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Do We Parents Always Need to Earn an A?

Hello, PATH Parents!

One of my favorite parts about living back in the Midwest is the changing of seasons, particularly the arrival of fall. The cooling of the weather against the backdrop of gorgeous, vibrantly-colored autumn leaves, is truly refreshing. Our family loves to put on cozy sweatshirts and visit a nearby pumpkin patch, with its corn maze, hayrides, fresh apple cider, and delicious (although admittedly unhealthy and quite naughty) warm doughnuts! We’re reminded to savor the last days of the beautiful, tolerably-cool weather before snowflakes begin to fall and we find ourselves shivering as we’re scraping frozen car windshields and trudging our snowboots through gray, January sludge.

I find myself having similar feelings as I consider my last two high-school teenagers, trying to savor this current season of having them in our home (before we find ourselves sending them away to college or watching them leave home for good to make beautiful lives for themselves). In the midst of supporting my teens to make their world happen (school drop-offs, homework sessions, sport practices, work shifts, community service, and special time with friends and family), I also have my own personal pressures to face, including managing the house, meals, and my own work-project deadlines.

Oftentimes when my girls ask me to join them for a spontaneous tea/reading party that they have set up in the living room, candles lit and scones with lemon curd set out, I’m tempted to skip it to catch up on my own “stuff.” But then I think about the times when they will no longer be around to call me over to join in on the girl fun. Suddenly, staying up late after they go to bed is worth the hour of memories we can make together first.

Even when I’m having a tense moment with an upset teen who is resisting my no doubt brilliant wisdom or obviously necessary house rules, I try to remember that this “headache” is just the income tax on the good moments we share once we work through our challenging (and even frustrating) moments together. (Thankfully, my husband reminds me when my memory gets a little fuzzy!)

One of the best things I have learned as a parent is that I do not have to earn an “A” in every area of my life at every moment simultaneously. Sometimes a “C” in laundry one week will still get me where I need to go! Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely value an orderly home, as it provides needed structure and peace which actually facilitate creativity. In his article, Your Clutter is Killing Your Creativity (And What to Do About It), Jeff Goins asserts, “The relationship between clutter and creativity is inverse. The more you have of the former, the less you have of the latter. Mess creates stress. Which is far from an ideal environment for being brilliant” (Source).

Naturally, I want my home to be an environment in which my teens can be brilliant (instead of being the Hollywood set for an episode of American Ninja Warrior as we muster all the athleticism we can in order to navigate through their rooms and living room)! Just as importantly, I am trying to train them to be responsible young adults who value and take care of their own space even when they don’t really feel like it.

I am just saying that we are only one person trying to pull off a lot, so if one week my goals are mostly met with the house, meals, or even projects, I count it a victory! Sometimes you have to call an audible and order pizza! When life feels overwhelming, please pull yourself out of your own situation and consider, How would I relate to another mom, dad, or guardian in my situation? Then be as kind to YOURSELF as you would be to others!

Being the parents of teens can be exhausting, not only because of what is required to pull it off in the moment, but also because of an emotional component in the back of our minds, reminding us that this season with these kids that we’re invested years of our life and heart into, is fleeting. However, if we focus much of our emotional energy on enjoying today, navigating the challenges and joys one day at a time, hopefully, we will be able to let go of our teens at the right time, knowing we truly valued the time we had with them. This can help us live without regrets (and not because we have done everything perfectly, A+ in every area at every single moment but because we were mindful in our conscientious parenting journey, savoring good moments as we went).

I hope this encourages you today, hard-working, amazing parents! Your job is a huge one, but you are the right parent for your teen and you have what it takes to get them where they need to go. May this fall be a great season for you and your incredible teen!

In the parenting trenches with you,
Lisa Raftery