Monday, February 9, 2015

Middle School: Coaching and Bananas

Maybe I’ve said this before— as your kids get older, it’s harder to write about parenting.  Not because there is nothing to say, but because, now, a larger filter is in place being that the kids are older.  Parenting is SO much of what fills my time, mind and heart, but there are stories that just can’t be told. Conversations that can’t be shared.  Enlightening moments for a momma that won’t be divulged….. for years maybe.  Not here anyway.  And this is why my writing has slowed.  The words I would have normally written a few years ago are the words spoken to Jeff in the quiet house once the kids are tucked away in their rooms.  In the den over coffee.  Between our pillows as we fall asleep.  On the phone when I get a moment in the car by myself.  As a parent, you know, there is much to discuss.  And much to be bewildered by.

And with an 11 and 13 year old, our roles have been shifting for the last two to three years.  Less control, more freedom, more choices, more scratching our heads wondering, “why that choice exactly?” or “what were you thinking?” or “do they think we aren’t on to that??”  I still have much of the same role I’ve had for years but spending more time “coaching” seems to be where I find myself.  I cannot anticipate every little scenario they will experience or think through all the things they will need to know regarding— well, fill in the blank!  Texting curfews, participating in “selfie competitions”, clearly defining “short”, hacking texted conversations on the shared family phone, wearing t-shirts longer than shorts, watching a YouTube video at a friend’s house ABOUT a game they aren’t supposed to play on the X-Box etc.  I told someone the other day, you can hold back only so much for only so long but at some point, it feels like a tidal wave and you’ve got no choice but to face it and swim.  Whatever it is you’ve been holding back, it’s coming and you’ve really got to prepare yourself.  I’ve written much on this— even not too long ago— so let me get back to this new role thing.  Coaching.

That first day of school when she wanted her hair straightened, when he desperately needed a hair cut and his shorts needed ironing....  I got the hair straightened.  

When they don’t run the plays like I have called them over the years, I want to revert back to control- due to fear, wondering if they will ever “get it”.  What will this same mistake look like in five years?  I think, all the time, “Haven’t we had extensive conversations regarding this very thing?  Didn’t we just talk about this yesterday— or this morning?”  As frustrating as that IS, I want them to have many chances to run those same plays while under our roof.  And I want to see them get it right.  Not for me, but for themselves.  For them to see the difference in a poor choice and a wise one.  For them to experience what it feels like each time they get it wrong or get it right.  For themselves.  So they will know it personally— what bears good fruit and what is just rotten.

It’s funny— we have been studying King Solomon for a few weeks during breakfast.  We know there are some really great things about him and how later in his life, he kind of lost his head.  That’s putting it mildly.  We are just at the good part now but Scripture just nails you —-nails your kids.  I can’t tell you how uncomfortable I was the other morning, reading through the material and asking the questions minutes after a confrontation regarding one of my kid’s integrity.  I almost felt sorry for this child because the questions were so pointed.  “What is King Solomon’s advice on being kind and truthful? What is King Solomon’s wisdom about accepting discipline when you need it?  What is King Solomon’s wisdom about listening to parents?”  Ouch and ouch.  Each question asked after the applicable Scripture was read.  I couldn’t have tailored made it any more fitting for the crime at hand that morning.  I was sure to turn the book so the kids could see I wasn't making it up.  But even in their squirming, they talked.  For this I am grateful.

Can I tell you how much I love these NAKED faces from two years ago?!?

That time you took a really cute picture with your best friend and had your eyes closed-- 

Even though all the words and all the reminders can wear me out, I really just want to keep the conversations going.  Because of that, I feel a big part of my job is not to shut them down.  Therefore, I must choose my words carefully as things spill out of their growing-ever-more-clever mouths.  Do you know how fast I am capable of flipping their switch to OFF?  When I see the look of irritation or disrespect on their face before “Umm, Mom” is uttered— and my coolness is emitted.  Or at the latest, in mid-sentence.  Because I head in to correct the first wrong thinking I hear.  Talk about needing a muzzle.  I have a friend whose kids are long gone from the home now but she told me about all the bananas she’d eat while in the kitchen listening to her teenage girls go on about their days.  She’d stick a banana in her mouth {quickest thing to grab} to keep her mouth shut and just listen to them.  She’d go about her business, thinking through all she’d heard and when the time was right, she’d bring up the things that concerned her.  Giving them the safe place to talk—openly, freely— and keeping her words at bay until a better moment— was the wise thing to do.

That time you painted your face for the homecoming game and maybe didn’t even watch the game.....
Middle school is prime-time parenting.  There is no coasting here.  Deciding on the deal breakers ahead of time is critical and that’s not as easy as you’d think.  Of course, things laid out in Scripture are non-negotiables but the things that aren’t specifically mentioned in Scripture that might LEAD to something questionable, something contrary to what the Bible teaches-- bam-- you’ve got me.  I’m all a muddle and I need wisdom from the Lord.  Unshackle the legalistic tendencies and pray for His clear direction.

These kids are STUCK in the middle of “young” and “grown up” and it’s not fun.  None of us thought it was fun.  And yes, so much of the foundation has been laid by now but now we get to watch them build on it—- with solid, tried and true material or with who knows what?  It might be a joy or it could be very painful or heart breaking.  In those observations, I am trying to figure out this coaching role— not stepping in where it’s not a deal breaker or when I feel there is a valuable lesson to be learned and finding those moments when hearts are soft and open for a little advice.  Even though I am not a huge banana fan, I can learn to love them if it means my kids having a safe place to express their thoughts and try out some ideas.

So if you ever wonder why I haven’t posted in a while, picture me standing in my kitchen listening to at least one middle schooler who is perched on my kitchen counter— with a banana in my mouth.  ; )

{Please feel free to share any insights into this transitional role for parents-- especially those of you who have already made the leap to teenagers.  We are listening!!}

{Also, here are more succinct and eloquent thoughts from Sandra Stanley-- Andy’s wife from Northpoint Church.  My friend, TJ, sent this to me as an encouragement as she knew I had been processing some of this.  Her blog is GREAT- easy, quick reads packed with practical wisdom.  One more resource on this subject-- Focus on the Family just aired these 2 broadcasts-- check them out.}


Becky said...

Yes. Amen. and Thank you! I thought this tidal wave would come on more gradually, but I feel consumed as in a tsunami. Some days I feel like the water is receding, and other days I feel like I may drown- tossed by the waves and not able to get my bearings. When do I swim, when do I tread water and when do I just let the wave carry me a bit and rest? And then we have those glorious days when the sun breaks through, we laugh and talk and connect and I begin to think that we will survive. Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone, it's not just boys, and that we are in this together.

Sarah said...

Of all the things to eat, bananas wouldn't be my choice… I'm thinking more along the lines of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream! We are all in this together… for that I'm very glad :)