This week, almost simultaneously, two very disparate things were posted on two lists/boards that I am a member of, and the contrast could not have been more startling if they had been planted there on purpose.
On a very open-ended "alternative" parenting board, a mom posted about how no matter how kids are raised (Christian, not Christian, public school, private, homeschooled), they all do "the same shit" and their parents have to "deal with the same crap" (essentially, kids sneaking around, going out with their parents' knowledge, drinking, smoking, getting into trouble).
Meanwhile, on a list of unschooling parents, there has been a very inspiring thread about how wonderful their teens are. How they respect themselves, their parents, their friends, their siblings. How close they are to their parents, how responsible, content, thankful, and joyful they are. How the parents feel that their teenagers are their "bestest friends".
There's a great big ol' myth out there in our culture, and it is this: no matter how you raise your kids, as teens they will raise hell. Unschooling puts lie to this myth. Why? Because whether kids are Christian or not Christian, schooled in public, private, or homeschooled, if their relationship with their parents is one of submission to an authority over their lives, rebellion is a likely outcome. On top of this, throw school into the mix - whether it's six hours a day of various teachers and classes telling you what and how to learn, or whether it's your mother at the kitchen table telling you how to learn - and you have a veritable recipe for disaster.
Teenagers' lives are full of transition, change, massive amounts of energy, overwhelming emotions - these things are true. Give them a cage to rattle and they will certainly pound those bars hard, trying to determine if there's a chink or a gap anywhere. When they're told what, how, where, how much, and why to do or not do things their whole lives, then when they get to the age where they're clever enough and independent enough to sneak around and get into some serious trouble, it's a good likelihood that they will do so. But what happens with teenagers who are raised with respect for their opinions since childhood? With kids whose ideas about themselves and their preferences and their direction in life are entirely determined by themselves? They still have the energy, emotions, and drive of every other teen, but it can be used to further whatever their life's passions happen to be. I think about the incredible amounts of energy I wasted on anger as a teen - rattling that cage and rattling it hard - what could I have accomplished with that energy and drive if it was my own to use as I wished?
Today and every day, I am building the relationship with my kids that will sustain us through the teenage years and beyond. I will listen to their hopes and dreams, and try to help make them happen. If those dreams include video games I don't care for, hobbies I'm not interested in, a hairdo that makes me cringe, or music I'd rather not listen to, I will enter into their worlds until I see these things as they do: see how cool and enveloping it is to play that video game, how fun that hobby is, how freeing that hairdo, how that music has layers and textures and a message I didn't hear on the first listening. My kids will spend their energy, their drive, and their emotion on things that are meaningful to them, today and every day.
And so I can honestly say as I look to the future, to the teen years: I'm looking forward to them.