We are in the thick of it. The very centre. And while centres in general are mostly very good (the middle of a good book, say, or a jam doughnut) the thickness we’re in is parenting teenagers, and that’s less (consistently) delightful.
And it is hard to keep showing up in ways that are healthy, and helpful. I could easily show up in ways that mirror the attitude and immaturity of my adolescents.
I could easily show up with a chip on my shoulder and a grudge in my heart. While the difficult, yet life-bringing work, is showing up in love, regardless.
One teenager made a not-great-choice-against-his-mother’s-advice recently, and of course I was catastrophising and on the phone to my own mother in tears – needing guidance but also belatedly apologising for my own suddenly realised appalling behaviour as a teen. And she wisely said this: don’t take it personally.
I think this will become a life-long catch cry.
Because when I don’t take my children’s behaviour as a personal attack, and instead see it as a growing human trying to navigate hormonal changes, life choices, a developing prefrontal cortex and their mother’s expectations (not big ones, just a simple ‘please don’t leave your bath towel in a sodden pile on your bedroom floor’ type thing) then I can show up for them. With love, and kindness and with empathy (except for the towel thing, just pick that up).
Imagine then, if we just didn’t take anything personally.
Not the last minute invitation (or the lack of invitation!).
Not the phone call that didn’t come.
Not the cool glance and wave when you’d expected a warm smile and hug.
Not the missed birthday, not the no-show, not the excuse.
Not even the friend who posted on social media, right after your text, but didn’t reply.
Don’t take it personally.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of teenage (or toddler!) attitude, or a remark from a friend you weren’t entirely sure was a compliment, or an icy colleague.
Don’t take it personally.
Just like I’m learning with my teenagers – it’s usually not me. And I can keep showing up and loving them anyway.
Your friend? You can keep showing up and keep loving her anyway.
There are a million things I could have taken personally and chose not to.
Sometimes memories mean that I have to continue to choose not to.
Proverbs puts it this way:
An understanding person demonstrates patience,
for mercy means holding your tongue.
When you are insulted,
be quick to forgive and forget it,
for you are virtuous when you overlook an offense.
And the wisdom of Ecclesiastes says this: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say…”
The thing is, I’ll always have the opportunity to be offended, to be hurt and to allow that to stop me from loving and embracing freely. But showing up means I’m not taking it personally. Showing up means not waiting until it’s ‘my turn’ to call. It means inviting, and texting, and making eye contact. It means taking a warm Milo into my teenager’s bedroom and saying, ‘I love you anyway… also pick up your towel.’