Family Business

The Myth of Teen Spirit

December 13, 2010

So, the other day, at our favorite tea house, while we waited for them to measure out my 4oz of strawberry sencha, #24 and the 5oz of Alberta Street Chai, #whoreallycares it’s awesome,  I had a very interesting chat with my newly minted 13 year old son.

“Mom, it’s so awesome I get to be a teenager,” he enthused.   His buzz cut and rosy cheeks look strangely young on a 165 lb, 5’8″ frame.  He has a bright and engaging smile and a sweet disposition on most days.

But this day?  His brown eyes were misty with dreams of privileges and the mystery of being a “teenager”.   Dreams I shattered with the gentle observation that the modern construct of “teenager”  is a misnomer that does little to prepare young men and women for the requirements and rigors of adulthood but merely prolongs childhood by eliminating opportunities and expectations of mature behavior while excusing irresponsibility and selfishness as de rigueur during years 13-19.   Well, only those years, if we’re lucky and a magical maturation occurs immediately following graduation from basic education.

He looked puzzled.  Not because of the conversation, we talk like this often and he wasn’t confused by my words.  He was puzzled by the intention and the concept.

“Alright, Mom.” he cocked his head to the side and pulled all of his budding dialectic skills out to show off some flashy rhetoric.  “Alright,” he says, “If I’m not a teenager.  Then, what?  I’m still a child?”

“No, sweetheart,” I replied and smiled as his face went from puzzled to bewildered.  “You are a man.   And you will have the next few years to learn what that means in the safety of an environment where you can stumble and triumph, fail and succeed with equal measure and the consequences aren’t devastating. ”

And that boy?  That young man sitting across from me in his cool skinny jeans and vintage t-shirt?   He settled into his chair with a quiet, thoughtful sigh.   And in that moment, as a light mantle of self-realization settled over his broadening shoulders,  I caught a peek at the man I hope to see him become.

And I was in awe.

Of God and the blessing of my sons.  Of this immense responsibility to encourage and exhort.  Of the privilege I have to be a part of his becoming.  Of the sheer magnitude of disservice that has been done to countless young men and women through the past century as they have been left to wander, without purpose or vision.

When I got married I had no idea what it truly meant to be a wife.  The wisdom and discernment of our relationship has grown over the years into this beautiful and glorious thing called marriage that I now enjoy.  But lacking the wisdom and discernment didn’t make me any less a wife.

Anymore than being 13 makes my son any less a man.   He will become manly.  He will grow in grace and knowledge as we challenge and expand his realm of privilege and responsibility.  He will someday realize that he has grown to fill shoes he could never have imagined he could fill.

But only if we create the environment where it is expected and anticipated that he will become.

I Corinthians 13:11 NASB

11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

There is nothing in between.  Only the change of one form to the transformation of the next.

Love looks at the possibility and the reality.  Love works diligently to draw us toward the men and women God intended us to become not the people we are content to remain.

I don’t believe I can show my sons any greater love, as a parent, than to challenge them to be far more than they, themselves, could ever imagine.

  • Oh, I like that very much Heidi. I wouldn’t have thought of doing the same for my children, but now I’m hoping I’ll remember this post seven years from now!

  • Joelle

    Wow, what a great post, Heidi. I’m with Arielle on this one. Might have to print it and stash it somewhere. 🙂

  • I’ve been pondering this very same thing lately. My oldest is SO looking forward to being a “teenager” and I don’t want her thinking that means she gets to suddenly turn into the MTV generation, yk? Very elegantly said, heidi, thank you.

  • A great post indeed!

    Thank you for writing it.