It’s been too long. I’ve not had a preteen/teenager living in my home for many years. Our first child was a boy and his transition from child to pre-adult was quick and violent. My perfect child exploded in so many ways that I was left reeling in shock, terror and despair. Later, I learned–but didn’t realize at the time–that an explosion is the only way to venture into the unknown and horrifying land called Adulthood.
Our second explosion came in the form of a daughter. She was different. She exploded slowly with fireworks rather than an atom bomb. However, a continual burst of cherry bombs and fire crackers is equally unnerving after six months or so.
I have to admit the third child exploded in so many different ways that it was almost a relief. Marked by a passion for Christ and missions, she erupted all over the world (literally) with trips and adventures that took her from Europe to Asia.
But my last venture into this explosive mine field was more than 20 years ago. My skills in dodging and weaving have not been sharpened in so many years, that I’m out of practice and I’ve completely lost my edge.
This week I’ve been staying with an exceptionally gifted and intelligent young woman whose parents are out of town. Her manners have been honed by the protective virtues of parents with one child who deeply desired that she have five siblings. With the only child, there is the tricky jig of monitoring every movement while desiring to show parental love. Because none of us are perfect, this results in amazingly healthy ways of showing our love spotted with some unhealthy ways, as well.
This young woman thrives on debate. I believe she came out of the womb thinking of ways to debate the weather, books, toads, God and the universal secrets of life. Carefully, she uncovers your views by asking a miriad of questions; and then before you can know what slammed you, she takes the opposite side and destroys your position. For a person like me who loves The Debate, it has been an exciting and exhilirating couple of days.
But I must confess that I’m lost most of the time we are together. One moment, as comrades, we are battling the unphathanable depths of literature and drama. Then, within moments, we’ve been thrown into a battle of wits between the two of us. Everything in me says, “Don’t argue with her.” I know this is wisdom. It is the best and only path. Nevertheless, I seem powerless to resist the pull of the surging waves that hit me. Then once caught in the undertow, I struggle to swim along the shore to be able to get my feet back onto the ground.
In short, I’m a stranger in a strange land. Yet, rather than depressing or disappointing me, the opposite effect emerges. Being with a young, gifted child who is on the trembling edge of adulthood has been excilerating and wonderfully pleasant for me. As she slammed the door, this morning yelling, “I don’t have time for all this. I have to go,” Closing the door, I silently prayed for her and I knew that her time with me has been much more depressing than excilerating. But that is strange land in which she now lives and she will live here for almost a decade. Nothing can make it better, except a deep relationship with the Lord, buckets of love and time.