I feel incredibly privileged that LitPick Student Book Reviews gave me the opportunity to share thoughts on writing ‘what you know,’ something so key to my book, Lowly. Read on to find out how I processed my past experience to inspire a story and learn some guidelines and tips that might get you started on your own.
But these cuts I have they need love to help them heal
Don’t let the sun go down on me
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” Elton John
I can’t do this.
Yes, you can.
I can’t do this.
Yes, you can.
I coach myself as I ascend the stairs for the five-thousandth time. Some emotion, overlapping despair on one side and futility on the other like the wrong kind of Venn diagram, squeezes my cramping stomach muscles. Each step has me see-sawing between continuing and giving up.
So what has stretched me to the breaking point, you may wonder. Well, it’s not life or death. It’s not any infirmity on my part. I’m not plucking the leaves off a trampled daisy as I go, and It’s not faulty engineering or rickety stairs. If only!
But it is beyond trying to get my teen out of bed in the morning.
There are mornings when I have to climb three times to guarantee they are sitting up or getting dressed, that they’re not on their phone or reclosing their eyes (if they even opened them in the first place).
Like so much of life with teens, it requires patience and perseverance—not just in the big things but the little. And it’s amazing how the little issues can break me in unexpected ways.
As I’ve grown and matured in my faith and knowing who I am in Christ, however, I’ve learned to catch myself. To stop and think about the burdens, frustrations, and all kinds of baggage I carry as I approach them.
It’s heavy. Some of the things you must carry as a parent for years. You may always carry them. Even some things that predate their existence.
But when I approach them and react with anger, impatience, or futility, I’ve already given up. I’ve momentarily lost my hope—Jesus—and the perspective of the Spirit.
God values them. He values and valued all of us enough to humble himself and live on the earth as a vulnerable man. Not considering his equality with God something to be grasped or wielded like a weapon but obedient to the Father in all things. He died for us, proved he had conquered death three days later; then to top it all off, he returned to teach, fellowship with, and bless those who had abandoned Him at his time of most need.
Jesus is our ultimate example of showing love through perseverance.
And because I’ve placed my faith in His good work of redemption, I’m reconciled forever with God and given God’s Spirit to live within me. Now I’m a new being…
…capable of stopping, remembering who I am, remembering who they are, dropping my baggage, and ready to weigh my options. Saying a prayer at this point might be a good idea, too.
What are my options? I can continue in anger and shout at them, scaring them with the sudden wave of my fury. It gets them out of bed, but it also causes tears on their part and regrets on mine. It doesn’t feel right because it isn’t.
I can turn around and let them face the consequences of not getting up—failure to get to work, school, or a beloved activity on time and realizing what that may mean. Well, I’m not going to choose that option this time because school and work, in particular, are just too important in my opinion. There may come a time for this, but not today…for us.
Lastly, I can continue up the stairs and, once again and matter-of-factly, remind them of the importance of keeping a job or getting to school on time. Then I can make sure they’re sitting up when I exit and tell them of my limitations, like my need to soon leave for my job. I can communicate in a reasonable voice and treat them with the dignity every being deserves…even when we don’t deserve it.
First weighing things like a learning disability or other chronic issue that may contribute to their sleeping schedule being off. Then maybe, just maybe, I will need to be intentional and sit down with them at a later time to let them know how hard this behavior (or whatever the behavior) has been for me. That at times, I’m at my breaking point, and I need them to try harder. That I don’t expect perfection but improvement, and I may soon need to try Option 2 because Options 1 and 3 are not working.
But in everything, treating them with the respect I would wish in their place. Remember how I wrote about thinking back to your teen years in the last blog? This is why. Because without hope, we don’t have the patience, the perseverance to keep going up those metaphorical stairs—in the inconveniences or the crises.
Dear Parent of Teens, don’t give up. “Don’t let the sun go down” on your teen.
Tell them you love them by climbing on…because “they need love to help them heal,” and it may not always feel like it, but perseverance is love.
If you want to read further thoughts on the importance I place on perseverance in our lives, here’s another post I’ve written on the subject.
Kappa Delta included Lowly (and me!) in the KD Did It section, pages 10 & 11, of the latest ‘Angelos,’ their national magazine. I’m proud to be a Kappa Delta! http://ow.ly/TkDp30dslu0
We’ve come far. They can, too. Andrew, my son, and I share our thoughts in this latest blog post. #parentinprogress http://ow.ly/Umvf30dbQCp
On a standard day, would you prefer a princess dress, tunic and leggings, somewhere in between, or none of the above? Find out my usual preference in this extended interview with LitPick Student Book Reviews . #authorinterview #lowlylola http://ow.ly/fwkh30cK6r9
Is your book club considering “Lowly”? Contact me, and I’ll be happy to answer questions beforehand to add to your discussion. #lowlylola http://ow.ly/IeVo30coOd2
Authors note: I asked my fifteen-year-old son, Andrew, to jot down his thoughts about this blog post, particularly on how he views his generation’s potential. Instead, he decided to write responses to what I had already written. I love it! Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your insights. I hope we have many more collaborations. By the way, his words are bold and teal; my words are dark gray. One last suggestion, if the back and forth seems too confusing, read all of my words first, skipping over his paragraphs; then start over and read his response, skipping over mine. Thanks!
When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man
Elton John, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
One of the toughest challenges I’ve had as a parent is understanding my children. They’re not mini-mes. Yeah, God has had plenty of surprises for me as far as they’re concerned. Some have been amazing; some have caused me grief. His desire, however, is to pull us closer to him. In an imperfect world, he’s sometimes pulled me slowly and gently; he’s sometimes pulled me kicking and screaming. But maturing as a person and a parent is a process.
I think it is important to see that you have room to mature even though you are an adult.
It’s likely rare, but sometimes we may become fully formed in our parenting potential too late. After all, they grow and change so fast, but I don’t want any parent to look back on that as a legacy.
So I want to share a brief thought on one thing that’s helped me—shaped me—as a parent to teens: As I was writing Lowly, maybe even before, I had to look back on my own teen years. In excruciating detail. I didn’t just want to write a book that would sell. I wanted to write a book that would help people. I felt to do that, I had to relive what I had gone through during that time in my life.
I had to be honest about who I was back then, and I had to think on my teenage peers to see them in a truthful light as well. Am I Lola, the main character of my book? No, her personality varies vastly and her story veers off from mine.
So who was I? I was angry. I was confused. I was a high achiever and competitive. I desperately wanted acceptance, love, and admiration from everyone—a major people pleaser. Those three things set me up for a ton of internal and even external conflict.
These days people are obsessed with making other, more “popular” people accept or appreciate them. Unfortunately, some people will never get the acceptance they want. Their idols will shake them off or lie about how they feel about them. I think it sometimes is a good thing to be “selfish,” and to do what or act how you feel like, not how someone else does or wants you to.
But thinking about who I was then has also caused me to evaluate who I am now. I’m still growing, but God has brought me so far! First off, he’s shown me how he, more than anyone else, loves and accepts me, tempering my people-pleasing. Through my life experiences, he’s shaped me to be more accepting, creative, and brave. Because of tough life events and mistakes, I’ve grown more than I could ever imagine. It’s built my trust in him and helped me to see the ups and downs of my family with hope.
God accepts his followers no matter what they are like, and sometimes people think they are justified for rejecting and slandering other believers who do or say this or that. It is important to remember that we have our own faults and quirks, and are not perfect angels.
So close your eyes. Think back. Think back about twenty to thirty years ago. Remember who you were then. Were you rebellious? Were you mean or judgmental–waltzing around like you hung the moon? Did you sleep around or take drugs? Be brutally honest. Trash the denial. Then if you haven’t already, forgive yourself, and if you’re able, seek forgiveness from God and others who you may have harmed.
Then think about who you are now. Think about how you’ve changed for the better.
Maybe this will grow your understanding of your teens, maybe not, but it should grow your hope in God.
And doesn’t that beautiful, tiny bud of promise smell sweet?
Because if you can come as far as you’ve come, they can, too.
Especially if you became a Christian later in life, don’t hold onto and/or beat yourself up over the past. It will only impede your progress towards what really matters: the future.