This photo from awkwardfamilyphotos.com is a work of art. It truly captures the adolescent culture that we have been perpetuating. All it needs is a cell phone somewhere stuck to the overgrown kid. And I emphasize the word we because I am certainly guilty.
I had a clarifying moment the beginning of the last school year. I call it the “pizza revelation.” In the middle of pulling off mom-juggling miracles, I asked my 14-year-old daughter to take a pizza out of the oven. Immediately she began complaining about how she was going to burn herself or drop the blessed Pampered Chef pizza stone. In complete disbelief, I told her to just take the dang pizza out of the oven already. In the middle of our bickering she replies, “Never mind, Katie’s got it!” Katie’s parents are divorced and she is a much more independent kid. This is the moment I realized that my happy-housewife-loving was crippling my children.
My husband and I have made some changes since then, but we are still struggling with the line between enabling our kids to enjoy their childhood, and preparing them to be responsible adults. Because really, we don’t want to raise permanent adolescents. I am embarrassed to say that just this week I ran my daughter back and forth to the high school for volleyball “camp” 15 times (and made special breakfasts and lunches for her each day), Matt has taken our middle daughter to softball all-stars practice every night for three hours (and helped coach), I’ve taken my son to MMA lessons twice, and my Matt is going camping with him for MMA this weekend. In between all that, I am trying to keep some kind of healthy dinnertime schedule, and there is the whole social life to manage for teenage girls. Everyday Matt and I have a barrage of decisions to make about what we are going to facilitate and allow our girls to do with their friends.
There’s also a whole can of drama that permeates a teenager’s social life. Matt and I can’t believe some of the issues that we are already talking to our children about. These are great opportunities for maturing, both for us parents and our children. In this case, Matt and I are tempted to be the ones with our eyes closed. We are also tempted to blindfold our teenagers and carry them through all these messes unscathed. This stage of parenting is so difficult. As our children grow and participate in the world, considerable measures of their innocence and naivety must shed. And that is much more painful for the parents than the kids, I think. I have been thinking a lot about God’s purposes in sanctifying us in the world (but not of it), and not in some Christian, separatist bubble.
And of course there is our church life as well. This week is pretty tame in that area with a youth group and a men’s group meeting, both on Sunday. Which brings me to family devotions. This awkward family photo illustrates another way I can over-coddle. My kids are too old to spoon-feed them their devotional time as well. So we are mixing things up a bit. I bought them each a summer journal, and we are all doing the same Scripture readings, but the kids have to do some of the lifting on their own. Instead of Matt and I asking all the questions and perfectly shaping each answer, we have them journaling their answers for us to discuss later. They have to carve some time in the beginning of their day to either read independently or with one another before Matt and I get to them.
Too often the kids don’t grow up because the parents aren’t ready to mature to the next stage. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not ready! But I have to do it anyway. The title of my post is a line from Napoleon Dynamite. When he is complaining to his grandma for not being there to make him dinner, she blurts out, “Knock it off Napoleon! Make yourself a dang quesadilla.” And she pronounces it, Kase-a-dilla. It’s a line we throw around the house all the time. As funny as it is to say, it really is my job to prepare my kids to actually become adults. Maybe I will write it in their high school graduation cards, “Now knock it off and go make yourself a dang quesadilla.”