13 — Four Teens
October 12 marked Benjamin’s 13th birthday and our family’s venture into life
with four teenagers.
I asked Benjamin what it's like to be thirteen. “Normal,” he said in typical
Right. “Normal” in that you are the same person you were yesterday. You
didn’t wake up with a third hand or a sudden need to shave every day. But
“normal”? This day is a milestone, the beginning of a strange and wonderful
epoch . . .
When the children were young, we talked about this day, Melissa and I; we could see that it was coming. “You realize that we’ll have four teenagers in our home someday?” we asked each other. But that day was far away on the other side of mountains of diapers, through valleys of sleepless nights and sickness, and across long, uneventful marches of ordinary child training. “Don’t flip bananas on the walls,” or “If you stand up under the table you’ll bonk your head” (for the twentieth time) or “Bend over . . .” Now the time has come. We have crossed
the threshold to life as we knew it would be.
Knowing something is coming is different than experiencing it when it
I feel like I’ve scarcely passed my own teenage years, and I have to know how
to deal with squabbles and hormones and spreading wings? Just scooping them up in my arms and singing away their troubles and mine doesn’t work anymore. Bandaids don’t resolve hurts of the soul. They want real answers to real problems—at least sometimes. Other times, I think they just want to spar with ol’ Dad, to find out if I really know what I’m talking about, or to discover if I can keep my cool in the heat of their emotions.
It’s not so easy anymore.
Not that we thought it was easy when the children were little. Four four and
under was always a challenge. Like the time the stomach flu hit our little
people and Melissa and I ran from room to room with bowls—until our own stomachs started to turn over. Even then, complicated as life was, keeping little bodies fed and washed and dry and loved was different than teaching young adults who sometimes do know more than their parents—or guiding the energy of four charging horses all going in different directions—or loving folks who aren’t always sure that they love you, and are quite certain that you don’t understand.
Now I get to find out if I really love my children or not. Cuddling my babies,
kissing their tender cheeks, rubbing my lips in their downy hair was good
preparation for this day. Now, when I’d like to spit back to them, “You don’t
understand,” I get to love them anyway. When they do hard things and say tough things, when they pressure or agitate, I get to plumb new depths of grace.
In one sense, we’re growing up together, my children and I.
I guess it is “normal,” this transition from child to adult, from family to
family, from generation to generation. It’s been the way of life from the
beginning of the world. The way through has always been the same: One generation praises God’s works to the generation coming, speaks Jesus to them, shows them the path of God.
So bring on the teenagers! I’m not ready, but God’s grace is sufficient and
His love is enough. Through me, He can love my children to adulthood and lead them to taste His grace for themselves.
And in the process, I'm learning more of how much my Father loves me.
© October 2012 by Robert G. Robbins