Resolving teenager moments like adults

by Kristin on August 18, 2008

in Love looks something like this

From my oh-so-wise adult perspective, I’ve always seen teenagers as having their own special way of behaving toward one another: Someone looks at you funny, someone happens to whisper or laugh just as you walk by, you’re sure someone doesn’t like you…and then everything snowballs out of control. When certain scenarios in our adult lives have a tinge of similar silliness, my friends and I like to joke that the situation is “SO junior high.” It’s as if, socially, there is no greater insult.

But I’m beginning to see this isn’t the Junior High Way. Sadly, it’s the Human Way. As adults, we’re simply more practiced at keeping things in check. We’re adept at talking ourselves down from paralyzing paranoia and hysteria. We learn to “let things roll off us,” and to “take things with a grain of salt” (where on earth did that saying come from?). The impulses to worry and read into things are the same, though. So is the snowball effect that comes with turning inward and protecting oneself from perceived (or real) pain. Realizing that I have never completely shed these feelings and fears is like realizing well into your twenties that I’m still capable of getting zits. Really? Why was I led to believe these curses would just magically disappear?

But I think there’s hope. Maybe not for acne, or for the many things in life that will inevitably hurt our feelings. But certainly there’s hope in how we might find resolution. I think as adults we have the capacity to reconcile in very real ways that allow us to pick up and continue on in forgiveness and love, not holding kernels of hurt and suspicion inside. In fact, I know it can happen. Jason and I were able to practice this with his ex-wife R and her partner B yesterday. (Important background: We have been close friends with them since I met Jason, and we share a broader community of friends, as well. This post tells some of that story.)

We sat down with R and B yesterday to talk because of a messy misunderstanding that began months ago. They were hurt and chose to withdraw rather than confront us; we could tell something was creating distance between us, which in turn made us withdraw, questioning every little problem as a much larger issue. The snowball effect was more powerful than we even recognized when we were in the middle of it.

I guess that’s why the Bible says “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). Anger and hurt have a way of festering, and growing like a cancer. We saw evidence of that in our lives, although we found ways to function as co-parents of H through those difficult months. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, R felt compelled to tell us what was at the root of this thorny weed, and the four of us began processing what happened on our own and together. The conversations were far from fun, but in the end I think we all learned a lot, and our relationship is ultimately stronger.

Clearly, we’re still human. But, more importantly, we’re not teenagers. Being an adult has its advantages. And its new challenges: We are the parents of a 12-year-old who starts seventh grade in a week (and we all know what seventh grade can be like). Sigh. But this newly reinforced relationship between H’s four parents will certainly encourage and sustain her, perhaps even more than we realize. And if we can somehow find ways to instill our own life lessons into her tricky social situations—even a little bit—we will all be better off.

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