The Solace in Fathering Teenagers

Madison_cabaret_2008lr_2 One of my co-workers has done a lot of reading about child psychology and parenting. She once told me that medical research has shown teen-agers brains to be in such a state of change – such a boiling cauldron of hormones and chemicals – it’s a wonder they can even tie their shoes.

I’ve never forgotten this even though I don’t know if it’s true. Frankly, I don’t care if it’s true. The very thought gives me solace Taylorpanama0107each day that I see the pile of shoes at the back door. These are the shoes we’ve asked a million times to take to their rooms. I’m reminded of this research when I find a chunk of chocolate cake on the floor in front of the refrigerator. They had to have noticed that a huge chunk fell on the floor when they were getting it out, but never bothered to clean it up. I bring the research to mind each time I feel taken for granted as a taxi driver, a handyman, a courier running a forgotten paper to school, or an ATM machine.

My daughters will testify that I still manage to lose my patience on a regular basis. Nevertheless, the men in white coats are held ceaselessly at bay by the knowledge that this forgetful, tunnel-visioned, self-centered behavior is all very natural. There is a medical reason for it. I hear Bill Cosby’s voice reminding me that children are “brain damaged.”

In addition to the comfort I take in this alleged medical research, I also get regular doses of encouragement like the ones I was barraged with this past weekend.

On Saturday night the whole family was gathered to watch Madison perform in her show choir’s annual cabaret. She sang a solo and dedicated it to her big sister. She was beautiful, talented, and poised. I was enthralled. She was amazing. When she performed with the rest of the group she lit up the stage. Dad’s buttons were busting off his coat on the drive home.

A few hours of shut-eye later it was Sunday morning and I found myself standing in the lobby at church. The woman I was speaking with happened to be in a small group at church with Taylor. I didn’t know this. She then went out of her way to tell me that she thought Taylor to be an incredible young woman. “She is inspiring,” the woman said. “You are really blessed.” A sane, intelligent and trustworthy adult called my teen-age daughter “inspiring”.

Sunday evening rolled around. Madison stopped by after church and dropped into the bedroom to tell Wendy and me about her experience at church that night. A person walked up to her and told her that they wanted to bless the light that they saw shining through Madison and all that they saw God doing in her life. This person then handed Madison five hundred dollars. When Madison asked this person what they wanted her to do with it, they responded that they expected Madison to do with it whatever God leads. Perhaps she’ll apply it to her second missionary trip to Thailand this summer.

You know what? There’s still a pile of shoes left by the back door. You are still likely to find clothes laying on the floor upstairs. There are probably dirty dishes on the counter that should have gone into the dishwasher. It wouldn’t surprise me to find food on the counter that never got returned to the refrigerator. There will, most assuredly, be homework assignments forgotten at home – again.

But, you know what? It’s okay. The brain damage that comes with adolesence will fade in time. The beauty, character, faith and inspiration you can clearly see in both Taylor and Madison – well, those are eternal. I can live with that trade off.

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