An old Ozark Mountain "hillbilly" friend shared some wisdom with my dad a few years ago: "The older I get, the less I know for sure!" That's how I felt when I was raising my teen girls. I couldn't figure out the intricacies of dad-and-daughter psychology. But I worked and prayed and cried over it more than I care to remember!
Don't get me wrong: My daughters were my pride and joy, and I tried every way I could to be the perfect dad. But, man, how many times I failed! I was clumsy and always seemed to be "saying it wrong." I give God and their mom all the credit for the amazing, godly young ladies they were and are today.
During those turbulent and often disillusioning days, all I knew to do was spend time with my girls. Fortunately, that turned out to be the key to the relationship I wanted so badly.
My connecting point with daughter Courtney was on her early morning jogs. She wanted to run three to six miles at 6:15 A.M., so we hit the pavement together. I had to follow her rules, though:
- We ran at her pace.
- She did all the talking.
- I did all the listening.
When I tried to change the pace (a mistake I only made once) or tried to give unsolicited advice (probably more than once), I was quickly corrected and reminded of "the rules."
I still look back on those early morning "joggers" as some of the most important hours I'll ever spend in my life. That's when I learned how vital it is to walk (or run) alongside our teens.
Walking the Walk
We parents of teens are called to leave our paths and get on theirs. Why? To be sure they aren't alone. To encourage them through the thickets and storms. To rejoice when there's something to rejoice about.
When we walk alongside our teens, we usually need to follow their rules. We're there to do what they want to do. We're choosing to actively participate in their world. It might mean joining a neighborhood softball team, or trying out for a community or church theater production, or shooting hoops every night after work, or chaperoning a field trip to a french fry factory.
The fun of doing something together can fill your scrapbook with pages of the best times of these all-too-brief child-raising years. Remember — the days can seem long, but the years are short.
Walking alongside happens when we step into our teens' shoes and see life from their perspective. We don't do it once a year; we do it often.
But where do you begin? How do you walk alongside a kid who may not even like the idea? We'll explore this throughout this article series.