matt tullos

the compost pile of writer, matt tullos. mostly poems, prayers, rants and naratives... "Gods passion for the world has compelled me to be a contributor in the warfare of grace rather than a spectator in the warfare of religion."

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Location: Alexandria, LA, United States

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

rough draft of article for Focus

Rated T for Teen
Parents Strongly Cautioned!

Think of it as cross between Godzilla, Lost in Space and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Raising a 15-year-old son is hands down, exponentially more frightening and suspenseful.  I thought we were prepared. I took my son on the “preparing for adolescence” trip a few years ago. It was a great experience, except for a few minutes when we had to pull over because he got nauseated during Dr. Dobson’s explanation of sexuality. I think he looked at me and thought of Mom and then his imagination took him places he really didn’t want to go.  (But that’s another story.)  The point is, we were ready for this long awaited transformation called puberty and adolescence! We knew what was going to happen. But I am now convinced that nothing completely prepares a rookie parent for the extraordinary, mind-bending, world-rocking, overwhelming experience of full out adolescent emotional anarchy.

We also have a thirteen-year-old son and two other boys behind him. As I write, I already hear the click, click, click of the teenage roller coaster ride that has the g-force of Space Mountain and doesn’t come with the bar across the lap to keep you on board. The experience defies description. It’s a dangerous ride, it’s frightening, and ultimately, for me it has been an all out adrenaline pumping, mind blowing, God-glorifying experience.

So what’s the formula of this thriller called Parenting Teenaged Guys?

Typical teenagers make unusual, unpredictable choices. You just never know what they’ll try next. Most of their stunts involve toilet paper, electric guitars, shaving cream, high altitude leaps, cheap thrills, hair color, duct tape, and if possible, it all happens at around three in the morning. I’ve often thought that my Heavenly Father gave me son as a daily reminder of my pre-minivan self. It’s amazing how the sins of the fathers seem to boomerang back to us leaving a noticeable knot on the head. This year I sport several battle scars from the boomerangs of the teenage years.

Here are a few of the major productions that I (and thousands of other traumatized parents) have experienced.

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Plot:  You wake up one morning and realize that hormones and mood swings have abducted this cute little mini-you that used to live down the hall. Suddenly this new resident looks at you as if you were a member of the cast of “Leave it to Beaver.”  In a matter of weeks, the wash of hormones across the frontal lobe of your child makes you the most outdated, uncool, irrelevant person of the new millennium. In fact, you are now so irrelevant, he would prefer to be dropped off a few blocks from all social events. Unbelievable! You find yourself running through the streets of your town screaming like a lunatic, “Who stole my child!” Roll credits.

I came to the realization that we were no longer just buddies. Kansas was not on the map anymore. It was time to dodge the flying monkeys in the suburbs of Oz. I remembered from countless workshops and empirical research of other older and wiser experts that a teenage boy is capable of swallowing any lie, taking any dare, and messing up his life in a permanent way unless the parent puts on the parent hat. It’s not cool, but it is required.

The Godzilla Factor

As a rookie parent we see our children grow physically and intellectually, and we say to ourselves, “My child is getting it.”
No he’s not.
Not now…
Not by a long shot…

It is then that you say that one syllable word that can throw any teenager into a full out, melodramatic, door slamming frenzy:  “No.”  That’s when the emotional Godzilla arises from the depths of the Pacific. Throngs of parents run for their lives! Doors slam and angry words spew forth from this once adoring child.  The temperature rises and suddenly, life gets very difficult. (This experience is best understood in the 3-D, living color of life.) Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Lost in Space (But Ultimately Found!)

My wife and I faced the reality that life in our home had changed dramatically. It challenged our universe. I’ve learned and continue to learn and relearn lots of Biblical truth with practical applications. I've learned that I can be assertive even though I hate being assertive. I learned that God's workshop is supernatural and he does most of His good stuff while no one is looking. I've learned that doing the right thing as a parent doesn’t always guarantee success. But it's always the better road even if it causes you pain. I've learned that the older I get the more important it becomes not to mess it all up. People are watching. Especially the kids down the hall. Finishing strong is important. I can't let some stray thought; fantasy or impulse bring my entire family to a screeching halt. I've learned that when you can take glory in your children's successes you must take the blame in their failures, so it's best not to get into the glory business. This past year I’ve learned that the only time our family has is right here right now, so I dare not miss this day. I've learned those worst-case scenarios rarely happen. And even if they happen, God is bigger than all of them. And His plot is more exhilarating than the wildest Hollywood script.  

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