A peaceful car ride?
My wife Mandy and I have often enjoyed travelling in the car. We’d bundle our four kids up in the back seats of our people mover, put on a Colin Buchanan album, and enjoy some grown-up conversation in the front seat as we drive.
But recently, something weird has happened. Our adult conversation has been interrupted. Not by screaming babies (anymore) and not by fighting young boys (well maybe I’m stretching the truth a little there), but by two young-and-up-and-coming adults.
Our two eldest daughters have become teenagers. And now they want to participate in the conversation with us grown-ups in the front seats.
Our first response was to tell the kids to stay out of our ‘adult’ conversation and to stop “flapping their ears” and butting in to what we were saying to each other. In other words, we were wanting the youths in our family to go back to being children, so that we could keep enjoying being the only grown-ups in the household.
But, after some reflection, we realised this response was wrong. Two of our children had grown up to become mid-adolescents, and with that came their desire to ‘learn’ how to be an adult.
The privilege of talking to our kids
What we didn’t realise was the enormous privilege we have that our kids actually want to communicate with us at all! Perhaps when our younger boys grow up to be teenagers then we’ll see more grunts and “yeah, whatevers” on their lips.
But for now, we have the honour of welcoming two up-and-coming-adults into our conversation, as we seek to model godliness and teach them how to relate to adults and other youths in a way that is both loving and wise.
Yet, it’s not just in the car that we need to recognise the privilege and challenge of including our teenagers in our adult world.
So often when we spend time with other adults, we have segregated the kids based on age. The little ones sit at the little table and eat the little food… and the parents sit at the adult table and eat the adult food.
But this also needs to change. We need to be prepared to welcome the teenagers around the adult table, so they can learn from us how to live in the scary, grown-up world that they are now beginning to inhabit.
It also means that we will be prepared to speak to our teenage kids about big issues facing our family. Rather than just ‘announcing’ things that will affect their lives, we need to seek ‘buy in’ from them, showing that we value their input and that we welcome their junior membership to the adult club.
Helping your teens become adults
All of this reminds me of the command by God in Ephesians chapter six verse four, where he tells fathers to “not exasperate your children” but instead “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
For a long time I thought this verse referred to being too harsh on younger kids as we discipline them and train them in basic life skills.
But now, with teenage children, I see this also extends to not squashing their desire to join their parents in mature conversation, which will only frustrate and anger them, and ultimately lead them to seek ‘adult’ conversation with people other than their parents.
But, positively, we are reminded of the need to train and instruct our kids, even if that means letting them participate in the ‘adult’ conversation in the front seat of the car.
There’s still a place for private conversations between Mandy and me. We enjoy them, and need them as we seek to grow our marriage. However, we need to now enjoy the times with our teenage kids, whilst they still want to relate to us… or at least until they start learning to drive. Now that’s another challenge for another day!
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