Thursday, 25 February 2016

The View From Here (Teenage Boy Tales)

If I had a sticker chart, I should deserve a little prize by now.  Just to keep me going.  I have now been the parent of a teenage boy for 18 months.  Yes, feel free to applaud.  It's a definite achievement.

It's also been one steep, long upward climb of a learning curve (and I can't even see the top yet).  But I thought I'd share the view with you, so these are some of the things I have learnt in my mothering a teenage boy journey so far.

1.  One day, you will walk into their bedroom and you will find yourself gagging on the smell.  Even a clean boy, it seems, can create this stench.  With window firmly shut and curtains closed, the whiff has plenty of time to become a stuffy, 'hold-your-breath-or-you-will-pass-out' stink, occasionally masked by the over the top spraying of Lynx.  I have no idea where this smell comes from, but it certainly lingers. 

2.  It's not ok to use the same jargon as your teenage son.  Ever.  So, you will find yourself using it more and more just to have a little giggle with yourself.  I know, right.  I'm so down with the kids blud.

3.  As his crackly voice wavers up and down, you must resist the temptation to copy.  And do not, under any circumstances, encourage his younger brothers to copy too.  This can have devastating consequences. 

4.  Talking of his voice, here's a small note (can't resist) of interest.  The deeper it becomes, the less able he seems to be of controlling his volume.  You thought babies were loud?  Expect booming and you won't be disappointed.

5.  Food.  Make sure your cupboards do not become like Old Mother Hubbard's.  A hungry teenage boy is a grumpy one.  And he is hungry every five minutes or so.

6.  You will long for the days of the 7pm bedtime.  Evenings are no longer your own.  The remote control is no longer your own.  Peace and quiet is no longer your own.  Not in the evenings anyway.  That big booming voice will reverberate around the house for HOURS until you plead with him to put away his phone, his tablet, his homework, his music and his x-box (all at the same time - who said men can't multi-task?) and go to bed.  (Actually its not this bad in my house, but I shudder at the thought of how it would be if we had no boundaries).

7.  Grunts and noises.  There will be times when you have concerns that your boy is losing his ability to speak.  Your once little chatterbox of a boy will sometimes be totally unable to speak in human language.  You need to be able to interpret the grunts.  Failing that, ask him to speak properly.  (I let the gruffalo noises go unchallenged in the mornings but later on in the day he needs to use the language we all understand.)

8.  He actually becomes quite useful.  In physical terms, he can now do lots of things that an adult can do.  So, when heavy baskets of wood need collecting in or bathrooms need cleaning or little brothers need looking after, you have another pair of hands.  Sometimes that pair of hands might need a small amount of encouragement, but the basics are there and ready to be manipulated helpful.

9.  He is fun to be around.  The jokes and banter are actually enjoyable.  He is good company and you can laugh together about the same jokes rather than pretending you find armpit farts hilarious. (Anyone else have to do that?  Or just me?)

10.  He still needs a mum.  There may be lots of friends and even girls to contend with, but at the end of each day (or even during the day) he needs to be able to snuggle up to his mum.  If you keep the physical affection going and don't let them stop (see my previous post on the wisdom of friends for this, you will find that the hugs become even more precious.  And when you are having a bad day and they pick just the right time to give you a hug and say 'its going to be ok mum'?  That is the absolute best.

One day, when I have survived three teenage boys, I may be able to dole out wisdom.  Until then, I just have to laugh.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Sackcloth and ashes for lent?

It's all about the 'giving up'. People are giving up chocolate, social media, sugar and anything else they think is a bad addition to their lives.  

I've always struggled a bit with lent. Apart from the fact that giving up chocolate would not work for me (or my family), I've always wondered just what the point of it is. I know it's about stripping back and preparing our hearts for Easter. It's about making room and repenting.

But I wonder why I need to do this only in the 40 days run up to Easter. My heart is pretty ugly most of the year round. And I am constantly in need of God's mercy. It all seems a bit 'woe is me' and in our individualistic society it feels like we are being told that if we give up Facebook for 40 days then God can forgive us.  Maybe it's the new sackcloth and ashes.

Surely that defeats the whole point of Easter.  The truth is that we can't do anything to earn God's forgiveness. Even giving up sugar - and that is hard! Jesus died so WE DON'T HAVE TO. There is nothing we can give up for lent that will change this.

And so as I ponder lent this year, my heart is drawn to the type of fasting that God himself recommends. You'll find it in Isaiah 58. This kind of fasting isn't centred on one person giving stuff up. This kind of fasting requires action on our parts to think about the world around us. It involves a heart response that leads us to actively loving those around us. And,
amazingly, it comes with awesome promises.

So, this lent I'm going to enjoy my chocolate knowing that God doesn't mind. He's more interested in my heart.