(Update: This was written several years ago; I now have only one teenager left. And yes, the following is truer than ever.)
This spring I will have all teenagers for the first time. Four girls. Mine is the world of messy buns and pink Frappuccinos on Snapchat. And I can tell you this is the happiest and easiest season of parenting for me (don’t stop reading!).
But behind those four picture-perfect smiles are years of trial and error, of course. My parenting road is stained with all kinds of tears–tears of laughter, tears of joy, tears of exhaustion and tears of frustration.
And yes, tears of grief. There was that painful moment that “only happens in other families,” that “bump in the road” that landed me on my face with my nose in the dirt, realizing that I can never, will never judge another mother or father. That particular failure of mine is too painful to speak of for years to come.
Thankfully and by God’s sheer grace, it is in the past. Today I have four daughters who love God, love people, and enjoy hanging out with their parents on a Friday night. I am humbled and grateful. All I have to give is glory to God, and parenting advice “from hell.”
This humble admonition comes from one who stared “what could have been” in the face, and heard the rattle of death’s gates. I am at your feet, begging you to hear my words–the words your child is silently screaming for you to hear.
Listen to Wisdom. Wisdom stands at the finish line of your parenting journey, cheering you on. Wisdom promises you rewarding teenage years if you do this right, right now.
But you have to be willing to listen to her. Listen to Wisdom. Listen to all kinds of wise people; listen to those who don’t know you, for they see the bigger picture. And listen to those who know you well, for they see the hidden, broken places that no one else can see.
Most people don’t listen to Wisdom, because she isn’t like the other voices. Wisdom doesn’t always have letters behind her name. She isn’t necessarily the licensed professional filling your head with book knowledge that may not even apply to your child. She doesn’t come with formulas or band-aids. Knowledge is good, but misapplied knowledge is deadly. Wisdom and knowledge are two different things.
Knowledge is words and books and prescribed philosophies. Wisdom is a voice calling you to sit and listen to experience. Wisdom says, learn from me. Learn from my successes, and learn from my mistakes.
Wisdom isn’t always found in a library, doctor’s office or therapist’s chair. Wisdom is found in mothers and fathers who have raised really great people and lived to tell about it.
For the love of God and your children, I am begging you as one who peered into the pit that almost swallowed my child, seek Wisdom. And when you find her, when you find that Mom or Dad of whole and happy kids, grab them and don’t let them go until they tell you everything they know.
Make them tell you the painful things, the hard and honest things. The things they are proud of, and the things they are ashamed of. Make them tell you the unpopular things, the old-fashioned things. The things you don’t agree with.
Make them tell you the things you don’t want to hear. Because chances are, those are the only things that will save your child’s life.
“Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares…. How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.” Proverbs 1:20, 22