Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Surviving the Teenage Storm

Last week, something monumental happened in my family. With the celebration of Taylor's birthday last Monday, we officially became a home with four teenagers living in it. We knew this day would come, but like with any major catastrophe, we just weren't ready! Michelle and I could feel the wind picking up, and we could hear the thunder in the distance, but last Monday, the lightning struck and the storm hit with gale force winds. And, as far as we can tell, the storm has stalled out over our home. The latest forecast calls for this storm to continue to pelt our home for at least the next five years. So, how will we survive the teenage storm that has hit our home? Here's what we're doing to try to survive...

1. We're in the process of creating a parents-only sanctuary in our home. Our home is pretty small for the amount of people (and dogs) living in it, and it's hard to get away. So, Michelle and I are in the process of creating a "sanctuary" where we can get away. Currently, our bedroom has a TV equipped with a DVR for recording and watching our favorite shows at our leisure. In the coming months, we're hoping to install the claw-foot tub that we drug here from Ohio. It needs to be refurbished, and our bedroom/bathroom combination needs some reconfiguring, but we think we have a plan. As we revealed our "sanctuary" plan to one of our teenage daughters, she replied, "If you do that, you guys will never come out!" Exactly.

2. We get out of the house regularly. This is something we've done since the kids were very little. When they were unable to care for themselves, we spent quite a bit of money each month on babysitters. And when Emily became old enough to watch the kids herself, we made it known to her that staying home with them while we went out on a consistent basis was her God-given reason for being born. She bought it for a while, but as she got older, she got smarter! Michelle and I have always made time for one another, and one of the main ways we've done this is by taking walks together. When the kids we're younger, we would take them to a park to play. While they played, Michelle and I would walk laps around the park keeping them in our sight at all times. Now, we leave home nearly every day for a 35 minute walk. This is the time when we debrief our day, talk parenting strategy, or even stop on a street corner to kiss. Walking together is healthy, free, and even romantic sometimes.

3. We work hard to maintain the top position in the home. Those of you who have teenagers know that this can be a difficult thing to do. Teens can be assuming, demanding, and full of entitlement. If parents aren't careful, their teenagers can overtake the control of the house! Michelle and I love our teens dearly, but we often let them know their place (below us!). We do this sometimes by verbally reminding them that we're the parents, and they're the kids. But we often do it non-verbally by not allowing them to have full run of the house. For example, we still require that our younger teens get to bed at a decent time; our older teens can stay up as late as they need to, but they have to be quiet and courteous to those who are smart enough to go to bed before 2AM! We also require our teens to all pitch-in with the work wound the house. Our kids know that Saturday is "chore day," and they know that they're not allowed to do anything "fun" until their chores are done. Although the younger teens tend to still complain about this sometimes, the older ones work diligently, understanding that this is part of being a kid in the Potter home. Maintaining the top position in the home is essential for any couple who desires to survive the powerful onslaught of budding adults in their home.

4. We eat together as a family as much as we can. This is getting harder and harder to do. Michelle and I both work, Emily and Jasmine have after-school jobs, and Taylor plays sports almost year round, but all six of us do manage to sit around the same table at the same time for a meal probably 2-3 times per week. And because our family meal times can sometimes turn into family fight time, we are trying to instill an exercise we heard about from some family friends. Each family member must share what was the best and worst part of their day. No one is allowed to interrupt the one speaking, and no negative talk about another family member is tolerated. I think the older teens think this is a bit goofy, but the conversation sure ends up being better than what it could be and has been in the past. Even though getting all four of our teens together in the same room is often loud, crazy, and obnoxious, connecting face-to-face as a family on a regular basis is a very high priority for me and Michelle.

5. We pray. A lot.
Michelle and I have been and continue to pray for our kids. Sometimes we do it together, but most of the time, we find ourselves crying out to the Lord in the quiet of our hearts on behalf of our kids. Raising kids is not a science full of proven "if/then" scenarios. It's an art, and it requires constant thinking, rethinking, and evaluation. Even though I've been in ministry for 15 years, and even though much of that ministry has been to teens and their parents, I find myself often at a loss for what to do or what to say regarding my own teens. With four teens in the house, Michelle and I find that we are more dependent upon the Lord now than we've ever been before. Even though God has entrusted these kids to us, we're fully aware that it is Him who is ultimately in charge of drawing them to Himself and changing their hearts. We just hope and pray that our mistakes and failures don't hinder the work He's doing in them.

This is an exciting time in our home, but it's also an exhausting time as well. Statistics show that disagreements and stress about money, sex, and children are the top three causes of divorce in American homes today. Teens cost a lot, so I'm not sure how to solve the money stress right now, and this is probably not the forum to discuss our sex life, but I do know that as Michelle and I strive to do the five things mentioned above, we are surviving, our marriage is growing, and we are discovering peace and enjoyment amidst the chaos of the teenage storm!

1 comment:

Nikki said...

I love your posting on "Surviving the Teenage Storm". It's all so true and I think all of us who have teenagers can relate.