20 February 2012
and then there were five
I remember the moment exactly, as my friend and I stared at the newborn twins, three other toddlers and preschoolers passing in and out, around and through. And even though the presence of five little ones seemed pretty darn intimidating, the idea of five teenagers was even more so. But at that moment, five teens seemed like a Very Long Time Away. And then, go figure, 13 years pass by, and sure enough, we have a house full of teenagers- five of them, ages 18, 16, 15, 13 and 13; four girls and one boy.
Those pre-five year old years... they were physically exhausting. Only a mom knows how tired a body can be during those years. To compound it, during the majority of those years my husband, their dad, was out to sea on a submarine. Grace sustained us. God gifted us in placing families nearby to love on me and my kids. Our church family gave to us generously. They brought me meals unexpectedly, shared themselves liberally and prayed for us fervently. To this day, my heart is tender for those years, though you couldn't pay me a million dollars to do it again.
But these years, the teen years... they are a different kind of exhausting. It's realizing that time is short; knowing that soon and very soon these people will be On Their Own and asking do they know Everything That They Will Need? It's riding out the daily roller coaster of hormones and emotions, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows following one steep climb and descent after another. It's constantly evaluating how to balance the scales of justice and mercy. Some say it's choosing what battles to fight, but I think parenting teens is often more like walking across a field knowing that it is filled with landmines. You never quite know what will trigger an explosion.
I recently met a young woman, the mother of one sweet little toddling girl, and she seemed to know all the answers. She answered questions with assurance and offered advice unhesitatingly. I probably did that too, but I'm not nearly as confident at this point in the journey. Five kids teach you that sleeping through the night- that's a myth. Effective discipline strategies for one kid mean absolutely nothing to another. One gets a stomach ache when she drinks milk, while another drinks it by the gallon. The only one-size-fits-all instruction is also a promise- train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
I remember when I worried over babies who cried in the nursery and bit other toddlers (inevitably a best buddy, the child of your best friend...) and I figured that at least one would probably not be potty trained before the 10th birthday arrived. If only that were where the worries of parenthood would end. Now there are the struggles of the internet and relationships and letting a driver out on the expressway and college choices and...
When there were five under five, we'd pray a blessing over them every night. Now I pray constantly, seemingly randomly throughout the day, daybreak to sunset. I know some parents hope to get through the teen years with a kid that hasn't dropped out of high school and isn't a teen parent and hasn't been arrested. I do too. But I know families that have survived these "worst case scenarios" and more. I'm not stopping there. Against the way of the world, I am praying expectantly and hopefully that these covenant children know and love and serve God and others with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, that they know and live grace, now and for a lifetime
No, we are not finished yet. But I see and hear and watch and learn, and I know that we have been blessed far more abundantly than I ever could have asked or conceived. And that simply takes my breath away.