Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

You don’t have to be a parent to know that the general consensus around raising teenagers is “oh boy, hold on to your hat, it’s going to get bumpy” or perhaps something a little more blunt than that. There is this universal understanding that the teen years are the hardest to navigate as a parent, with perhaps the exception of the toddler years. I see it every time someone learns that I have a 14-year-old daughter and they respond with a loud whistle or raised brows and big grin and say, “Oh boy, you’re in the teen years!” or “Phew! I remember those years, hang in there!” or even, “God bless you, teen girls are so hard!”

I’ve heard it all, and I’ve even said these things. I’ve joked with other parents about needing prayers to get through the teen years, or about the extra grey hairs growing on my head, and they’ve laughed or nodded knowingly. Because everyone seems to agree, parenting a teenager is challenging, trying, and even painful.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned since we entered this phase of life nearly 2 years ago, the surprising truth about raising a teenager: It’s actually the most extraordinary stage of parenting I’ve experienced.

Here’s why.

The relationship is starting to shift. Her needs have changed. My daughter doesn’t call me mommy anymore and she certainly doesn’t need me to hold her hand when crossing the street, pick out her clothes, or even pack her lunches. She is becoming increasingly more independent each year, and while that may sound sad at first, the reality is it has created space and allowed for a new dynamic that I don’t have yet with my younger two.

She doesn’t need me in the same ways, but she still needs me. Often for something really important like someone to listen to her (just listen) when she’s struggling with a particular friendship or obstacle.

She needs me to set boundaries and then step back and give her the freedom to try new things, even fail, within those boundaries, while remaining close enough to help her up when she falls.

She needs me to know that sometimes a good cry, for no particular reason, is cathartic and part of life. But a hug and chocolate can make it all seem better.

She needs me to speak truth into her life, about how I need and rely on God every day so she may learn to do the same.

She needs my advice about decisions that will shape the rest of her life — big decisions and character defining moments — but only when she asks for it.

She needs me to recognize that she is not a little girl anymore, but also that sometimes she still needs her mom and to be ready and available for those moments, without hovering or complaining when they pass.

I’m not saying this is always easy, this shift in how she needs me and the ways we relate to each other. And I most definitely get it wrong! I criticize, nag, and yell. I have a tendency to be sarcastic when I should be gentle. I ask too many questions when she doesn’t want to talk, and sometimes offer advice before it’s solicited. I’m still learning.

And for her part, sometimes I am the best mom ever and she will thank me 100 times for something little, and other times I am the enemy or invisible woman she takes for granted. She’s still learning.

But even with the parts we get wrong; even on the days it’s really hard and one or both of us feels angry, scared, or disappointed in the other, this new relationship is nothing short of phenomenal.

Parenting a teenager is like getting an exclusive preview of the adult this child is going to be. It’s like reading a book about your favorite character and actually getting to play a role in influencing some of their story.

Because you know them more intimately than anyone else. You know where they’ve come from. You know what they’re afraid of, and what they hope for. You get to see all the good in them and the potential that is yet to be realized, but also know there are real struggles and mistakes to be made, which make the victories all the more sweet.

I’m still fairly new to this parenting a teen stage. And maybe it will get more challenging in the coming years, or with my other children. But what I want to say to every other parent who is approaching this stage: Take heart! Because while it might come with some really difficult moments, it’s also so much better than anyone ever tells you.

*This post was originally published at neitherheightnordepth.com

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

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: www.neitherheightnordepth.com, or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram

5 Kids in the Bible Who Will Inspire Yours

In: Faith, Kids
Little girl reading from Bible

Gathering my kids for morning Bible study has become our family’s cornerstone, a time not just for spiritual growth but for real, hearty conversations about life, courage, and making a difference. It’s not perfect, but it’s ours. My oldest, who’s 11, is at that age where he’s just beginning to understand the weight of his actions and decisions. He’s eager, yet unsure, about his ability to influence his world. It’s a big deal for him, and frankly, for me too. I want him to know, deeply know, that his choices matter, that he can be a force for good, just...

Keep Reading

A Mother’s Love is the Best Medicine

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child lying on couch under blankets, color photo

When my kids are sick, I watch them sleep and see every age they have ever been at once. The sleepless nights with a fussy toddler, the too-hot cheeks of a baby against my own skin, the clean-up duty with my husband at 3 a.m., every restless moment floods my thoughts. I can almost feel the rocking—so much rocking—and hear myself singing the same lullaby until my voice became nothing but a whisper. I can still smell the pink antibiotics in a tiny syringe. Although my babies are now six and nine years old, the minute that fever spikes, they...

Keep Reading

Right Now I’m a Mom Who’s Not Ready to Let Go

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter hugging, color photo

We’re doing it. We’re applying, touring, and submitting pre-school applications. It feels a lot like my college application days, and there’s this image in my mind of how fast that day will come with my sweet girl once she enters the school doors. It’s a bizarre place to be because if I’m honest, I know it’s time to let her go, but my heart is screaming, “I’m not ready yet!” She’s four now though. Four years have flown by, and I don’t know how it happened. She can put her own clothes on and take herself to the bathroom. She...

Keep Reading

Each Child You Raise is Unique

In: Kids, Motherhood
Three little boys under a blanket, black-and-white photo

The hardest part about raising children? Well, there’s a lot, but to me, one major thing is that they are all completely different than one another. Nothing is the same. Like anything. Ever. Your first comes and you basically grow up with them, you learn through your mistakes as well as your triumphs. They go to all the parties with you, restaurants, sporting events, traveling—they just fit into your life. You learn the dos and don’ts, but your life doesn’t change as much as you thought. You start to think Wow! This was easy, let’s have another. RELATED: Isn’t Parenting...

Keep Reading

Our Kids Need Us as Much as We Need Them

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy sitting on bench with dog nearby, color photo

During a moment of sadness last week, my lively and joyful toddler voluntarily sat with me on the couch, holding hands and snuggling for a good hour. This brought comfort and happiness to the situation. At that moment, I realized sometimes our kids need us, sometimes we need them, and sometimes we need each other at the same time. Kids need us. From the moment they enter the world, infants express their needs through tiny (or loud) cries. Toddlers need lots of cuddling as their brains try to comprehend black, white, and all the colors of the expanding world around...

Keep Reading

Your Kids Don’t Need More Things, They Need More You

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young girl smiling together at home

He reached for my hand and then looked up. His sweet smile and lingering gaze flooded my weary heart with much-needed peace. “Thank you for taking me to the library, Mommy! It’s like we’re on a date! I like it when it’s just the two of us.” We entered the library, hand in hand, and headed toward the LEGO table. As I began gathering books nearby, I was surprised to feel my son’s arms around me. He gave me a quick squeeze and a kiss with an “I love you, Mommy” before returning to his LEGO—three separate times. My typically...

Keep Reading

This Time In the Passenger Seat is Precious

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen
Teen driver with parent in passenger seat

When you’re parenting preteens and teens, it sometimes feels like you are an unpaid Uber driver. It can be a thankless job. During busy seasons, I spend 80 percent of my evenings driving, parking, dropping off, picking up, sitting in traffic, running errands, waiting in drive-thru lines. I say things like buckle your seat belt, turn that music down a little bit, take your trash inside, stop yelling—we are in the car, keep your hands to yourself, don’t make me turn this car around, get your feet off the back of the seat, this car is not a trash can,...

Keep Reading

So God Made My Daughter a Wrestler

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young female wrestler wearing mouth guard and wrestling singlet

God made my girl a wrestler. Gosh, those are words I would never have thought I would say or be so insanely proud to share with you. But I am. I know with 100 percent certainty and overwhelming pride that God made my girl a wrestler. But it’s been a journey. Probably one that started in the spring of 2010 when I was pregnant with my first baby and having the 20-week anatomy ultrasound. I remember hearing the word “girl” and squealing. I was over the moon excited—all I could think about were hair bows and cute outfits. And so...

Keep Reading

A Big Family Can Mean Big Feelings

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Family with many kids holding hands on beach

I’m a mother of six. Some are biological, and some are adopted. I homeschool most of them. I’m a “trauma momma” with my own mental health struggles. My husband and I together are raising children who have their own mental illnesses and special needs. Not all of them, but many of them. I battle thoughts of anxiety and OCD daily. I exercise, eat decently, take meds and supplements, yet I still have to go to battle. The new year has started slow and steady. Our younger kids who are going to public school are doing great in their classes and...

Keep Reading

You May Be a Big Brother, but You’ll Always Be My Baby

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother with young son, color photo

It seems like yesterday we were bringing you home from the hospital. Back then, we were new parents, clueless but full of love—a love that words can hardly explain. I can vividly recall holding you in my arms, rocking you in the cutest nursery, and singing sweet lullabies, just like yesterday. I can picture those times when you were teeny-tiny, doing tummy time, and how proud I was of you for lifting your head. And oh, the happiness on your face when “Baby Shark” played over and over—that song always made you smile! We made sure to capture your growth...

Keep Reading