Some years ago, while taking a ride from a fellow course mate, we had a conversation about parenting. He told me to prepare myself for the tumultuous teenage years to come. At that time, he was a youth leader in church and was actively involved in mentoring the youths. I told him, “It’s still a long while away since my oldest is only in P4.”
That was five years ago. And I remember him telling me, “You can never prepare adequately enough for it. Despite what some may tell you that you will ease into it eventually, nothing will quite prepare you for it.” What he said went straight into the back burner of my mind. I wasn’t prepared to face it. Yet. I was silently convincing myself that perhaps a little reading will suffice in my preparation when the time comes.
Well, I looked out for signs when my oldest hit 12.
Everything was quiet and silent. She hit 13 and then 14. Still quiet and silent. Well of course there were the usual challenging circumstances but it was not anything particularly challenging. Till she turned 15.
What a horrific time it was.
When she went on to Secondary 3, there was an obvious change in her attitude, demeanor and countenance. She was my daughter, and yet not my daughter at the same time. Outwardly she looked the same. Yet the attitude and countenance she exuded was nothing like the daughter I raised for 15 years. Our peaceful home saw constant quarrels, relentless tests of wills and testy conversations. It was, in short, a very nasty period. The teachers at her school called me regularly and told me that the friends she surrounded herself with had considerable influence over her. That was obvious as she spoke about them often and hung out with them frequently after school. Her grades suffered. After the mid year results were out, I was summoned to school. It is never a good thing to be summoned to school. So we went with bated breath.
Sitting across from us was her form teacher and across from the form teacher was my daughter. She looked the same and yet she wasn’t the same. Her body language screamed defiance and it was clear that she wanted to be anywhere but there across from us. Teacher after teacher spoke of a sweet girl who had been overtaken by her friends and influenced by them. I was at a loss for words. That night, when I went home, I closed my room door, knelt on the floor, closed my eyes and prayed with desperation, “Father, look at the child You’ve given us. This is not the plan for her. This is certainly not what You have in mind for her. As much as I hurt, I know You hurt deeper. As much as I am crying now, I know You are crying too. I don’t know what to do but I know that You do and You will fix this situation. I turn her over to You because she is Your daughter and You love her too much for her to be this way.” Even after the prayer, at the back of my mind, I was worried. The school holidays were coming and I really didn’t know what to do with her.
Lo and behold, God had other plans in store. All of the friends she was close to had holiday plans and were not around for the holidays. We had a family trip of our own and we used it to spend a lot of time together bonding with one another. My husband and I took whatever time we could to just talk to her. Thankfully, when school reopened, she hung out with a different group of friends.
I honestly thought this would have been a long-drawn period of time filled with testy teenage angst. I am honestly hoping this is the end of it. But what truly overwhelmed me was the speed at which things turned out after I turned her over to God. He had not forsaken my cries for help.
I am not the best parent but I strive to be the best I can. There were a few lessons I learned from this episode:
1. It takes a village to raise a child
That saying isn’t truer. I thought it was more difficult when the child is younger, but it doesn’t get any easier with grown children. During this wilderness period, I called on my daughter’s connect group leader for help. I called on her teachers for help. I spoke to her therapist and even got both grandmas to reach out to her. Every little bit helps, especially those who are closest to your child.
2. Call on the name of God
On days when it was so tough, all I could literally do was to call on the name of God. Some days I was coherent, other days I wasn’t. On days when I wasn’t, I just prayed in tongues. On days when I felt major spiritual warfare at work, I took the anointing oil and consecrated the whole house unto God.
3. Releasing your children to the covering and protection of God
I prayed over my children when they were asleep and anointed them with oil. I prayed that their hearts and minds will always be filled with the mind of Christ. And whenever they left the house for school or activities, I would always tell God, “Father, You are on duty now. I release them into Your care.”
4. Talking to others
Don’t be afraid to talk to others about the situation you face at home. Most times, you will encounter people who are more than happy to advise you in any way. It was good to glean the different perspectives from parents who had gone through that phase before and it helped me strategize my approach with my daughter. While I have had some tell me not to parent too much, I felt in my spirit that it is my duty to parent her because she is still young and impressionable. I don’t think any child is ever too old to parent. I still need my own parents’ advise every now and then.
5. Teenagers need boundaries
Even though they are growing into the teenage years where they wish to have more freedom, they still need to be bound by rules and regulations, within reason and within limit of course. We set clear rules on when outings are allowed after school and when it is not. And they function well when these rules and boundaries are consistently administered.
The parenting journey is never smooth, but we can always rely on the wisdom of God and the Holy Spirit to guide us along this journey. Don’t give up especially when the journey is tough.
God’s timing is always perfect. He is neither late nor early. And He is always faithful. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.
“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” ~ Proverbs 13:24