Actual, real (not made up) conversation:
Mom: I’m going to Target tomorrow. Let me know if you need anything.
Ten hours later…
Mom: I’m going to Target in a little while. Do you need anything?
Four hours later…
Mom: I’m leaving for Target. Can you think of anything you need?
Teenager: I’m okay.
Mom: All right, if you think of anything, text me.
Two hours later…
Mom: Wow, I’m exhausted. It was a madhouse at Target today.
Teenager: Have you left for Target yet? I really need lip balm…
Actual, real (possibly made up) thoughts about it:
Note: On the ball Catholics will find a glaring error in the post below: See if you can find it!
In my Advent booklet, Gathering in the Light, I reflect a lot on conversations I have with my teenage son, a young man who has spent the last several years of his life not caring a thing about the next several years of his life.
Of course, this is a teenager’s vocation. And it’s a parent’s vocation to deal with it, in whatever way works for our personal sanity. It hit home yesterday as I was editing our family’s Christmas card picture and I cut off my son’s left ear. Not literally of course, but his ear is definitely absent from the photo, something I didn’t work really hard to do, but something I didn’t work very hard to fix, either. That ear, and its accompanying earring, are not one of my son’s proudest features as far as I’m concerned. But they are part of a hard-fought battle I chose to let him win.
Some days it feels he’s winning both the battles and the war, but like most parents of teens, I’m trying to keep things in perspective. To be honest, when I look at my son, I don’t see the earring (and I hope you don’t, either). I hope you can see the young man who held the door open at Mass for an elderly woman after four people walked past her. I hope you see a guy who took time to patiently explain altar serving rules to a group of unruly kids a few evenings ago. I hope you see my son, who still needs to be reminded to turn in his homework, but who will unload the dishwasher without being asked.
Still, though, we have our days when I see him and his brother as those guys on Youtube who are forever putting things like cans of Axe deodorant in a microwave, just to see what will happen. And I see me as the can of Axe.
So today, on the feast of the Annunciation, I think of Mary’s parents. I think about the conversation they had with their teenage daughter who shared the news from the angel about the baby she was going to have. Did Joachim and Anne see a young girl who was pregnant outside of marriage? Or did they see Mary, full of grace, who readily and without hesitation was answering God’s call? Fiat. “May it be done unto me according to your word.” Today I pray for the vision to see my sons the way God sees them, and not just on the good days. I pray for patience, too. Lots and lots of patience.
(And maybe a can of Axe, too, because parenting teens is sweaty work.)