Treasures from The Trenches of Parenting Teens

Jun 4, 2022 | Blog

It’s always a fruitful challenge to try and glean the treasures of something while still in the jaws of its medicine, right? ✨

Recently I received a text from one of my longtime, dearest friends. She and I have been soul sisters since before we became mothers, and then she gave birth to her daughter only eighteen months after I gave birth to my daughter, Arayla.

We’ve walked this path of motherhood together, some seasons more closely than others, since before our babies were in the womb.

I’ll forever cherish the memories of our relatively simple, blissful days of meeting at Muir Beach in West Marin, rosy-cheeked and plumply postpartum, with our baby girls tucked sweetly and safely into their packs.

But the other day, the text I read from her said something like:
“Love, can we talk soon? I would love to talk to you about teenagers. Given that you’re a bit ahead of me, if you have some time to reflect and hold space, that would be great.”

I could feel through the psychic text ethers that my dear friend was in the crazy-making, heart-wrenching thick of it with her beloved 15-year-old girl.

I wrote back: “Are you free to talk right now?” And then I added wryly: “The teenagers are terrible. 🤪”

She called me right then, and when I answered my friend was laughing hard. Between laughs, she said, “They really are though, aren’t they?”

I affirmed, soberly: “Oh yes, they’re the actual worst. 😂”

My friend laughed and laughed. It was the most beautiful sound. I started laughing too.

We could have just as well been weeping.

She said, “I’m so relieved, Sister. That’s all I needed to hear! 😉🥰”

Yes, what a relief to just say it like it is sometimes. No spiritual gloss or pretense. I could feel the blessing of our mutual release.

We could meet inside the tender humor about the terribleness of our teenagers because we both know how completely and vulnerably in love with them we are.

And because it’s super important to laugh abundantly when you’re on your knees in the trenches of parenthood, praying how to do right by our kids inside a world that is reeling in madness, blatantly inflamed and imbalanced on so many levels.

Seriously though, stewarding my teenagers over the last several months has truly rocked my world, in a way that few chapters of parenthood have.

I mean—hands down, parenting, in general, is the most rigorous spiritual path I’ve ever walked.

What a sacred challenge: to not suffer unnecessarily in this role of parent. Right?

What a wild calling—to consciously raise the next generation of humans while reckoning with all the forces our current world includes.

Personally, I’m learning so much in the mirror my teenagers provide, such as what happens when I indulge in the temptation of reactivity…

Or the immediate cost of getting hijacked by fear, or by my fierce resistance to losing control.

Of course, there’s also a special flavor of tenderness in parenting teens.

It seems just a moment ago they were nursing in bed, then splashing together in the bath, chasing each other around the house, playing “marine rescue” with all their stuffed animal friends lined up in the living room.

Now, as my children rapidly inch their way towards adulthood, I feel the intensity of this single mama chapter waning before my very eyes. My daughter drives off now, every day, in her own car, rising to meet the tasks of her ambitious callings.

My son comes and goes independently, adventuring away from home for hours. His world orbits devotedly around his passions and his peers, a growing group of friends he refers to with tremendous loyalty as “my generation.”

There are rare moments when we’re all snuggled together, three big bodies with lanky limbs intertwined on the couch, or exchanging enlightening, hilarious check-ins around the dinner table, or even neck-deep in an emotionally grueling family process, that I’m undeniably present to the preciousness of what’s fleeting.

How fast it’s all shifting, how quickly they’re growing, the aging of my human form, the sobering of my human heart.

As always, my kids generously illuminate my growing edges as a relational being in this world. (In other words, they kick my ass. 😉)

They call me to greater impeccability, as well as to self-graciousness in the face of my blatant shortcomings.

But it’s more evident than ever how my triggers can serve as a dharma bell for deeper stillness, self-compassion, and self-inquiry.

I’ve come to realize that if my deepest desire as a parent is to be a safe space for my kids to bring anything and everything into, then I have to rapidly expand my capacity to BE the kind of space they can still experience as a trustworthy refuge.

It means I have to be absolutely vigilant about not taking my teenagers’ behavior personally.

It means I have to keep doing my work, holding my inner little ones close, and taking full responsibility for what’s arising… so that the painful ways my kids inevitably trigger me don’t get in the way of skillful Love.

Together, I’d say we’re learning how to let love open us wider and deeper through our courageous willingness to face directly into the storms that arise between us.

What a thing to trust our children’s souls, and to find the delicate balance between skillful, disciplining guidance and truly getting out of their way!

This is perhaps the fiercest teaching of all for me lately: this way my children insist I learn how to fully trust their souls.

While I was writing this just now, Ezra, who is thirteen and a half, came over and gave me a huge, heartful hug. I turned away from my writing and towards him completely.

Before he came in for a hug, he paused to make real eye contact. He then lingered in the hug, inviting presence, letting us both drink deeply of our closeness.

I let myself receive the potent gravity of his aliveness, his unique, starry signature, embodied.

What a treasure. A mundane treasure from the trenches.

I might have missed it, but I didn’t.

It’s reassuring to recognize how the essential intimacy between our souls has been unaltered by our recent struggles, as he has reckoned for a level of independence that neither of us has been quite ready for.

Somehow, I’ve managed to never lose track of the truth of his gorgeous being. And somehow, so far, he’s managed to keep track of the value he receives in my love, my witness, and my embrace.

I can absolutely say the same for my breathtakingly amazing daughter Arayla, who is seventeen now, and spreading her wings in ways that at once inspire, astonish, and terrify me.

Please may this forever be the case! 

May we continuously find the courage to surrender all agendas for our children, beyond our purest desire for their absolute health, joy, wholeness, and self-love.

May we dare to be ourselves with our children. May we be human and fallible, vulnerable, honest, tender, and real.

More than striving to model some culturally idealized image of success and impact, may we model sheer humanness, self-acceptance, and self-accountability.

May we keep finding a way to choose love in the moments that are the hardest for us to, and may we forgive ourselves when we totally blow it.

May we recognize that in our willingness to make use of everything, then even our moments of blowing it can bring deeper intimacy within our hearts and our families.

May we always remember who our children are, deeper than any passing phase, clash, trigger, fear, or hurt between our hearts.

And may we simultaneously dare to not know who they are! May we free them from all our projected desires and ideas about what and how and who they’re here to be.

May we love ourselves more truly every single day.

In the midst of our most tender challenges, in the grip of our own fixations, our early-morning anxiety, our addiction to striving and fixing, our delusion of control, our painful narratives, our unnecessary tendency to fear and react, may we love ourselves.

May we rest in knowing there is nothing more important to model for our children than this self-love. 💖

~*~ Jesua

Please join me for a low-ticket, 3-Part Webinar Series, entitled: “Gleaning The Treasure: Cultivating Stillness & Sanity While Parenting Teens In These Times”.


Part 1: Meeting the Trigger & Receiving the Mirror.
Part 2: Modeling Humanness & Self-love.
Part 3: Tracking, Vulnerability, & Surrender.

Learn more, and register here: GLEANING THE TREASURE
(All meetings will be recorded.)

PS: I’ll be offering a similar one for parents of younger children later this month as well! Check that out HERE.

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