By Nikki Wilson
Today I'm going to write about something I'm learning as a parent of three teenagers and one preteen. Actually it's something I heard a lot when learning about writing YA (young adult) books. Always tell them the truth. Teens are hungry for the grown up world and they don't want to be coddled or babied. They want the ugly truth. That means in books we use real world problems and show real world consequences. Even fantasy books include problems they can understand and natural consequences (at least natural enough in whatever world was created). We want to protect them from the real world sometimes and not let them see how ugly the world can actually be, but the truth is, they will find out the truth eventually it's best if we as parents dictate how they get that information or better yet, if it comes from us. So here are some truths that I want my teenagers to know.
To my children:
The truth is I love you. This is a very important truth for you to not just hear, but to feel on a daily basis. I hope you feel my love when I do something for you, or hug you, or tell you I love you. But mostly I hope you feel my love when I take the time to really listen to you and let you talk about anything without freaking out (I'm a slow learner on the freaking out part. This is where acting lessons would have come in handy). By allowing you to talk to me in a safe zone about anything, I hope you are learning that I truly do love you unconditionally. There is nothing you can do or say to change that (that doesn't mean you don't test that theory)!
The truth is you get to make choices in your life right now that can alter the rest of your life for good or bad. I can set rules and consequences in my home and if you break the rules you will face the consequences. But there are real world consequences for the things I don't know about as well. I'm trying to teach you about the real world consequences of making bad choices. The truth is you will make some bad choices and I can't stop that. But I can teach you to learn to say "I'm sorry" and to try to fix your mistakes where possible. I had to learn when you were young to try not to freak out when you spilled something. Instead I just handed you a wash rag and told you to clean it up. (Except for the mashed potato fight. Then I freaked out! There were potatoes on the ceiling!!) This can be applied to the grown up world as well. We make mistakes, instead of freaking out, we need to clean up our mess. And for those sins that don't feel like they can ever be fixed I try to teach the truth of repentance. When sins weigh you down and make it hard to even breath, you can repent and cast your burdens over to Christ. NO MATTER THE SIN, CHRIST IS THE SOLUTION. This is a truth that the world often tries to cover up. Often people undervalue certain sins, while overvaluing others. The truth is that sin is sin. Christ's plan to rescue us from sin isn't only for those who just sin a little. It's for everyone.
The truth is that bad things happen in life. Sometimes from choices
we make, sometimes from choices other people make, and sometimes for
reasons we can't understand. But we can rise above the bad things in
life and look for the good. The bad things in life often knock us down a
hole and make us feel hopeless, but if we look for the good in those
situations we will find that the good things in life will form a life
line to pull us up higher than we ever thought possible. Because the truth is that all our life experiences will be good if we let them be.
The truth is we DO understand. We made mistakes when we were teenagers. We know how it feels to make bad choices. That's why we try to stop you as often as possible from doing things you will regret. We aren't trying to ruin your life. We're trying to help you. Trust me when I say disciplining you is just as hard on us as it is on you. You think I wouldn't rather let you go to your friend's house then hear you moan and groan all week because you're grounded? But I wouldn't be teaching you any real world lessons if I gave in. I would be teaching you that if you complain enough there won't be any consequences, which would be a lie. Life is full of consequences.
The truth is parents aren't perfect either. *gasp* We make mistakes...a lot. Sometimes you need to remind me that I love you! You need to help me to understand your point of view by talking to me in a calm respectful manner. If you want me to treat you like an adult, then act like one. When you have something important to say, give me fair warning. Say something like, "Mom, I need to talk to you without you freaking out." This gives me a moment to put on my no-freaking-out face (which probably makes me look like I'm constipated as I strain to remain calm). Remind me that I need to hear you out and hear your side of the story (my son will often start saying, "listen Linda, Linda, listen!" It's a reference to a youtube video but it always makes me crack up and then he can get a word in.) But know that just because I'm listening to your side of the argument doesn't mean I agree with you. But I respect you enough to hear your thoughts and to try to understand where you are coming from. I hope you can do the same for me.
The truth is that the ugly truth is only ugly if you want it to be. Sure you can get caught up in the horrors of the world and dwell on how awful people can be, or how hard your life is. Or you can choose to smile through your tears and determine to make the world a better place by remembering "...the truth is in Jesus." (Ephesians 4:21) He didn't live a charmed life. His life was hard yet He took the time to find the beauty in it. That often happened when He helped others. When He called the little children to him, or when He caused the blind to see, or the dead to rise. This brought joy to Him and to all around. The truth is you too can change lives by helping others and changing a frown to a smile. Because nothing in your own life is so hard that you can't stop to help someone else. When your grandmother was dying of cancer she still made time to make each of you feel special and loved. Because like Jesus, the truth was in her too. She knew true happiness comes from making others happy.
The truth is you make me happy. The truth is I love you. The truth is you love me too and we will get through this together.