{the space in between}

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to parent a teenager. I don’t know how to move from helicopter mom to teaching my daughter how to fly. I don’t know how to navigate this space in between child and adult.

Those were the words left on my computer screen after I got the call from my husband that I needed to take Zach to football practice, and the message from our carpool that I also needed to pick Tali up from cheer. I have been thinking and praying about this topic for weeks, how to write about this place I find myself in with my daughter… this space in between. As I sat down to write yesterday morning, those were the only words I had. I don’t know how to navigate this. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to transition this relationship in a healthy way.

I typed them, and then went about my day, praying for a way to articulate all of the wrestling in my spirit. Parenting is hard. But now I'm seeing that parenting a teen is it's own special variety of hard. I'm not good at relinquishing control. I'm not good at watching people I love make less than ideal decisions. As I closed down programs in my computer before climbing in my big, silver taxi and hitting the road [again], they flashed across the screen at me.

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to parent with space. I don’t know how to give Tali the room she needs to stretch and grow and fall down and pick herself back up. Especially when I see so much of myself in her.  When I see the me that had everything in front of her and made such poor choices. When I see the me that is afraid to invest emotionally. When I see the me that can’t open up to people.  And I want to tell her the easy path. I want to pour into her the lessons I have learned and have her “get it”- ALL. Without the harsh learning curve I had.

When they are little, when we see them running faster than their little legs are equipped to keep up with we can stop them. We can yell ahead “Don’t run!!! You’ll skin your knees!!! Slow down!” We can keep them from so much hurt. But even when they are little… sometimes they still run. Sometimes the warning comes too late. Sometimes the knees still get skinned.

And here I am with this teenager… and I want to yell “DON’T RUN! Slow down!”… but the truth is, there are going to be bruises and wounds along this path.  And not only can I not keep her from all of them, but it wouldn’t be in her best interest if I did.

Sometimes we learn our best lessons from the skinned knees.

Sometimes that is the only way we figure out how fast our feet can carry us without toppling over.

The thing is, when it’s a six year old’s knee, we can kiss it and put a Band-Aid on it, and offer up a popsicle (because they make EVERYTHING better)… but when it’s a heart. Oh, it’s so much more difficult. And the mama bear desire to protect and guard is strong

And that’s where I found myself standing in the shower, tears running down my face asking God… how far do I let her go? How closely do I guard?  Oh Lord, what decisions do I let her make, and which ones do I make the call?

And He answered… how far will I let you go, Becky?

And I know, He will let me go as far as necessary to learn to lean. He will guide and direct and steer with the power of His Holy Spirit, but in the end, the choice is mine. The path is laid out before me, His way and Mine… and I get to choose.

And so it is in this space in between with my teen… I can guide and direct, I can lay out the options and explain the consequences… but in the end she will decide. She will choose to be home by curfew or not. She will choose the way of honesty or not. She will save sacred spaces in her life or not. 

I recall my mom warning me when Tali was two years old and throwing a temper tantrum… “what seems cute and harmless at two isn’t so cute and harmless at thirteen, you are setting the stage now”.  She was so right. Oh, moms of littles, imagine that temper tantrum or talking back or ignoring the rules on a teenager and use that as a gauge as to how seriously you will take it now.  How far will you let them go, now? Because when they are teens those are the tools they will have in their tool belt to make their own decisions.  Be mindful of the pace you set for them now, because tomorrow, they will need to know how fast they can run.

My job as a parent is far from over, but it is definitely changing. My littles are now 11 and 13, and just aren’t so little anymore. It’s a season of transition and I don’t know exactly what it is supposed to look like or how to know if we are doing it well. I look back and hope and pray that we have laid a firm foundation. I pray that we have the courage to let our children fly, even when the nest seems so safe. In the end,  it's not even about her heeding my advice. But learning to hear the Father's voice. Following His call on her life. Letting Him pick her up when she stumbles.

I know that I can warn (and I will), I can call out “don’t run!”… but in the end, these years are about Tali learning how to set the pace. Learning how fast she can run without toppling over. Learning who she is and setting her sights on who she wants to be.  Learning how to navigate disappointment and words that hurt and relationships that are complicated and friends who aren’t.

And maybe, the best thing I can do is be there with a hug and a popsicle when the knees get skinned a little.   

But it’s hard. It’s hard to bite my tongue when I want to offer advice. It’s hard to navigate a space where words are easier spoken via text message than face to face and to know if that’s okay. It’s hard to see so much of me.  It’s hard not to guard and protect against every hurt.  It’s hard not to micromanage. It’s hard to honor the space she needs to grow.

And so that is where I was yesterday, as I typed those words on my computer screen.

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to navigate this thing. I don’t know how to parent a teenager because I’ve never done it before… and it’s too important to mess up. I feel inadequate and overprotective and scared and excited and sad all at the same time. This space in between… it’s hard.

Those words… I don’t know how to do this… danced in my head as we pulled out of the high school parking lot and the tears began to trickle down Tali’s cheeks. She poured out her hurt and her frustration and her disappointment, and I thanked God that she trusts me with these things, and asked Him to please help me have words that would encourage and build up and teach and challenge…

We talked. I told her that it did suck. I told her that it was okay to be upset and frustrated. I told her it was not okay to give up. I told her to remember she is good enough, and not to let anything change her smile.

And that’s when I opened the envelope with six one dollar bills in it. Money that someone had just given me unexpectedly. Money that I didn’t even realize I was “owed”.

Looking at the money I had a crazy idea…

“Steve and Kinzi are behind us… what do you think they would do if we threw this money at them?”

“What?!” Tali asked… and a smile began to spread across her face… “we could throw it out the sunroof!!”… so I gave her three dollars (because really, throwing money out the window IS crazy, and Dave Ramsey would NOT approve, and so we were only gonna toss half of it because apparently that makes it –OK–). And one at a time she tossed them out the sun roof.
Tali's Facebook Status last night. #worthit

Turns out, money is quite dramatic flying out a sunroof at 60mph.  

And it was hilarious.

We watched the shock on our friends’ faces as the money flew back toward them….

And we laughed til the tears changed.

Her friend called her, and we giggled even harder. She also threw one more dollar out just for good measure.

It wasn’t a Popsicle. It wasn’t a Band-Aid. But it was the best $4 I have ever spent.

When I got home, I opened my computer and I saw those words again…

I don’t know how to do this.

And the truth is, I don't. But in that moment I heard my Father speak loud and clear... but I do

Father, help us lean on you as we parent. Help us lean on you as we navigate new seasons. Help us lean on you to guide and direct our yes's and our no's. Be the Light to this path, Jesus. In Your Name we pray, AMEN.