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How Teenagers Are Like Donkeys


The day this little miniature donkey was born on our neighbors' farm, my kids must have stumbled upon it mere minutes later. It was still wet and steamy as it wobbled to its feet.

Every day after that they went to check on "Eva", to pet her and scratch between her ears.

Eva became so accustomed to their visits and affection that she would come trotting over whenever she saw them approach. When the children would turn to leave, after lavishing her with attention, she would try to block their way and nudge their hands, wanting more attention.

That was several months ago, and now Eva is much bigger. She isn't quite as cute as she used to be since she has lost that "stuffed animal" stature and the kids go to visit less often.

As the visits became less frequent and the admiration waned, Eva stopped coming to meet her admirers. Now she sometimes doesn't even bother to look up when they call for her. If they manage to pet her and scratch between her ears, she only tolerates it for a few minutes before finding something more interesting to attend to.

She never follows them anymore when they turn to leave.

They have lost the relationship with her that they once had.

I often wonder if this is how the relationship with teens and parents goes.

When our children are shiny and new we lavish them with love and attention, tracing the curve of their itty noses with our fingers and counting their toes to nursery rhymes.

As they grow older and some of the cuteness wears off, we tend to spend less time focusing on them. It is easier to manage their mood swings and growing pains if they aren't around quite so much. Maybe we encourage them to hang out a little more with their friends, to ask the youth minister the tough questions, to develop close relationships outside the home. During summers we keep them busy with church camp, mission trips, service projects, and retreats.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong with any of the activities I listed above. I just wonder about almost completely letting loose of our young teens and practically turning them over to their friends and to "professionals" to finish out their growing up years.

I wonder if the practice of doing that has contributed to teens and young adults leaving the church in record numbers, to leaving behind the values of the parents to embrace what is the cultural norm.

I'm certainly not implying that "helicopter parenting" or "smother mothering" is the answer. I encourage my 16 year old make her own decisions about her work schedule, how to spend her paycheck, whether to quit or continue gymnastics, and more. I expect her to have relationships outside of the home.

However, I hope that I am her closest confidant. I hope that when she has a dilemma or encounters a difficult situation, she will come to me for advice instead of one of her teenage friends.

I don't want to find one day that she doesn't have time for me, that we no longer have the relationship we once did.