A wise and godly man I revere, Ezra Taft Benson, once counseled mothers, “Be at the crossroads… take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going—when they leave and return from school, when they leave and return from dates, when they bring friends home. Be there at the crossroads whether your children are six or sixteen. In Proverbs we read, “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” This quote has been on my mind due to a number of frustrating conversations and events in the past few weeks. It seems we’ve stopped caring about certain family basics in the name of “me time” and “fulfillment” in our society! What has happened to ensuring the care of our minor children? All of them. They are minors until they turn 18! So many moms who seem able to understand that 5 or 6 year-olds need time, attention, and encouragement from mom somehow struggle with the idea that as they grow all those things need to continue! The attention and encouragement you give a 15 year-old is different than that you give a smaller child, but they need them none-the-less! And if you are never home, it isn’t going to happen! It doesn’t really matter if you’re gone due to a blossoming career, or community service, or retail therapy. If you’re not there, you’re not there. (I realize some moms need to work to put food on the table. That decision is between you and He whose children these are. I’m talking about two-incomes for sake of the “fun stuff.”)
I am not advocating helicopter parenting. Children need to experience life, try things, fail sometimes, learn from it, and keep going. I’m talking about being there when help is needed. You simply can’t schedule those times when they will need you to be there for them! The frustrations of a 7 year-old need to be addressed; that reality doesn’t change when they are 17. In some ways, it only becomes more vital that we be there! (The challenges a 17 year-old faces can be much more life-altering than those of a younger child!)
Think of your family as a ripple in a pond. The ripple may be small when your children are young, but it needs to grow as they do. As their circle of friends and number of activities increases, so should the circle we embrace. Having your teen’s friends in your home for game nights, or attending their games or concerts used to be the norm. Why did that change? Teen’s are NOT mini-adults! They have questions, and quandaries, and knowing that their mom (and dad) will be there to listen, advise if necessary, and cheer is soooo important. No job, club, activity, or personal pursuit is worth more than the bonds that can be established when you spend time with your teens as you drive car-pool, make dinner together, help with schoolwork, or talk after a night out with friends. Include those who are important to them in your life. One of the most cherished memories I have of raising my teenagers is the day a friend of one of our boys showed up unannounced and asked to hang out. Home was a bit of a battleground at the moment, and our home was a trusted refuge. We had a wonderful day filled with good food, work, talking, a video, and time to just be still.
If you chose be a parent, be there. Help Your children AND your teens see how important they are. Encourage them in all they do. Laugh with them. Cry together when needed. Set them free when they have been taught, fed, nurtured, and given all they need to be successful as adults. Isn’t that the way you want them to parent your future grandchildren?