“Hi Mama.”

I’m sure it was incredibly cute when my oldest son said, “Hi Mama,” when he was about two years old. Now we’ve gone full circle, past “Mommy” and “Mom.”  As a teenager, he now says “Hi Mama” in a Stewie-from-Family-Guy-ring-tone sort of way. Yet there’s an underlying tone in that “Hi Mama” that tells me he’s glad to be home.

And using the word, “cute,” is definitely off limits!

I was once a teenager, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Before smartphones, before the Internet, before GPS, before street signs on country back roads, I was a teenager. I talked to my friends on a black dial phone with a six foot cord, I referenced encyclopedias for research papers, I knew how to read a paper map, and I watched my odometer to know how many miles I had gone on a gravel road somewhere in the middle of nowhere so I wouldn’t get lost. I was on the dance team, but back then we called it “drill team.” I listened to hair bands, NKOTB, and Alabama.

I used to think it seemed like yesterday, but lately it seems like light years ago in an alternative universe!

These days, my dear husband and I have four boys – two of them teenagers, ages thirteen and fifteen. They have to learn to navigate social media in ways that won’t come back to haunt them. They have the world at their fingertips on Google. They Snapchat their friends. They have computerized maps that speak to them, although I have taught them to use a paper map. They started playing organized sports a year after they were potty trained. They listen to One Republic, Aloe Blacc, and Florida Georgia Line.

Despite all the changes, some things remain the same. Teenagers experience newfound independence and have incredible choices to make – choices that are often impacted by peer pressure. Parents worry. Teenagers tell their parents to stop worrying and stop being “so uncool.”

Parents worry some more.

I’m not naïve. There are good reasons for parents to be concerned. Worried. Stressed.

There are also good reasons to be optimistic about young people. It may have been more than a few years ago when I was a teenager myself, but I’m determined to not be the crotchety old person yelling, “Get off my lawn!”  “Kids today!!” “What’s this world coming to?” I’d rather be singing the old Journey tune, “Don’t Stop Believin’.”  Not with my head in the sand, but with faith. I have to remember to pray more and worry less.

Whatever challenges I encounter in the journey of parenting teenagers – there are also plenty of good things to hang onto. I have to remember this when I get concerned. Worried. Stressed.

Open a school yearbook. You’ll find junior high and high school kids who are motivated in the classroom, in sports, in the arts, and in other organizations.

The good stuff is also found in the little things. Their music. It keeps me young. And they don’t mind some of my old classic rock either, sometimes.

The teenage brain fog sense of humor that makes us all laugh. “Mom, can I just have a 9 inch footlong sub?” or “Can we order this shirt in an Extra-Medium?”

A hug after a favorite meal. “Mom, seriously, that was best shrimp and alfredo I’ve ever had. Ever

Or hearing my oldest son walk through the door with a goofy, “Hi Mama.”

Diane Karr

Diane Karr lives on a family farm in south central Nebraska with her husband and four sons. Besides chasing after her busy boys and the farm, she volunteers as a church organist. Diane graduated from UNL in 1996 as an agribusiness major, shares stories about farm life at RealFarmWifeOnTheCountyLine.com, and is a volunteer for CommonGround Nebraska. She also enjoys Husker football, hazelnut lattes, cooking and baking, boating, photography, and spending time with family and friends.