It’s not like it I had some well laid-out, closely planned strategy.
To raise teens who were responsible human beings.
Really, unpacked, the one strategy I did have was simply survival.
But it worked.
The age span from our oldest child to our youngest is seventeen years. Our firstborn, daughter Madison, was wrapping up getting her driver’s license right around the time we told her we were expecting Baby #7. Which turned into Baby #7…and Baby #8. Twins. And just for funzies, we threw in a move to a completely new city five weeks before the twins were born.
Madison had a really small window in which to churn in some teen angst. And then we had to get on with life.
College application process?
Good luck with that, darling oldest child. I’ll be over here wrangling newborns and toddlers.
I’m here to talk anytime you need. But I’m not gonna track you down. I’m not gonna hover. I’m not gonna be your ever-present chaperone. Not that I don’t love you. Not that I don’t care. It’s just that the twins have painted the walls of the home office with the contents of their diapers. And their five-year-old sister is in a holy war with their seven-year-old brother and their other twelve-year-old brother was supposed to be at soccer practice six minutes ago. Which reminds me that I also need to locate their other two siblings, who I think might be at the neighbor’s.
In this same season, my second child McKenna was in her early teenage years. She was dancing competitively. We’d skid into the dressing room, me hauling a double stroller and leaking breast milk. Other moms would have labeled and color coordinated all the items and accessories and earrings and hair supplies their kids needed, a week-long process that culminated in the dressing room in Pinterest-worthy organizing glory. And there I would stand, having no idea if McKenna had managed to pack up all the stuff she need or not in that last minute sprint to the venue. Because I was packing up twins. And toddlers. And little kids. And trying to find my keys.
I often felt guilty, that I wasn’t being a ‘good’ mom to my older kids in the midst of all the urgent needs of all the little ones. Other moms in my older kids’ lives seemed so much more ‘involved’, so much more intricately absorbed into all the detail of every activity. I’d haul around that guilt slung over one shoulder, double-packed tatty diaper bag slung over the other shoulder, as we shopped for prom dresses and ordered a graduation cap and gown and navigated teen life with toddlers in tow.
But there came a day.
The day that other moms asked. Why Madison was able to work through her own college application process. Why McKenna knew how to get herself completely packed and ready for dance competitions. Why Justus knew how to cook dinner for a big crew. Why Maesy knew how to schedule out her school assignments and due dates. Why? How?
How? Because…they had to.
That’s the secret sauce I didn’t even mean to blend. My teens knew how to take on responsibility because they had to. If they wanted to do all these things, from extracurricular to higher education to social events, they had to be involved. They had to pick up the phone. They had to send the email. They had to do the research.
And so they did.
As can yours.
Not that I’m suggesting that you go have a couple more babies to force your teens to fend for themselves. Ahem.
You’re a mom. A coach. A mentor to your kids.
Not a personal assistant.
Don’t skip that above sentence.
Let’s read it again.
You are not your teen’s personal assistant.
They can type. They can research. They can pick up the phone. They can ask questions.
And they can wash their own underwear and make their own goals and find their way.
With you cheering them on. With you available.
But not hovering.
Not making excuses.
Want to foster responsibility in your teen?
Give it to them.
Let them make it happen.
“Well, Julie,” you say. “If I don’t do this, that, and the other, my teen won’t. And then they’ll never get into college, make it to the game with their shin guards, fill out the application, have the right doodad for chem lab….”
Then I guess they won’t.
And they’ll learn.
What it means to be responsible.
And to get the result they want.
Or to not be responsible.
And not get the result they want.
Which is called life.
Give your teen a great gift.
The gift of growing up. Without a personal assistant or cushion-carrier.
Let them see that you believe they can be independent. Smart. Wise. Resourceful.
Let them know you believe.
And get out of the way.