As a youth minister I have long observed parents as they navigate the swirling waters so typical of the teen years. Now that am the father of three teens, I can empathize more completely with the struggles of those having gone through this before me. Having studied teens for sometime, I was aware that there are two major shifts that tend to occur in the teen years. The first occurs early on in adolescence and is the shift from primarily being influenced by parents to the primary influence of friends. I thought that one would be harder than it was. I think primarily due to the fact that my kids all have had a great youth group and friends of faith, that transition was fairly smooth. There were sad days when the kids won't hold your hand in public and don't particularly want you around when they are with their friends but I got through it.
The second of those transitions is the one from dependence to independence that typically takes place the later teens. Teens typically seek to differentiate from their parents and want to make their own decisions. They no longer feel the need to seek parental guidance on things and want to renegotiate their rules and boundaries. This adjustment has been more difficult as my son is going through it. The questioning of family values and lack of interest in spending time with the family have created a natural but painful distance in our relationship. I understand it is as God has created it to be but it breaks my heart. I am still so proud of him that words are woefully inadequate to describe it. I love him dearly and I know the closeness will return but it will be different. I'll never again be able to walk with him wrapped around my leg or crawl on my hands and knees with him on my back but I am amazed at the man that little boy is becoming. I know God has big plans for him and I am thankful that his faith is one thing that he continues to embrace and allow to define him. He belongs to God and in my heart I know he always has. I know God will continue to refine him and mold him into a powerful force for good in this world and I have to back off and let him do that.
Still, letting go is tougher than I thought. There are many days when I would love to have that little boy back and see those eyes widen with excitement when I came home from being away. I love being a dad but I concur with others in saying that this adjustment is more challenging than others. I know however that God is working and what emerges from his handiwork is always a sight to behold. I look forward to seeing what God is doing.