Without going into what could be embarrassing detail, my eldest son Wyatt had a tough experience yesterday. It involved a bit of public humiliation, but in the end became a lesson for both he and I, and a bonding moment that neither one of us will soon forget.
I was touched at Wyatt’s trouble, and it immediately took me back to the days when I was 13. It is a tough age. Any parent who has taken their children into young adulthood and past the early teens knows exactly what I am talking about. You see, Wyatt just turned 13. At 13, you are not a ‘boy’ any more, and you are not an ‘adult’. I made Wyatt a promise that at 13, I would do my best to make sure that I no longer referred to him as a boy, but instead a young man. In part because at this age it is earned. But also because it is a psychological encouragement to be reminded that you are growing up, and that teenagers are expected to reach higher in themselves and strive for that adulthood that they still can’t quite reach.
Like the man whom God told to push against a giant rock. The man pushed and pushed and pushed, but the rock never budged. It was a HUGE rock, and there was no way that he could ever move it. Finally after hours of frustration the man called out to God, “Father, I’ll never be able to move this rock. It is too big, and I am not strong enough. Why would you punish me with a task that I can never accomplish? It does not seem fair, and it is humiliating.” God answered the man by saying, “Son, I love you very much. But I never asked you to move the rock, just push on it.” In the same way our youth in those pivotal young teen years are being asked to push a giant rock by their parents and society. We need as loving parents to be there for them to assure them that all they have been asked to do it to push, not move. Does this mean we do not require them to push? Absolutely not. We encourage them top push with all their might. Push until they cannot push anymore, and to work hard towards whatever it is that they have been asked to do. But we love them, support them, and even help them push from time to time.
Wyatt and I cried together yesterday. It was a good cry. I assured him that these ‘Tweener’ years are hard years. At this age, even though they know they do not belong at the kids table at Thanksgiving dinner anymore, they still know we are not quite ready for the adult table, yet they crave it so much. I hugged that young man remembering exactly what it was like to be 13, and my tears were genuine ones. I made sure he know I understood…
…and that I was there to help him push.
In the end, I was reminded of a great way to explain this to our young adults as they go through the ‘Tweener’ years. I cannot take credit for this wisdom, as it was given to me by my loving wife, Sonja. At this age, we need to encourage these young adults. Even though this is a hard age, it is a special one. As a ‘Tweener’, they get to choose at any given moment whether they want to act like a child (laughing and playing with their siblings, enjoying “younger aged” toys and activities, and even enjoying a bit of naïve foolishness along the way. Or they may choose to take the adult path. Instead choosing to spend time with the adults talking sports, politics or religion. Either way, it is a learning process; i.e When it is OK to act like a child, and how to act like an adult when the time is appropriate? What a joy to have that choice. What a precious age this is for them, and how much more we should enjoy it and support them in love while they learn, rather than shake our heards in disapointment.
Wouldn’t it be nice as parents that we might be able to, at the drop of a hat just act a fool for the fun of it? We do, but just like ‘tweeners’ there are apprpriate times, and inappropriate times aren’t there? Maybe it is us adults that have something to learn from the ‘Tweeners’? Perhaps this learning process is for young adult and old adult as well?
May God bless our ‘Tweeners’, and always have us adults ready with love and compassion.