If you’re a young father with adolescent or teenage children, then you are in the midst of the typical headaches and heartaches (oh yes, and the joys) of parenthood. You are trying your best to cope. You are often biting your lip, muttering under your breath, trying to understand, and restraining yourself from saying or doing anything that you might regret. It’s even harder during a pandemic!
Good luck. Because you’re human, there will be moments when you let something trip off your tongue that you wish you could take back. You may regret some of what you do and say. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Most of us have the best intentions. We’re just not perfect yet.
Both of us recall instances when we wish we could go back in time. Today, we have the advantage of hindsight. Reflecting on the past has its upside and its downside. We think back to those magic moments when we connected with our teenagers, when they listened to our advice, when our counsel was actually on target—and everything turned out well. (Ah, we were so wise!) The outcome may have been accidental or due to the grace of a higher power; nonetheless, it felt good when all was right with the world.
Those other memories
We also recall those times when we were not friends with our kids, when we felt unappreciated, taken for granted or simply dismissed. Or the times when we spoke in haste, said the wrong thing, let our patience slip, or simply made the wrong decision.
Always, we cared about our children. That never changed. At the time, however, we faced our kids on the battlefield of egos and control. It did not feel good to be disrespected and brushed off. Looking back, we realize that as hard as we were working to be effective dads, our teenagers were working at being teenagers. Sometimes they also felt brushed off and disrespected.
Here’s what we’ve learned, over and over and over. No one talks on a battlefield. There’s just a lot of combat.
Some sermons stuck, some stunk
It does a father good to see his son grow and say something that reflects a core value that once was the subject of too many parental sermons. Or to hear his daughter condemn behavior for which she herself was once admonished. We have learned that most—not everything—of what we tried to teach and instill in our kids actually stuck. And we confess that not everything we preached should have stuck.
We share these reflections to reassure you that, in most cases, you and your kids will come through these turbulent years with a greater appreciation, understanding and, yes, respect for one another.
Take heart, dad. That day will come.