Sorry for the missed entry yesterday. Stormy weather left our internet connection on the blink. But at least we have a house still standing – unlike so many families throughout the midwest and south. Being a girl from Wichita Falls (a.k.a. Tornado Alley), my heart goes out to each and every one the affected families. It seems like only yesterday that we were digging friends out of rubble in our city after a bear of a storm. Having no idea where we were (every single landmark, home, tree, etc. uprooted from the storm), we cleaned and searched for salvageable treasures for months. Despite devastation, though, hope abounded. Our entire town, gathered and worked together to heal broken lives.
Lots of parents of families of teens experience similar devastation, just not in the form of a natural disaster. How do you handle the path of destruction caused by: constant disrespect and the inevitably unpleasant consequences?…unmet expectations and shattered dreams? …life-alteringly bad decisions – all at the hand of a person who thinks that he/she has it all together and knows more than any adult in their life. (I think this is a question for our Ironing Board!)
As I watch close friends deal day in and day out with wayward teens, it is a constant reminder to heed the warning sirens and to run for shelter when one of these storms presents itself. And I’m pretty sure that “when” is the operative word. We can wish it to be “if”. But we all reside in tornado alley when the teen years circle above our heads.
These years resemble a tornado in so many ways. The hot winds of stubbornness collide with the cooler ones of fairly innocent childhood and the dance begins. Turning ’round and ’round, the winds fight for reasoning and control. Pushing the limits, butting up against authority, straining for control, blind to wisdom they quickly form a cylinder and wreak havoc. Unlike a tornado, though, brewing teen storms show themselves every season, not just Spring. No they can be known to appear anytime, anywhere.
Something as simple as a light can have damaging results, especially for brothers sharing a room.
10 pm: A certain teen has finals the next day. Even though he has studied, there’s a bit more information needing to be reviewed in order to achieve the desired success. Enter stubborn winds that for some reason have convinced the kid that he can only study at the desk in his shared with a younger brother room. Logic might offer that a perfectly fine dining room table with ample light would be the place to move so that Brother could sleep. The reasonable thinking-about-someone-other-than-yourself winds of the not so distant youth doesn’t fly well with stubborn tumult, ill informed determination. A funnel cloud forms.
“Turn off the light,” Brother implores.
“I’m not finished,” mumbles Teen. Minutes pass.
“Pleeeez… Turn off your light. I can’t sleep,” moans Brother who has blankets hanging across his lower bunk bed in a make-shift effort to block brightness.
“I’M NOT FINISHED!” retorts Teen, muttering a few somethin’, somethin’s under his breath.
“TURN OFF THE LIGHT!!!!” yells brother.
“STOP TALKING. I’M TRYING TO STUDY!!!”
“TURN THE LIGHT OFF!!!”
“FINE. I’ll turn off the light.”
Which teen does, but turns on a smaller light so the when mother must enter the picture to referee she finds teen hunched over his cluttered desk studying from the light on his phone (rather than ditch the stubborn and walk a few feet downstairs to a perfectly lit large table where he could spread out all his papers and study with ease and in comfort). Of course, Brother is still yelling – evidence of destruction’s path … contagious stubbornness.
“Cut it out, you two!” snaps Mother. “Turn off that light and come downstairs. Can you not for a moment consider the others around you?!”
“Fine!” retorts Teen. “I’ll turn off the light and fail my test.” Then, he dramatically pushes away from his desk and takes refuge in a teen boy’s sanctuary … the bathroom (in our house the only location for potential solitude).
This typical altercation, though minor, leaves a destructive path. It chips away at any strength in those brother’s relationship, fools both siblings into thinking that putting the other ahead of themselves equals losing/weakness, plants seeds of discontent bordering on loathing, leads to isolation. All of which will be passed on to another sibling as an exemplery mode of behavior. “Why would you treat FHA that way?” mother asks Brother after he annoys the other. “That’s how Teen treats me!”
This morning in the car on the way to school after dropping the others off, I turn to Teen.
“What’s the deal with you two?… Do you realize that you are the older kid? You’re the lead?”
“You don’t know what he did to me! Before he started telling me to turn off the light, he had thrown his underwear on my head and farted on me.” (Okay, to this day, I have a hard time saying, let alone writing, that last word. Sorry Mom. And… are we not just a field of maturity!)
“So he can be a bit twerpy. But one of you has to step up to the plate and be a good example. The other will follow.”
He picks up the brush that one of the girls took out of my bathroom to fix her hair on the way to school. As he’s brushing his hair, my long strands get in his hair. He grimmaces, pulls them out, then moves his fingers back and forth for the hairs to slip on the floor. … Only they fall into my coffee!
In disbelief, I look at him. “Are you seriously putting those in my coffee?! Do you even notice? Can you for one minute think about someone else instead of yourself?! You’re so put out by the long hairs, you don’t even notice that your actions just might be affecting someone else.”
“Uhhhh….. I guess you’re right.”
“Maybe try thinking about your brother rather than yourself once in a while, too … even when he’s a twerp.”
“That’s not fair. He should do it first.”
“Fair or not fair – it’s the only way. And it’s the secret to life. Being preoccupied with yourself only (always) leads to a miserable existence. The truth lies in thinking about others ahead of yourself. God shares the secret when he tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God above all else and to love others as you love yourself.”
“That’s two things. I can only do one.”
“Great. Do the first one. It still gets your mind off yourself.”
Ahhh … Carpool lectures. They’re good for them. … They’re good for me.
How do we stay sane in the midst of the storms? Stay grounded in the Rock. Thank goodness He never moves, changes, falters, hesitates, abandons, stresses,… the list goes on.
Remind me the next time a twister heads my way.
Thanks for walking the road with me.