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Real Conversations Emerge with Teens and Young Adults

There is something I absolutely love about raising kids that are teenage-to-young-adults. For all the challenging moments with this age group, there are those times to treasure when you have a rich conversation of self-discovery, deep and probing questions, as well as spontaneous learning when you can actually see the light bulb in their eyes.

I had one of those moments when visiting my nieces, who are about the same age as my own daughters. My two, Number 1 and Number 2, are traveling and starting their own adventures this summer, and I had a family reason to drive up to see my nieces and nephew in a different state.

We got to spend some alone time in the car and I was in the back seat, so I could be truly present in the moment. My niece, the Number 1 in her family, started talking about relationships, expectations, compromise and all the things on a young mature person’s mind. Fortunately, I left my “mom-judgey pants” at the house; after all, with my own girls I have a tendency to tell them what to do.

My girls have trained me well, albeit, maybe through my failure moments. It is best to listen, and know when to comment and when to nod the head. Early on, my girlfriend gave me the best piece of advice, well in advance of me having children at all. As a mother of teens at the time, she told me to always rest your chin on your hand when talking with teenagers; this ensures that your jaw won’t drop when they tell you some things or ask questions that are shocking or unexpected.

The tip has been very handy, both metaphorically and in actuality. There are a number of times when I wanted to say, “did that really just come out of your mouth,” or “did I hear that right, “ or even, “not sure why you did not see that one coming.” When you reach mid-life it sometimes is hard to remember what it was like to be a teenager/young adult who did not know what you know now.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, scientists say that brains don’t fully develop until the young adult years, mid-twenties, and for men, it could be close to thirty years of age. It is not like the infant years, where the skull may have a little soft tissue that allows a large head to get through the birth canal. In this case, it is more about the person’s ability to think ahead about consequences, and not only process those, but also make sound decisions based on future implications.

I remind my own children often that this is why they need me! I use the science to encourage them to share information with me, and remind them that my brain is fully developed. Honestly, my argument may work with them less than five percent of the time, but I will try; even one percent gives me a glimmer of hope to keep trying. I digress. Let me get back to my point.

On this occasion, though, my Niece Number 1 wanted to have a conversation about her boyfriend and Niece Number 2 drove and listened intently, every so often she did add her two cents. I love my nieces (and nephew) and since I am not their mom – who is a lovely woman by the way – they may listen to me and I may be a bit more patient – ok, not maybe…. I am more patient.

We had a great conversation about love, values, dreams for the future and compromise. I attempted to explain that while on the surface compromise is good, she is too young to compromise on her hopes and dreams now. It was a delicate dance between being in a serious, committed relationship and living in the moment as well as planning for the future.

Niece Number 1 had the nickname “Sparkle.” She loved glittery stuff as a kid, and she continues to sparkle in terms of optimism. She sees the good, which is awesome and I love that about her. As I listed to her talk about compromise, however, I got a little concerned. She has hopes and dreams and she will get there. Does she need to compromise already?

Her point was that there is compromise in any relationship, which is true; however, my inner voice said, don’t compromise before you get married. After the ring and ceremony, learning to live with someone 24/7 involves a lot of compromise. Before the wedding, ask yourself how you really feel about dust and clutter, snakes and guns, cargo shorts and ripped jeans. These items seem minor now, but at some point, in a long-term marriage these items will drive you crazy!

At some point, you will have to be reminded why you fell in love with this person in the first place. At some point that will be the one thing holding you together – and I do believe marriage is a long-term gig. Disagreeing over cargo shorts is a minor thing. Tolerance level for dust and clutter is a minor thing. Now, disagreeing over number of children or firearm access and use, those are big.

She is in love, and that is wonderful. Whatever wisdom I part now I know is going in one ear, AND may surface later or may not. As I reflected back on it, I loved that we had the real conversation about life. We were all present in that car. It was priceless.

P.S. You can bet I will continue to encourage her not to compromise yet, but that is for another day.

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