So its been a while since I’ve been a teenager. I was a teenager in the boring decade of the 90’s. Long before Text Messaging, Facebook, YouTube, Ipods and really cool video games (I grew up with Mario brothers and Contra on the original Nintendo) . While lots of things have changed around the teenage world since then, there are somethings that just won’t change. One of those things is how important it is for parents to be involved in the lives of their teenagers.
Here is a look back at 3 things that were really annoying to me as a teenager that I now look back and am thankful for. I guess at the time my parents were more concerned with being a good mom and dad, than in winning my one vote popularity contest. I thought they were clueless… It turns out they had way more common sense than I thought.
1. They Insisted on Regular Weekly Family Time.
As a teenager I often had “more important” places to be or things to do. It usually involved hanging out with my friends or talking on the phone to the girl I really liked (again, this was before texting and facebook). My parents didn’t mind these activities, but they set some pretty stiff boundaries around our family time that often conflicted with my desires. I can still remember to this day my dad telling me I had 5 minutes to get off the phone or I had to be back by 7 because of family time. Our family time most often existed of sharing prayer concerns, reading scripture, and praying… At the time I thought it was boring. I now look back at this time as the center (the one place we could all come back to) that kept our family together during some rough times.
2. They Set a Reasonable Hour for Curfew.
My parents would ask about what I was up to. At the time I just thought they were being a little overbearing and didn’t really have a life of their own so they had to make mine difficult. I now realize they just really cared and wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing something stupid. I would tell them about the activity… A movie, ball game, etc. and they would tell me a reasonable time to be home. Sometimes my curfew was midnight, sometimes it was 7PM. It mattered to them where I was and what I was doing. I could call and renegotiate if plans changed and you got invited to someones house or wanted to stop by McDonalds with your friends (back then you had to use a pay phone or someone’s home phone).
I remember one night I stayed out hours after curfew because I was explaining to a friend about how to become a Christian. I thought for sure my dad would be overjoyed and understand the “rule breaking.” But when I got home. He was awake and waiting on me. I shared with him what happened and he was genuinely happy. Then he told me I was grounded because I could have called. At the time I thought he was a jerk. Now I realize that he expected me to be responsible. He expected more out of me than I was expecting out of myself.
3. They Stated the Obvious.
When I was 18 years old and about to head off for college I made my parents sweat by dating a girl that already had a daughter. My mom sat me down and shared the obvious. Jon, “She has a kid.” (I told her that was a little obvious). Then she said, “God may call you to marry someone who already has children one day, but do you really think you are ready to be a father?” She was looking beyond my interest to the interest of the young woman and said, “She is no longer looking out for just herself. She is looking for someone to be a father to her daughter and fill a role her life. You were just telling me about going to college in another state. You are going down two different paths. You won’t be able to go to college and stay connected with this family. You don’t need to lead her on.”
I guess I knew all that, but it took my mom stating the obvious as she had done so many times before. And it wasn’t just over making bad decisions like investing 2 weeks of my life in a relationship that wasn’t meant to be. I remember my parents telling me I did the right thing and affirming me over and over through my teen years. Their stating of the obvious facts in an authentically loving way made all the difference in the world. Sometimes I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, but part of me knew they were wiser than I gave them credit for.
I am thankful to God for good parents who stood on some unpopular issues when I was a teenager. My response wasn’t always joyful, but I knew deep down that my parents cared about me. I look back now at the boundaries that my parents set up around me. I pressed against them quite a few times, but mostly to know that they were there. During the times when life was chaotic and stressful in our family the boundaries were one way that I knew I was loved.