It has been a long time since my kids were teenagers. It has been so long that we now have six grandchildren that are experiencing that strange and wonderful period of life. As I look back on those years in raising our own children and now share some of their challenges from afar, I realize human nature hasn’t changed. Being a teen is a scary period we all have traveled. It calls for a mixture of security and freedom. It is an odd combination and I guess that’s why it has and always will be a strange and wonderful time of life.
I often hear from mothers who are forging through this cataclysmic stage in which their once perfect child suddenly is transformed overnight into the perfect slob. They are no longer helping a precious little one to pick up toys or sort through stuffed animals but rather repeating that tired mantra of “hang up your clothes, clean your room, put things back where you found them”. Those of us who have experienced this sudden change and we ask ourselves “where did we go wrong?”
As someone who loves her home, I have come to learn the meaning of a real home. It is not about having all the things in all the right places all the time but it is about an environment that serves those we love. Let me explain: I was a normal teenager who went through that normal slob period of being independent with my own bedroom and my own things. There were days when the bed wasn’t made and most days when the top of the dresser was nowhere to be seen. I had a dear mother who believed what I have come to believe about the environment of the home being grounded in the service of love. More often than not when I left the bed unmade it was made when I came home. Now I know what you are thinking; my mother was a neat freak. The truth of the matter is: she wasn’t. My bedroom was down the hall from hers and days could have passed before she would have seen my mess or known my bed was unmade. What she did for me was pure love and I knew it. She didn’t touch my personal belongings or my messy dresser but she wanted me to climb into a comfortable bed every night. She never argued with me, she just loved me during this transitional period in my life.
These years can be wonderful for parents as well as teens if we allow them to be. Most of us are looking for ways to get closer to our kids, to spend quality time with them. Sharing some of the care they should be responsible for may be one answer. It is certainly true that we can’t continue to hold their hands throughout these years but helping them to clear out some of their clutter they have built up with a little music and conversation may be that secret catalyst you have been looking for.
We all know how necessary it is to help our little one put their toys away. It is overwhelming for them to try to do it all alone particularly if it is a real mess. Teenagers may be actually experiencing some of the same sense of being overwhelmed. Clutter and mess can cause confusion. We all function better in an orderly environment. We all want to come into a room where there is a semblance of beauty. It is human nature even if our children don’t fully grasp it yet. With all the outside forces and new responsibilities that teens are facing, they probably need such a haven more than ever. Take it from me, you likely will never hear how much they appreciate your help until they find themselves years later facing the same challenges with their own kids; but that is OK.
With your support, more often than not, you will spark an inner motivation in your teen that will materialize in ways that will someday make you proud. We are all familiar with the phrase “what comes around goes around” and when it comes to the care of the home I have seen it lived out more than once. When there is a sense of sharing the care through an understanding of where a person is at given moment in their life the ultimate results are quite amazing. I witnessed a niece who was a textbook slob as a teenager and her mother who was patient and at the same time delicately demanding. Today my dear niece has been transformed into a beautiful homemaker and mother. That spark of motivation may take years to fully ignite but an environment that serves those you love will be the insurance that supplies your peace while you and your teen travel this strange and wonderful time together.