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Refreshing the Tools

Mon, Nov 22, 2021

Friendship Park, Addis Ababa, October 2021


Me: I am off to the market.

Them: (excited little voices) Can we come with you?

Me: (In a different instance) It’s for grown-ups.

Them: We’ll be very quiet. (Anything to convince me.)

Me: You will get bored.

Them: We’ll bring our toys with us.

Fast forward

Them: (Insert a tone that triggers in mum’s mind – beep, beep minefield ahead)

Who will be there? We want to stay home. Why do we have to come with you?

Between those (composite) incidents, those (formerly) cute little angels have outgrown more clothes than I care to think about. But that has never worried me. There is a market called Toi – savior of parents. If you’re willing to hike into the depths of that sprawling maze of stall after another, piled high with imports and brands of this clothing item or the other… If you are willing to bend, sift through, try them on … and if you have a quick eye as to where the buyers (primarily women) have congregated in pursuit of ‘camera’ picks (those freshly-opened bales where you get dibs before the whole world has picked and discarded), it ensures your brood is affordably well-turned-out.

And so, between Toi, the annual trip to LC Waikiki, and the older cousin or friend who passes on a nice jacket, a barely worn pair of shoes, and the handy pair of jeans that has survived to tell the story (what is life without a good hand-me-down) – clothing the growing girls has not been a problem.

What I have a problem with is tools – what to do when they outgrow my parenting toolbox. When the ‘look,’ previously so effective, is ignored? When the consequences I previously carefully pulled out and dangled in front of errant kids to bring about change, are now actually welcomed instead of being feared?

In fact, I am mostly scratching my head trying to think of an appropriate consequence to mete out for their unacceptable behavior. It used to be enough that ‘Mother said.’ I have learned that can only fly so far. Now, Mother is no longer the ‘alpha and omega,’ and these budding defense lawyers know their chapter and verse well enough to bring down my arguments and explanations (or give it a good attempt).

“Why can’t we?” They demand.

And sometimes I know (but will not admit) I say no – because whatever they are asking is too much of a bother, inconvenient, or simply because we have always done it ‘this way.’ I have been caught contradicting myself – in one breath I preach ‘never give up’ and in the other, I hide behind my (rapidly increasing) age and reject new ideas and methods.

There are many areas in which as a parent I am open to a different opinion – dressing, hairstyles, bedtime and wake up time, number of movies that a healthy person can watch; but there are other issues that are critical to me – what do I do when faced down with, “No, I don’t want to go to church?”

Between answering those questions and putting a leash on my temper you might have caught me muttering to myself – I am the adult here, I must behave like the adult. Floundering in a sea of hormones (teenage and midlife), living at close quarters (we are back to online school), and a dated toolbox that ‘don’t seem to work no more’ I have reached out to friends and prayers and you guessed right – books!

My old author friend, Eugene Peterson, reminds me of the incident where Mary and Joseph, halfway home from Jerusalem realize their 12-year-old firstborn is nowhere to be found. After a frantic search among their relatives, they retraced their steps back to Jerusalem and found him, three days later, in the temple engaging with the teachers of the law. Mary reproofs him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Drawing from this incident Peterson says, It was no easier for Joseph and Mary to be parents of an adolescent than it is for any of the rest of us. This experience shows the tensions that develop between authority and obedience in even the best of homes.

And thus, he challenges us – the question is not so much, “How do I get my child to obey me?” but, “How can I properly and wisely exercise my authority?”

I will be finding out more from:

Eugene Peterson – Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up with Your Teenager

Also lined up is ‘Age of Opportunity’ where Paul Tripp shows parents how to seize the countless opportunities to deepen communication and learn and grow with their teens.

PS: The Kinuthia family is holed up in Nairobi for the time being.

(See what I have done (wink). Saving this tidbit till the end of my usual long musings.)

PPS: Once again, thank you for the overwhelming love and concern you have shown over our personal safety. Pray for the peace of Ethiopia.

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