Like every single parent out there, I have great kids. I do! Just ask anyone. The thing is, they are teenagers. And because lots of people who read this blog also know my kids, I will protect their privacy and just say that our house is not immune to the travails and trials that parents of teenagers go through. Notice I said the parents, not the trials and travails that teens go through. Recent research suggests that this time of life isn’t hard, or stressful, or full of the sturm und drang I learned about in Psych 101. At least not for the teens. It’s the parents who struggle. I don’t know for sure how my parents who had 3 teenage girls at the same time did it. But wow, do I have compassion for all those families whose struggles are of the more extreme teenage type. Because it’s hard enough with the normal stuff.
This week’s scripture is from Matthew 10:42, where Jesus says that even giving a cup of cold water to someone in need is ministry. I love this. How Anne Lamot of him! She is always talking about giving people cups of cold water. To be perfectly honest, living a faithful life can feel so, well, hard. Let alone being a faithful parent, whatever that might be. But a cup of cold water? Whew. That I can do.
And Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s research at UNC backs up Jesus’ command about cups of cold water. She says that every small act of kindness and connection we make with another human being changes our physiology – not just our brain – to make us more resilient. Kindness, even the teensy tiny kind, can strengthen our immune system, lower our blood pressure, calm our heart rate, and forge new neural pathways to make us more compassionate. How great is that!
And so today’s kindness is challenge is this: Because the parents of teenagers are living with those same teenagers, sometimes we don’t see our kids the way the rest of the world does. Actually, this is true for all parents. We miss the forest in the midst of the daily struggles to get those trees to grow more or less straight. And we forget, or don’t see, or don’t know, how great our kids are. If you have the opportunity today to let a parent know something good or amazing or just nice that their kid did, let them know. That’s like a cup of cold water when we’re trudging through the desert wilderness of parenting. And also, let your parents know you are grateful they let you survive until you grew up, because it was hard on them. That too, is a cup of cold water, even if it’s overdue.
So thanks, Judy and Bob, for not sending all of us to a convent, or shipping us out to the wilderness, or leaving us on an desert island ’til we were “cooked,” as someone in my church calls it. I had no idea how tempted you must have been. And congrats. You did well. And I know it’s too little but hopefully not too late: I apologize for how much my teenage self took for granted! Now I know.