…Because, frankly, every teen girl should read. So should her mom, who’s struggling, second-guessing and praying– a lot!
A Letter to my Teenage Self
You’re probably struggling to figure out that geometry or talking on your purple sparkly landline phone or waiting for the Internet to dial-up so you can sign on to AOL instant messenger or singing loudly into your hairbrush. Or maybe you’re cuddling with Baxter—guess what! You’re still going to be cuddling with Baxter when you’re 28! And even cooler—your SON likes to cuddle with him too! Yes, I said your SON! In a few short years, you’ll go to Freed Hardeman and have the time of your life, and while you’re there, you’ll learn a ton of hard life lessons and meet the man you’re going to marry. You’ll marry him when you’re 24 years old, and shortly after you turn 27, you’ll be having a baby. He’ll be the very best thing about you. Get excited. Oh, and when you’re 28, you’ll find out you’re having another baby! Listen girl, soak up this happy-go-lucky, very-few-responsibilities time, because it’s about to get busy fast. There will be days when you wish you could go back and be able to lay on your bed, jam out to your favorite CD’s, and read a book while someone else cooks for you and does all your laundry. 🙂
But here’s the real reason I’m writing you. There are some things I know now about your parents that I didn’t know then. You should know these things—every teenager with Christian parents should know these things. So if today is one of those days you’re super mad at Mom and Dad, turn down the Evanescence for a second and listen up.
Here are some thoughts I know might be going through your head right now:
They don’t know anything about what it’s like to be my age.
What I know now: Actually, they do. They know a lot more than you think they do. Whenever you feel like they are so out of touch with reality and they don’t remember what it’s like to feel like a teenager—to feel insecure and unsure and passionate and inspired and hormonal and frustrated and exhilarated and confused and scared and lonely all at the same time…remind yourself of these words—they know more and remember more than you think they do. There will come a day when you’ll realize that so much of what they said, so much of what they wouldn’t let you do, so much of what they made you do, was all for an important reason that won’t make sense to you now but will one day. One day, I promise you will wish you had listened and paid attention more, for perhaps it could have saved you a lot of frustration and even some heartache.
They are so strict about what I wear. They don’t want me to ever look cute.
What I know now: Let me tell you something you don’t realize—all the modesty rules your parents are giving you are not because they never want you to have a boyfriend. They know good and well all that business is about to start, and soon. See, your parents know (and yes, remember) what a struggle it is to keep your thoughts and actions pure when you’re a teenager—especially when you’re a teenage guy who constantly struggles with the temptation of lust. They understand sexual temptation more than you do, because, hello—they’re married, and they can do the stuff you’ve vowed not to do until you’re married, too. (I know you don’t like to think about this because ew, they’re your parents, but…it’s important). One day, when you’re married too, you’ll understand the way a man’s mind works, and you’ll understand just how very MUCH we as girls can affect the hearts and minds of the men around us, simply by the way we dress. So whenever Dad makes you turn around in a circle before you go out and he tells you to go back to your room and change because your Mudd jeans are too tight, just do it. Trust that he knows what he’s talking about—remember whose name you’re professing, and trust that your Dad really does just want what’s best for you, and what’s best for your peers, who are paying attention to you (and everyone else their age—because let’s be honest—you and all your friends are influenced way more by each other than by anyone else). Dress modestly, and don’t argue with your parents when they help you (or coerce you, whichever way is necessary) to do that. One day, you’ll be glad you were careful about this.
Why are they always all up in my business? Can’t I have a little privacy?
Actually, as much as you’re going to hate me for saying it, while you’re still living under their roof rent-free, your business IS their business. Any instant message, text message, phone call, date, or whatever else they let you do without their involvement and attention is gift of grace and an expression of trust. They have a right to any and all of your information and belongings. A little over a decade from now, when you have a child of your own, you will totally understand their constant desire to protect you and know what’s happening with you all the time. It’s because they love you more than life and they want to do whatever it takes to protect you from physical and emotional harm, and most importantly, spiritual harm. So when they ask questions about your friends, your text messages, your instant messages, and the boy that’s been calling you lately, that’s not just them being nosy—it’s love. They want to give you the benefit of the doubt by asking you personally rather than snooping around in your stuff to find answers about how you spend your time—which, by the way, they’re not above doing if you’re not willing to open up to them. This seems infuriating now, but one day, you’ll know exactly why, because you’ll feel the same way about your children.
Why do they care if my room stays clean all the time? IT’S MY ROOM, after all.
Once again, all of your stuff is also their stuff. It’s not your room—they’re just letting you use it until you move out. (Warning: Enjoy your purple Paris bedroom while you can—in a few short years, you’ll come home and it will suddenly be Mom’s sewing room. SEWING ROOM.) I know you don’t realize this now, but they’re not just making you clean your room so the whole house can stay presentable, they’re making you do it because they’re teaching you responsibility. One day soon, you’ll have a husband and a family of your own, and the sole person in charge of keeping the house clean (yes, the whole house—not just “your room”) will be you. Any cleaning your parents make you do now will be a gift you’ll be able to open again and again when you don’t have to learn how to clean because you already know and are in the habit. (Psst…this one never really stuck with you like it should…so put a little extra effort in this department okay? Your future self—I—will be ever so grateful if cleaning the bathroom wasn’t such a miserable chore. K thanks!).
Why can’t they just be my friends? Why do they always have to act like dictators?
One day, when you move out and have your own home, you will be amazed at how your relationship with your parents will change, and for the better. Those people who were always your controlling, bossy dictators will morph into your very best friends one day. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but someday, you’ll be able to laugh with them and cry with them and when they talk you will want to listen because you will know that they really do know what they’re talking about. They will one day be the first people you call when you need advice. But right now, their job isn’t to be your friends. Right now, their job is to be your parents. Parents (or dictators, whatever you wish to call them) are exactly what you need during this super impressionable, vulnerable time of your life when you’re still being molded into the person you’re going to become. They have such a short window to shape you into a Godly, responsible, happy adult. They take that responsibility so very seriously. So, be okay with them not being your friends right now. You have plenty of friends. You don’t need more friends. What you need are parents who love you enough to be nosy and yes, bossy. Appreciate them for what they are right now, and know that one day, if you play your cards right and truly live for God, they really will be your best friends one day, but it will only be because of THIS time in your relationship with them that that can happen.
They think everybody I like is bad… Just because you don’t know someone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t meet up and get to know this guy…
Once again, they remember more than you think they do. If they don’t trust a guy you’re wanting to go out with, there’s probably a very good reason for that. They see right through your friends who are fake and your friends who are hiding something. They know exactly when that guy you think is so cute is putting on a show and won’t really treat you like a lady. They can tell when a guy likes you for all the wrong reasons. If they don’t want you to go out with someone, it’s going to hurt, but if you’re too chicken to turn him down yourself, just tell the guy your parents said no and he can be mad at them instead of you. Trust me, your parents are okay with this. They love you too much to care a whole lot about what your high school crushes think of them. One day, when you’re married to a Godly, righteous man who loves you and respects you for all the right reasons, you’ll wonder why you were ever interested in that guy in the first place. Just be patient.
They don’t trust my judgment.
Well…I hate to admit it, but you’re right about this one, teenage Hannah. They don’t trust your judgment about a lot of things, and for good reason. You haven’t lived long enough to even know what sound judgment really is. Right now, you’re at a stage in your life when you actually believe that 16-year-olds know more about life and love and the world as a whole than any other people on the planet. One day you’ll see how scary that is. You have to earn your parents’ trust—do your best to show them that you’re wise enough to make right decisions, and I promise they’ll let you make more of them on your own without their input (but it’s still true that, one day…you’ll covet their input…I promise).
Do they seriously have to have a say even in how I do my make up?! How much make up I wear should be up to me at this age.
There’s something you should know. It’s going to be painful. It’s going to be unpleasant. But in the name of all that is good and lovely, someone has to say it. At age 16, when you let yourself do whatever you want with your makeup, you leave the house looking like a cross between a prostitute and a circus clown. One day, you’ll look back at pictures of yourself in that hot pink lipstick, that sparkly purple eyeshadow and that eyeliner that went halfway to your eyebrows and you will shake your head and laugh. I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you. When your parents tell you to wash your face and try again with that eyeliner, it’s not because they don’t want you to look pretty (which is what you’re thinking, I know), it’s because they don’t want you to publically embarrass yourself unnecessarily. They want you to be able to hold on to whatever dignity a 16-year-old is capable of possessing so that people don’t actually think you’re a mentally challenged clown-faced woman of the night.
Sorry. Someone needed to say it.
I’m a good kid. I don’t drink or do drugs. I don’t steal. I don’t cheat. I don’t make fun of handicapped people. It just seems like they should appreciate me more and respect me more instead of always hounding on me about things like keeping my room clean, getting homework done, texting and driving, and cleaning out the cat litter. I mean, come on…there are a lot of worse things I could do.
Give yourself a pat on the back, girlfriend, because your future self can look back and confidently say that yes, you are a good kid. You have a pure heart and you truly want to do the right thing all the time. One day, I promise it will all be worth it—the struggle to remain pure, to season your speech with salt, to dress modestly, to be kind to those who need it most, to sacrifice popularity in order to make righteous choices. You will be so very thankful you chose this path one day. I thank you.
But just because you were mostly “a good kid,” doesn’t mean you don’t have some things you need to work on and improve. Remember that your parents just have this one short window of time—just 18 years to try and help you become the very best human you can be. So just because you feel unappreciated for the good decisions you’re making doesn’t mean that your parents are not thankful for that—they are. One day you’ll see that more clearly. What they’re doing is taking advantage of every moment they have with you to truly love you and care for you—and right now, that means they will be paying attention to the details of how you’re living your life. I know it’s hard, but try not to wish the moments away. Even though you are positive there’s more to life than keeping your room clean, one day, you will miss these days.
I wish you could actually read this letter. I wish I could really show up in your room, have a seat with you on your Eiffel Tower bed, and have a little chat with you at 16 years old. Maybe I could convince you to love and appreciate your parents more—to trust that they really are much wiser than you are. But I can’t do that. What’s happened has happened, and for better or worse, I am what I am (wait, that’s Popeye). But I’m writing this anyway, because maybe there will be one single teen girl of 2016 who will read this and take it to heart. If one single girl could read this and be convinced that Godly parents are a blessing like none other, this toddler naptime I’ve spent writing will be worth every second.
Anyone who is blessed with Christian parents who love God has been given a precious gift. Don’t take it for granted. It’s frustrating being a teenager, but I promise you, it’s just a few short years and once they’re in the past, you won’t be able to believe how fast they slipped away. Next time you want to talk back and argue with your parents, take a deep breath, bite your tongue and ask yourself if your parents are actually trying to ruin your life, or if what they’re saying is really because they love you and want to help you. Next time you want to roll your eyes at them, remind yourself that they actually do know a lot more than you do about the important things that will affect your entire life and yes, your eternity.
And if you’re smart enough to have a humble spirit about all this, go give your Christian parents a hug. Write them a letter and thank them for loving you. Thank God for them right now and ask Him to help you to obey and honor them. Because you see, I’ve given you lots of reasons why you should listen to your parents, but none of them are the MOST important reason. This particular reason far outshines any other reason why you should honor your parents: God commanded it.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)