By Becky Shultz
Curriculum Developer, FamiliesAlive
Homeschooling mom of 6
A Crazy Question
There we were…sitting at Chipotle with two other families after a U14 soccer game. Ben (our 16-yr-old son) was missing his partner in crime, Big Brother Aaron (18), who was serving on a mission trip out of the country. He had just been given his burrito, and was coming toward us. I saw the look on Ben’s face when he realized he had a choice to make. Sit with the littles (three 13-yr-olds, two 11-yr-olds) or sit with the (wait for it) parents. My friends and I invited him to sit with us. Seeing as how we’re all pretty cool, Ben’s choice was a no-brainer. 😉
Talk was light for a while. Laughter, banter, fun. My son is rather engaging, so his participation at the adult table was enjoyable.
I don’t remember exactly how it went down, but I know that the conversation got real real, real quick. One of the dads, who happens to be a good friend to our whole family, looked straight into Ben’s eyes and said, “Give us some advice on parenting teens!”
My boy was like Whaaaaa????
“Just tell us what your parents do well and what they don’t do well.”
At this point, Mama was like WHO INVITED THIS KID TO THE ADULT TABLE??????
Ben started. “Well…”
Oh, boy! Here it comes…
I was sure he was going to begin with the bad stuff. And, believe me, there is plenty of bad stuff. Not only that, but this dad just asked what my teenage son thinks…about what we don’t do well. Are you hearing this? There are things I know we do well that fall into the category my teens think we DON’T do well. What was my friend thinking asking this question?
But, in all seriousness, if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that parents need to be real with each other. And I don’t mean venting on social media about our kids’ (or spouses’, or parents’, or friends’, or neighbors’) mistakes. If my kids, my husband, my parents, my friends, my neighbors all shared on social media every time I screwed up? Well, you get the point.
So, I loved that my friend was questioning my teen. I figured I wouldn’t like his answer, but I wanted to hear it and I wanted my fellow teen-raising parent-friends to hear it, as well. Of course, my eyeballs were fully loaded and ready to roll at Ben’s answer (after all, eye-rolling is an art form many of us master during our teen years).
A Surprising Answer
Now, back to Ben. His answer was simple, yet powerful. Encouraging. He may have had other answers, but this one answer sparked incredible conversation, and I just knew that I had to share it with you parents!
“Well, the things that have become the best memories were things we did as a family that my parents forced me to do.“
Ben went on to talk about our family game nights, our times playing at the park, family disc golf, fall colors’ drives, our family trips, field trips, and even our homeschool trips to other states. He recounted so many times that he didn’t want to participate, but how those times are the exact memories that he treasures. He remembers having FUN, even as I remember that he really didn’t act like it.
My eyes did NOT roll at my boy’s answer, but my jaw certainly dropped. And I know I shed a tear or two, even though Mama’s tears elicit eye-rolls from most of my kids most of the time.
Ben’s answer was music to my ears. You guys, we had to make this boy play games at the park with us — kickball, soccer, ball tag, football, relay races. Ben just wanted to sit in the dirt and sulk, or ignore the rest of us and play on the tire swing all by himself (we actually made a deal with him early on — he could sit and sulk, he could play by himself for a little while. Then he had to come join the rest of us in family fun). We had to make him get in the car to drive to some of our favorite disc golf courses. My husband and I had to put our joint foot down and say, “We know you don’t really want to drive through the mountains today looking at the fall colors, but this is what we’re doing.”
Ben wasn’t the only one. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve said things like…
Our family does not revolve around you.
This is who we are, this is what we do.
You WILL participate.
I bet you’ll actually enjoy our time today.
WE ARE THAT FAMILY! (Thank you to whomever coined that phrase!)
Do these sound familiar to you?
If so, my encouragement to you is, it’s okay! Be that family! You may not have a teenage son who’s already realizing the beauty of being forced by his parents to enjoy and participate in family activities (Lord knows it’s taken some of my other big kids longer to realize, and will likely take my last littles longer, too), but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of these times together become lasting memories, times that are treasured.
Therefore, parents, you have permission. Permission to make your children do things that they don’t want to do, to force them into family fun. And who knows? One day, they may even thank you for it!