never changes, who always has the right answer, and whose grace is forever sufficient. Sometimes we need to feel alone so that we will finally realize we never will be. (Heb. 13:5)

During that freshman year, there were lots of long distance calls placed on that one phone hanging in the hallway on the first floor of Ruby Wagner dormitory. I didn’t want to hang up. “Humdrum” had a sparkling new appeal to me.

My parents did the right thing. They made me stick to commitments. They let me make mistakes, without coming to my rescue every time. They made me hang up the phone eventually. I changed my major two times that year. Psychology, then English Ed. They let me try to find myself. I changed a third time after I’d transferred to BJU. Church Ministries. It was my niche, and I’d finally found it. It did not promise a six figure income, or positions and promotions and notoriety. It was who I was, and still am. They didn’t understand it, but they supported me. Later, when they came to know the Lord, they began to “get” it.

How my parents must have wondered and worried, meeting a new young man each time they came to visit me. They never lectured. There was only one comment I remember that could have been interpreted as advice or censure…and it still makes me smile. My mom looked at photos of the current dashing young man and simply said, “You need to find someone who is worthwhile on the inside, Diane…after 65 they all start to look the same anyway.” Funny…but good advice! 😉 They met Patrick a year or so later. He was an older undergrad student, due to graduate within a year. A ministerial student…with no house, no big buck paycheck guarantee…but his honest heart allowed them to see that he would always be a safe place for me. And they let go.

daddyI never saw my dad cry. Ever. Until my wedding day. I took his arm at the top of the aisle in that little southern country church, and I felt him shudder. I didn’t dare look at him, or I would have gone into that “ugly cry”. We made it to the front. He was able to utter the words “Her mother and I” and he sat down to watch it all…the process of giving me away. Then came the receiving line. His emotions caught up with him. The finality pressed in his heart. He broke down in my arms. I didn’t cry. My nerves had settled. The ceremony and formalities were done, and my eyes were looking forward.

My parents are both gone now. I can’t tell them that I am gaining a new perspective. Learning about a new level of faith. Realizing new fears in my heart which need to be conquered by the One who holds all my times in His hand. (Psalm 31)

I’m beginning to understand that certain, tearful angst.

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