5 Questions About…Parenting Teens

Ok, so I know many of you don’t have teens, but you interact with teens, or you’ll raise teens someday or you’ve already raised teens and can add to this post in the comments section!  I’m super excited for you to hear from my wise, authentic, fun, friend, Molly Dykstra sharing on our “5 Questions About…” series.  You might recognize her from Wednesday’s post too :).


1.  You are a parent I admire so much!  Can you tell us a little about your kids and their personalities?

Admire?!! I have three “kids” although they are really all young adults now (need to keep reminding myself of that.)

Mackenzie is 18, just graduated from High school.  She is articulate, insightful, outgoing, an organizer and initiator, can be impatient, has learned to love time on her own to recharge her batteries, loves photography and creating beautiful spaces.  

Clara is 16, going in to her junior year of HS.  She is open, adventuresome, empathetic (intensely), laser focused about things she is excited about, passionate, daring, can be indecisive, loves being at the cabin, and caring for kids on the margins.

Bennett is 12, heading into 7th grade.  He is charming, witty (funny!), thoughtful, talkative, prone to forget to pick up after himself, caring, gregarious, smart, loves lacrosse, skiing, and drumming up fun with his friends.  

2.  People look at your family and see an ideal, but I know parenting hasn’t been without its challenges (just like for anyone).  What have been the dynamics that have been most challenging to you as a mom?

Not so sure about people seeing an ideal in our family, maybe a collection of craziness!! Oh the challenging dynamics…. Lots and lots of personality/opinion/need to voice that opinion–not a quiet one among us which makes for many heated dinner table ‘conversations’ (when we are able to corral the troops), slammed doors, raised (?!!) voices clamoring to be heard; having two girls close in age–tons of comparison/feeling they ‘fall short’ vs. the other who ‘has it all’; having a home with tight quarters that can feed the intensity.

3.  What are the resources that have been most helpful?

Partnership. Being married to someone (Jeff :)) who ‘gets it’ (the emotional dynamics) and is willing and wants to talk things through, be intentional, roll up his sleeves and do it together.  

Friends. Spending time with/sharing in a vulnerable, authentic way with friends who are in the same life stage–getting past our well kept homes and conversation about our jobs and kids’ schedules and into the nitty gritty…gives us the sense (Truth) that we are not alone. 

Spiritual Disciplines. Being willing to do the hard work of taking care of myself (therapy, forced rest, time alone, capturing early morning as my Sacred time.)

Most “parenting” books have been the WORST thing for me (Ahhcckk!  We aren’t doing allowance/chore chart/family devotions/serving together/fill-in-the-blank well/consistently/at all!!)

Like Dew Your Youth: Growing up with Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson is the only book resource specifically about parenting that I would stand firmly behind.  I picked this book up off a shelf at a house where we were staying a few years ago because I didn’t get the title (it’s a reference to a psalm-something about how dew is fleeting, so is adolescence, etc.) and have read it over and over.  The premise is that going through the stage of having adolescents is about something WE, as parents, need in order to refine us and humble us and bring us back to a place of dependence on God.  Seriously.

4.  What have you learned about yourself and God in the process of walking alongside your kids through hard circumstances?

About myself: I am vulnerable to self-condemnation; I am prone to panic and try to do rather then pause and pray for strength and wisdom; I need my support crew–they don’t just need me; I am good at listening to my kids; I do not have answers/solutions/programs that work or stick or last, so it’s best to not put too much stock in those.

About God: He is near-even in the middle of the night when the overwhelm can be most intense-especially in His Words in the Psalms; He is shaping all 5 of us all the time–we are all in process; light does come again after dark, spring after winter– He carries us THROUGH things.

5.  What advice would you give parents of teens?

Trust that God is at work and will finish what He has started.  And know that, at the end of the day, you are loved and that doing the best you can (which is often not that great) is enough–He fills in the gaps.

Brave Knights, and a Trustworthy King (for young parents)

Not infrequently, husband John and I will be part of conversations with our daughters like the following one.  It’s about Maggie’s summer internship in Northern Uganda where the Lord’s Resistance Army has forced children to be soldiers.  She’ll be working with those who have been brutalized but have escaped…


The other day after he read this husband John asked me (rhetorically), “How does this keep HAPPENING??!”

Others also ask us this too (although it sounds more like: “How did you raise your daughters?”)  The primary answer is: “With a LOT of mistakes and loads of God’s GRACE.”

Both our daughters, and we, will continue to mess up as we try to follow Jesus, but we also trust that God will pick us up when we stumble,  Here’s what we tried to teach them as they were growing up… Continue reading

A Birthday, a Wedding, and Who You Really Are

May 18th my mom turned 80.  May 26th our daughter Maggie got married.

Two milestones for two amazing women within eight days.


You would never know my mom is 80.  It’s a little demoralizing when we’re out together and people think we’re friends instead of mother and daughter.  She classy and spunky and fun and fashionable.  In short, she is remarkable.  And she has a remarkable relationship with both our daughters.

She just finished making 407 cake pops for Maggie’s wedding, ordering flowers,  overseeing a team creating 60 flower arrangements, and creating centerpieces.

That, and Maggie’s been known to borrow her shoes.  Yeah, she’s got game.

But the two things that are most inspiring about her are that she’s always available and she loves me unconditionally.  I know, I know, she’s my mom, and it’s part of her job, but wow, she does it better than anyone I know.

We were disciplined as kids, but I don’t ever remember her criticizing us. Her trust in us and her belief that we would choose well was powerful.

She always believes the best.  I don’t mean she is blind to our faults.  But if I was convicted of bank robbery I’m sure she’d visit me every day with her famous brownies.

She wouldn’t talk about how wrong I was to rob the bank.  Instead she’d talk about how great I looked in my orange jump suit, and how she was sure I would be the friendliest person in the clink.  She would be confident that I’d be the next Chuck Colson, turning it all around for good.

You would think with all this good lovin’ I’d be super secure in my identity as a beloved child of God – the truest thing about me and you.  The one thing that can never change.  In spite of this, a million people and circumstances every day try to tell me and you differently.

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Why my Daughter is Crying

As I may have mentioned Most people within a five hundred mile radius know that our daughter Maggie is getting married.  34 days, 9 hours and 27 minutes from this moment.


I’m not gonna kid you.  We’ve experienced kind of a perfect wedding storm of crazy that totally caught us off-guard.  And there have been quite a few tears (also unusual).

The other day, daughter Katy passed along this tumblr that a guy started – Why My Son is Crying* – recording pictures and the reason why he was crying with each shot.  Maybe some of you know about this and I’m just late to the party (as usual).

Some of my favorite reasons for his tears are:

  • Buzz Lightyear’s knee is bent.
  • It took me longer than 0 seconds to take off his shirt.
  • I touched his foot with my foot.
  • We wouldn’t let him drink whiskey.
  • We wouldn’t let him open the hotel door and run naked through Times Square.

If you have been a parent for more than the time it took me to write this sentence, you can relate.

2 months old, 2 years old, 25 years old.  Our kids cry.  And sometimes when they’re little (rarely) it’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity.  But mostly tears break our hearts and we just want to fix whatever is wrong.

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What do your “Real” Prayers Sound Like?

Some people dread praying aloud like a cat dreads a bath.

You say you can relate?  When it comes time for closing prayer you hyper-ventilate?  Suddenly decide you need to go to the bathroom?  Get a case of laryngitis?

Me?  Like it or not, I’ve been doing it for a long time.  Occupational hazard.

So I’ve gotten at least fairly ok at the “lifting ups” and the “if it’s your wills” and words like “grace and mercy”.

My out loud prayers are kind of like business letters all proper and punctuated, politically correct and polite.

But my real prayers?  They sound more like David’s prayers of desperation than Mary’s Magnificat.

My “real” prayers sound like:

Helpmehelpmehelpme!  Oh, look!  There’s a bird!”

Or like a letter from a kid at camp home to his parents:

My “camp letter” to God might sound more like…

Dear Mom and Dad, (or God)

I have to write this to get chicken dinner tonight. (or, I have to pray so I can say I prayed cuz I’m a Christian and it’s kind of expected)

It’s really hot here and I’m out of underwear, and send snacks. (or, It’s about me, and it’s about Me, and it’s about ME!)


Laura (or, Amen)

But here’s what I’m thinking.  As a parent, any communication from my kids is golden.  I don’t care what they say, I just want them talking to me.

And as a parent, I know they’re kids.  They’re not going to talk like me or think like me, or always remember their manners.

Yeah, I want them to know me, to trust me, to obey me, to ask my opinion, but they’re kids, and if they’re talking to me that’s a start!

What do your “real” prayers sound like?

The Biggest Parenting Mistake You Can Make

This is my friend, Sherrie.  Not the bald one.  The beautiful one in the bed who still looks like she’s in her 20’s.  She and Rick have three delightful grown and almost-grown daughters. We raised our kids together with other Jesus-following parents who were all anxious about getting it “right”.

Last year around the time Sherrie’s eldest daughter was getting married she began to think she might be going through menopause.


 Meet Jolie Layne Byron.  Born April 23, 2012.

I went to a shower for this new little one and we got to talking about our experiences with our “first round” of kids.  I started thinking…If I had it to do over again, what would I do differently?  What mistakes did I make?  What mistakes didn’t I make?!

There are the “little” things people might point to like the time I let Maggie wear her sandals to church.  It was 30 degrees, but I figure you gotta pick your battles.

Or, Katy might point out how in grade school she was scarred for life when she was home sick and I let her watch “Wait Until Dark” while I ran to the grocery store.

I could also throw John under the bus and mention the time he gave Maggie Ipecac in the middle of the night thinking it was cough syrup.

Times when I was too controlling and times when I was too permissive.  So many possibilities, so little time!!

I sent our daughters, 24 and 26, an email and asked them to weigh in.  I know they could give a list of things they wish we had done differently, but they were both feeling gracious I guess, because they only sent what they appreciated about our parenting.

It made me think of something that happened when the girls were in grade school and we were coming home from a vacation in Florida at a time we had had to pull them out of school.

They’re both really good students but keeping up with homework when there’s a beach beckoning is tough.  In spite of our reminders, Katy had not done the work she was supposed to do.  John, frustrated, said, “Katy!  Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t punish you!”

She didn’t miss a beat.  “Because you’re always telling us it’s all about Grace, Grace and more GRACE!!”

Maybe the biggest mistake we can make is to forget about grace.

I think of all the ways I’ve messed up and, I think of my heavenly parent.  I’m His reckless, well-meaning toddler, crashing into things and tripping over my toes.  I’m overwhelmed by a God who picks me up and dusts me off, and sets me back on my feet with the power to redeem my mistakes, turn me around and point me in the right direction.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9

Might you leave a comment today about what did your parents did right?  

Or a mistake you’ve made that you saw redeemed by God?