Parenting teens is hard. But not really in the ways they tell you.

The hard stuff isn’t the eye-rolling, back-talk, slamming doors, or heightened emotions that come with hormones. It’s not the changing bodies or changing voices or how they prefer the company of their friends over the company of mom. That stuff is there, but it’s not really any more difficult than dealing with temper-tantrums or potty-training, sleep training or mean kids on the playground. It’s just the next stage.

What makes parenting teens hard—so much harder than any parenting stage before now—is facing the reality that there’s no time left.

I’m not talking about the whole 18 summers and how quickly that goes before the little birdies fly from the nest. I mean, yeah, that is true and makes me sad some days. (OK, a lot of days.) But what I really mean is there’s no time left to make sure they have captured the values I’ve tried to raise them with.

To lead them to Jesus.

Because one day they just stop looking to you as their decision-maker, the highest authority in their life, the one who knows best.

They’ve decided they are their own person and know better. And yeah sure, they heard you when you said “this is right, this is wrong” or “that is better, that is harder” but they’ve decided they need to try out the world for themselves and come to their own conclusions. Play in the margins for a bit.

And it’s not even like you know when it happens. There’s no date on the calendar circled in red that you can prepare for. You just wake up one day and realize it’s been this way for months, maybe years, and you’ve been moving along in this blissful state of false security thinking you know them better than anyone else. That you can tell what they’re thinking, or how they’re acting at their friend’s house, or what they’ll do when faced with that choice. Because you keep thinking there is time.

I kept thinking there was still time.

Still time to advise, and influence. Still time to inspire and guide. Still time to bring them closer to Love. To the One who is Love.

But time has run out. Faster than I thought it would.

And maybe I never really had as much influence or say as I thought I did. But now I know it and I’m grieving deeply.

Now there is nothing I can do but celebrate the good choices, love them through the disappointing ones, and pray they find their way without too much heartache.

Pray that they will seek after the Father now, instead of waiting until they hit rock-bottom to reach for Him in their brokenness.

Pray that whatever seeds were planted by their father and me will be watered and strengthened by The Light, instead of plucked and tossed in favor of plastic promises, or hidden in darkness to wither.

Pray I live my life in a way that they see something of value, something worth pursuing. That I have made sure they know all the good I have is only because of Jesus. And while it may seem small, it’s a lasting kind of goodness, not the temporary kind that comes in shinier packages.

Yep, parenting teens is hard.

Not in the way I thought it would be, not in the way they show you on TV or in the movies.

It’s hard because this is the season where MY faith is being tested—where the rubber meets the road, as they say, and I have to decide if I really believe that God loves my child even more than I do.

Because that is the hope I must cling to.

This post originally appeared on Neither Height Nor Depth


You may also like:

The 18th Summer

I’m Raising Great Teens, So Why Am I So Exhausted?

Jelise Ballon

Jelise is an educator, writer, and speaker. She is author of the book "Forgiven and Restored" and founder of the Renew and Restore Women's Retreat. But the two roles she is most passionate about are those of wife and mother. She has been married to her husband for 20 years and together they have three teenagers. You can read more at her blog:, or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram