When I was a young mom, with my first batch of four kids under the age of seven, I could not wait for them to be teens.
You heard me right. I prefer teens over toddlers.
Now, that does NOT mean that I have parented my teens perfectly; I want to pause right here and tell you about a MISTAKE I made when my first child, Eric, was a teenager.
Actually, it’s less of a mistake and more of an omission.
For those of you not familiar with a sin of omission, I shall explain. Sometimes we fail and sin with full knowledge, doing the bad that we know we should not do, which is basically a sin of COMMISSION. Sometimes we fail by NOT doing the good that we ought to do, a “sin” of omission.
Now, I’d hesitate to call my omission a sin, after all, I was buried under babies and diapers when Eric graduated from high school. But at the very least, it was a glaring blunder.
What was my mistake in raising teens?
I didn’t know his friends.
I sat on the bleachers at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, watching the Class of 2011 graduate, wondering how that had happened.
I felt guilt, hot and heavy. Yes, I was busy with toddlers. But did having a large family excuse me from life? From Eric’s life?
As I have said plenty of times, one of the best, most glorious aspects of having a big family:
SINCE THAT GLARING OMISSION of GRACE, this happened:
- I was better with the next teenager, Rachel. I got to know her friends a little more.
- I was great with the third high schooler, Mitchell. I allowed many gatherings over here.
- I am currently at Rock Star Status with child number four, Matthew. He has had a TON of friends over to our home.
Early this week, that fourth child communicated with me that he wanted friends to hang out on Wednesday.
Their high school generously gave the students a “snow day” since they had not had a snow day in three years!
Matthew and his friends didn’t come directly to our home on Wednesday morning. They went to Mass first. Not a big deal. Yet. Still a big deal.
They then entered our house, with all of their joy and their energy.
Here’s the most satisfying part: I knew the kids. There were a couple of new faces and I spent some time making sure I knew their names and a little bit of their story.
They then proceeded to destroy my kitchen, making Dutch Babies, pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage. They drank gallons of chocolate milk and coffee.
I let them do their thing, excusing myself into my quiet bedroom.
After they were done with the kitchen, I went in and made a Mediterranean Chicken Salad from a great website, Jo Cooks, for the teachers of my grade schoolers. It’s Teacher’s Appreciation Week!
I took the salad into the school and asked who would be with me to help out for recess duty (another simple but important gift we give to the teachers).
I was told I was the only one that had signed up for that part of the recess duty.
I thought of the teenagers in my home.
I went home and asked them if they’d be willing to spend an hour at my children’s grade school, helping with recess.
They said yes.
So I loaded eight teenagers into my SUV (we have a bench in the front, it was all legal!) and headed up to school.
On our way, I figured they’d be sort of nervous. I told them to introduce themselves to the kids and to have fun playing games with them at inside recess. I assured them that the little kids would absolutely adore them.
We arrived; the grade school students got out their Inside Recess Games and spread out in the hallway. The teenagers entered perfectly into the realm of those first to third graders, sitting and engaging with them. It was beautiful.
After that recess period, the teenagers had to split up, some going outside for recess with the big kids, others staying inside with the sweet kindergartners.
They easily split up.
That in itself was a big deal. If you know teens, they herd.
I stood outside and froze in a borrowed coat but was incredibly warmed as I witnessed the interaction between the high schoolers and the middle schoolers as they played kick ball.
After recess duty, we loaded back into my SUV and went back to my house.
They walked into my kitchen; we all looked at the breakfast chaos. They asked what they could do to help. I think I just mumbled and pointed. They cleaned the kitchen while music played. They sang. They laughed. Then they got out the lunch food that they had brought and sat down and feasted.
After lunch the kids played Giant Jenga but with a twist:
I kept worrying that Marie, the girl in the photo, would have jenga blocks smashing down on her beautiful face. Next time they play we may have to appoint a Jenga Face Blocker.
They spent a portion of the afternoon outside, playing Frisbee and riding our low-riding bikes. They drew on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. Teresa, an incredibly talented artist, drew Henna Tattoos on everyone.
At one point, a young man ran into the house and grabbed his Bible.
I stood in my kitchen, mulling that over. A teenage boy brought his BIBLE. To a friend gathering.
During the course of the day, I asked the teens if they knew how to play pitch. I am sorry to report that no hands were raised.
I looked at them and looked at my son, Matthew. He knew my look and smiled. Our next adventure: to teach Matthew’s friends how to play pitch.
Now, if you are a parent of one of those teens, no shame. When Eric (my first) was a sophomore in high school, I realized he didn’t know how to pitch either. I was mortified. (I also realized when Rachel was a teen that she didn’t know the song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Talk about a Sin of Omission!!)
I am not sure who will be learning pitch, to be honest. Matthew has surprised me with his hosting skills; he has a core group of friends and they invite a variety of teens over each time. The entire class of 2018 might know how to play pitch before it’s all said and done.
I am happy. I know that next year, when Matthew graduates from high school, that I will KNOW KNOW his friends. They are a ridiculously amazing group of young people and it feels GREAT to know that I got out of my self-imposed family bubble.
So, dear, sweet Mama of Little Bambinos, you don’t have to fear the teen years. Teenagers are funny. They are witty. They are strong and they are great conversationalists.
The only thing you will lose is your sleep, probably even more so than the baby stage. Because yes, teens stay up late and they are LOUD.
Thank you, Parker, Ethan, Karson, Matthew, Marcus, Macy, Abby, Teresa, Olivia and Marie, for being part of the snow day at the Doernemans. Thank you for respecting me and thank you for respecting my home. Thanks for helping me with recess duty at Holy Spirit. Thanks for being such good friends to each other. Now, let’s play some pitch.