What I Like About Teens–Most of the Time

Dawn Davenport


Parenting Teens

Teens act like young adults instead of big kids… most of the time.

Last night we had a party for our church youth group at our house. It was not just any party—no, this was the annual parent versus youth “capture the flag” party. Whoever wins has bragging rights for the year. I take these rights very seriously since I’m with the youth every week and much prefer a year of being the gloater rather than the gloatee.

I’ll end the suspense now—the parents won! I won’t say that we dominated since it was a long drawn out battle. And yes, we brought in three ringers for our side (former youth group members now in college). But it was a victory nonetheless. Our secret weapons were the younger siblings who had to play with the parents since they weren’t in middle or high school. We used them to infiltrate behind enemy lines and set our prisoners free.

After the party, Peter and I were relaxing with a bottle of ibuprofen on the front porch. One by one our kids came out to join us. We replayed the game and regaled each other with our daring dashes into enemy territory, every juke (is that even a word?) and fake-out that saved us from certain capture, and the agony of getting caught. Actually, I didn’t have any daring feats to report since I was told at the beginning of the game by my college aged son that my highest and best use was behind the lines—as far behind as possible. We trash talked about what we would do to the opposition next year. The laughing and comparing notes of who did what lasted over an hour, and they would have stayed longer if we hadn’t shooed them to bed since two had exams the next day.

I know most of you are at the very beginning of your parenting journeys and probably dread the teen years. Our society and media focus on the negatives of adolescence giving them an undeserved bad reputation. I’ve been working with youth for over ten years at church, and I am now the mother of teens. So for those of you just starting out and hearing all the horror stories about middle and high schoolers, let me tell you what I like about teens.
• They are fun, often kind, sometimes petty.
• They are more like young adults than old kids.
• Every once in a while they give you a glimpse of the person they will be.
• They are full of righteous indignation rather than unrighteous resignation.
• They can carry on conversations of the “cals” (theological, rhetorical, ethical, political, philosophical)
• They are willing to explore the edges.
• They keep me grounded in the past with memories and in the future with possibilities.
• They make me thankful to be my age and done with all the angst, emotions, zits, and uncertainty that is part of the teen territory.
• I get to vicariously experience life at the beginning again.

Did you ever play that stupid, slightly off-color, fortune cookie game where you added “between the sheets” to the end of all the fortunes? Well, you could play a version of that here, but adding “most of the time” to each of the above list. Teens as a group aren’t all the same, but the same could be said for younger children. I’ve never been one to say “I love kids.” Human beings regardless of the age are not ubiquitous blobs. (Another fun thing about parenting teens is that you get to look for ways to increase their vocabulary by sneaking in what we call “SAT words” like ubiquitous.) I love and like some kids (fortunately, mine included), but some children, like people all along the age spectrum, rub me wrong.

The hard part of parenting teens is fear. Adolescents still need parents but they need us to step out of the way more, and let life teach them. This is scary. I know that they need to make mistakes to learn, but I’m afraid that their mistakes will be too big, too harmful, too life altering. The anecdote to this fear is trust—in them and in myself.

My teens have not been perfect and have made their share of mistakes, some bigger than I would have preferred. But I know that I have to have faith that they know what is right, and they will learn and grow from their missteps. So another thing I like about teens is that they keep me humble and force me to focus on my parenting mantra: Progress Not Perfection.

So for those of you just beginning or dreaming of beginning your parenting journey, take some advice from someone in the midst, up to my waist and sloshing through. Don’t be afraid to jump in; the water’s fine—most of the time.


Image credit: tifotter

10/06/2008 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 5 Comments

5 Responses to What I Like About Teens–Most of the Time

  1. Avatar Ursula says:

    You’re right that most of us at the beginning are dreading our children’s adolescence. I worry that all the adoption issues will come out with a vengance. I feel better knowing that that hasn’t been your experience. Thanks for psoting what we need and want to read.

  2. Just found your blog and am LOVING it …

    Great post!

    Right now, I have just 4 teens (and two 12 year olds). But, a few years ago I had 8 teens living at my house (6 of my own and 2 “extras”). I really have loved my kids’ teen years … and their young adult years. I, too, love to encourage young moms not to fear the teen years.

    I have dealt with infertility (25 years ago was given 2% chance to ever have children … but went on to have 10 bio. kids). Now, we’ve added the adoption equation to our family, as we brought 3 siblings (6, 9, 12) home from Ghana in March.

    Keep writing … it’s GREAT!

    mama of 13
    http://ajourneyoffaith.net (my ministry website)
    http://imghanaadopt.blogspot.com (our family blog)

  3. Avatar Jamie says:

    This is a beautiful reflection on parenting young adults – we likewise work with Jr. Highers at church and although I am terrified to think that my 7 year old will someday actually be a Jr. High kid, I am constantly amazed by their engagement, optimism, and the amazing speed at which they grow and change. Those early teen years are so formative – you’re right, they are truly young adults.

  4. Avatar Dawn says:

    I really do understand where you are coming from. I think a lot of adoption books, and some blogs and websites can scare you needlessly. It’s such a fine line between wanting to educate prospective parents and painting an unrealistically negative picture. The adoption community has swung to the extremes both ways on this. In the past, adoptive parents were told that love would solve all problems, and then they were ill prepared to address some of the possible issues. The research is very clear that prepared parents are better and happier parents. But it does seem that we’ve swung the other way and now focus on the extremes rather than the usual.

    I don’t know whether this will help you, but I think most prospective parents, regardless if they are hoping to adopt or give birth, are scared. I certainly was, especially with my first birth child and my first adoption. For me, change is scary and adding a child to your family is a huge change.

    Most of us don’t have a super easy time or a super hard time with parenting. There are days we question ourselves and days we wonder why we ever had kids. But there are also days—usually many more days—that we know exactly why we did it, and we are immensely glad we did.

    One last point, older child adoption requires a special set of skills and it may be that this route to parenting isn’t right for you, especially with your first child. Of course, I don’t know you or what is best for you, but it is just a thought.

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I just read your post “Teens why I like them – most of the time”. I really liked this post because I have been having boughts of fear lately. Your reassurance and experience were of great comfort to me.

    We haven’t even adopted yet but I do find I have so much fear; Not so much when children are small (although there is a whole other group of fears during that stage), but when they grow. Having had a somewhat rough go of it in junior/high school myself, I feel helpless that I might not be able to protect my children from the bullies or mean spirted kids (or even teachers) who may just enjoy making someone feel bad. I try to take comfort in the fact that I survived those challenges in school, and here I am, 39 years old and fine; But anyone who has access to the news these days knows it is not just a fist fight in the schoolyard but rather guns and violence at such young ages.

    I worry about not being a good parent, about not instilling my children with the confidence and self-esteem to not only have respect for themselves but for others as well, to be able to stand up for themselves and realize what is truly important at that age. How exciting it is, the future they will someday have, and that things that at that age seems so earth shattering will not always feel that way, though I would not want to trivialize their experiences in anyway. But I still get so sad when I remember a time when I was in high school, my 16 year old next door neighbor hung himself over a girlfriend breaking up with him.

    We are most likely going to adopt internationally. I am not naive enough to believe I can “love away” a child’s hurts, but again, there is that helplessly wishing that I could. Some of the blogs I read by parents with adopted older children have had such difficulties, one parent even commenting that she found she didn’t like who she herself was becoming and doesn’t love her adopted child (now 16, acts 10)but hopes there is at least some “mutual respect” as they try to do the “right thing” by her.

    Your comment “The anecdote to this fear is trust—in them and in myself” made me pause and think how right you are. It’s an inside job and the only thing I can “control” is HOW I parent, and can only have faith that I will have done my best by my children.

    Sometimes I get paralyzed and am afraid of idealizing the idea of adoption (I try to be realistic, educate myself and NOT turn it into some fairy tale), yet at the same time, also afraid that I might be too influenced in the negative by the horror stories about teens, older child adoption issues, attachment disorders, etc. Or thinking I do have a realistic grip when I don’t; Or just hope that those bloggers I happen upon are only rare worst case scenarios, that I’m being needlessly scared and plunged into deep doubt.

    So sorry to go on and on. This started as just a comment to your post but I guess a lot more came pouring out. Just wanted to thank you for your post and perhaps just “vent” my fears which come and go but reading this tonight just hit home for me. I am reading a lot, have been for over a year as we prepare to adopt. Your website, blog and book are wonderful resources. Thank you.

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