I cannot count the number of times that I have been warned about having a teenager. I am sure you can relate. Not only am I warned all of the time but I remember being a teenager myself and listening to my parents friends, family and acquaintances give them the oh-no- a- teenager look and the better-get- off-the-road, she-has-her-license comments. Why is this? Why do teenagers get such a bad rap?
As I was teaching Theology of the Body to the teenagers, one main point that I stress is that they are at the age of training themselves in faithfulness. I thought, why would they only be training themselves in faithfulness? Why not train themselves in every virtue? Of course, it was making sense now. The strong urges that teenagers have do not have to be limited to sexual urges. Have you noticed your teenager may have an urge to snap at you easier than they had, say, when they were 10? They have an urge to cry faster and easier. Their patience is wearing thin. They begin to have desires for material things that they have turned into a need. Maybe some self-centeredness is trying to rear its ugly head?
I had a talk with my 13 year old, Samantha, today. I talked with her about what the teenage years would bring but they were not full of doom and gloom. It was full of excitement and challenges that I wanted to motivate her to conquer. The teenage years are not a phase that we have to put up with and just get through. This is an exciting time in their lives! This is the time that God knows your child is ready to be challenged and trained. We don’t hand an 18 year old a tank in the time of war and say “good luck”. They have a period of training and it is extremely exhilarating to finally be allowed the responsibility with something so valuable and destructive and even lifesaving. This is what teenagers are being given. They are being entrusted with vices that can destroy other people including themselves or they can be conquered with the virtues they have grown up. It reminds me of vaccines that carry a mild dose of the ugly virus to build up the immune system. This is the time they transform themselves to outstanding, responsible, patient, generous and exceptional human beings. What an exciting time! It is not so exciting if they have never been taught these virtues growing up. Waiting until they are teenagers to finally bring this up will make this experience much more painful for them and you. If you have young ones, start now! Even a little baby can learn to wait for their milk. A toddler can be taught generosity. A child can learn to choose the carrot over the cookie. Ok, I failed with the carrot/cookie exampleL You get the idea. Our family spent the year working on PACE virtues. We worked, studied and practiced one virtue every month. I would put sayings up all around the house for the kids to read while they walked down the hallway or got into the refrigerator or spent time in the bathroom. By the way, if you want your child to memorize ANYTHING, put the quote in front of the toilet. They will memorize it whether they want to or not. This year was the perfect time to go through these virtues and practice them. They were fresh in Samantha’s mind as we had our talk. It was time to put these virtue’s to work. Will she fall into her vices or will she conquer them with these virtues?! We are both excited to go through this adventure! This is not doom & gloom!! We will not stand by and quietly (or not so quietly) suffer. Bring it on!!