This summer, when we explored Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, we accidentally hiked 11 miles in one day.
It was amazing.
Rushing water danced down steep slopes, deer bounded between the brush, and the world’s biggest trees towered above us with authority and beauty. We had no strollers, baby Bjorn, or tired little legs. Instead, we explored with three boys who loved the adventure and couldn’t wait to find what breathtaking waterfall/overlook/tree the next hiking path held. Our sons kept the energy upbeat, so we kept going….for 11 miles.
Later that night, as I collapsed (literally) into our hotel bed, my heart beamed. I thought: Today was spectacular. These boys made this experience ten times better. Omgosh I love parenting tweens and teens.
Before I go on, let me clarify one thing: I don’t live in some elusive land of sunshine and roses. Of course, raising older kids presents unique challenges. We all know that every chapter in life holds beat-your-head-against-the-wall moments. But I’ve found that in raising teens, the good vastly outweighs the bad. Parenting tweens and teens can be a fantastic season of your life. Here’s why…
Let’s just start right out of the gate here with a selfish thought: parenting older kids gifts moms with more me-time. We are raising our kids to be independent, which means, it’s good for them to hang out with friends, work hard at practice, spend time studying, work that job…etc. This important growing process gifts moms with more time. Beautiful, beautiful time So we can use it how we want – guilt-free!
Watching kids discover who they are, unearth their gifts, and learn how to use their talents – there’s nothing like it.
I’ve witnessed a parent bounce shamelessly like a 48-year-old cheerleader when her son broke away and scored that goal. (He’d finally gained the confidence to move!) And a mom-friend who posts a thousand dance pictures. (Her daughter overcame huge health issues to make it onto that stage!)
Then sometimes I become the cheerleading mom or picture-posting-over-sharer because it’s addicting to witness our kids discover who they are and learn what they can do. The teaching and learning that accompanies raising older kids is very special.
Sometimes all the stars align just right and your kid ends up loving the same things you do.
My middle son plays guitar with his dad. He also jogs with me. Our oldest son and I discuss the interesting ways a story unravels in books and movies. Then my husband and he watch hours of basketball. Our youngest loves fishing with his grandpa, sitting on the lake beach with me, and letting his dad coach him in soccer.
Your kids deciding they love your hobbies too is one of life’s sweetest gifts.
That kid who munched on dog food when he was a toddler now actually has interesting things to say. It’s weird. Am I living in a parallel universe? Did my son just have an actual good opinion about politics? Did my other child say something wise about faith? Who are these little adults and what’d they do with my tweens and teens?
Go ahead, momma, and pat yourself on the back. You made these human beings and you’re teaching them to mature in this awesome way. Dinner time just became fun.
We used to watch Little Einstein and now we watch the Avengers movies. (Multiple times and then discuss how they all connect.) And with that example, I think I’ve swiftly made my point. The older the kids get, the more fun it is for adults. So, plan that family activity – it’s no longer just for the kids, you will enjoy it too!
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I asked my empty-nester friend what her favorite life chapters have been and she said, “I loved the years when my kids were older but still in my home.”
I get you, dear friend – there’s something sacred about raising teens and tween. Our kids are old enough to enjoy them more, but they’re still young enough to live with you. Your home might be messy and imperfect, but it’s full of life and love and joy.
In my twenty years of teaching diverse students in a large public high school, I can say this with authority: all teens crave positive attention from their parents. (Or loved ones.)
Don’t buy their apathy and attitude. Tweens and teens want your encouraging words, hugs and quality time. They need you in their lives. You make them happier, healthy, more well-adjusted human beings.
So when those moments come and they ask you for a Starbucks date, just take them. Pay the $35.99 for two cups of the campfire mocha special and one scone. Then wrap your arm around your teen as you walk back to the car. They’ll soak it in and remember forever that they grew up loved.
What about you? If you are past this season, what did you love best about raising tweens and teens? If you are in the parenting tweens/teens chapter, what are you enjoying right now? Leave your thoughts in the comments (or email me); I can’t wait to read them.
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Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.