“The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.”
As we near the ending of the “year of 16”, my family and I sat down and discussed the lessons that were taught and learned during the time of my son being the age 16. Sixteen came with quite a bit of turbulence, but as we approach 17 we are starting to experience a calmness that only maturity can bring. We spent most of our days of 16 in disarray, never being willing to agree to disagree. Everyone had their own idea of what things should look like and each of us took a different approach to help my son achieve what we considered success. Somewhere along the way, I realized I was force-feeding my son what I thought was best for him and at that point I realized it was time for another approach. I sat down with each member of my family and here are the responses I got when I asked the question, “What did you learn during the 365 days of 16?”
The sixteen year old…
- “Don’t let one event/incident impact how you perform in another event. – This was learned after I failed to qualify in one race this summer. I allowed it to impact me for the entire summer and as a result I experienced little success because I didn’t move on from that one experience.”
- “Believe in myself. – With constant encouragement from my parents, I learned I can accomplish many things if I just believe in myself. I learned this lesson after running my best times in two big meets. Weeks before the meets, my parents kept saying things to motivate me and make me believe I could do great things.”
- “Listen to people that have experiences and want to help you. – This lesson came when you (mom) told me I had to join the National Honor Society. I didn’t realize how important it was and how it could help me down the road. I was actually happy when I got accepted and I realized you’re only trying to help me. Most of the things I say I want in the next few years, you had them when you were my age. So I figured maybe listening to you would help”
- “It’s okay to take risks. – You (mom) made me join DECA after I didn’t sign up for one of the other organizations at the beginning of the year. After joining DECA, I competed in regional competition and advanced to state. There were times when I didn’t know what I was doing while preparing for competition but I still did it and it paid off.”
From the dad of the sixteen year old…
- “Parenting isn’t easy. – Knowing what was appropriate at the age of 16 was difficult for me to understand. I wanted to make sure he had appropriate interactions and we weren’t hindering him from growing.”
- “Despite all that’s going on, 16 is still 16. – My son did the very things I expected him to do. He mumbled under his breath, he would talk back, he did what 16 year old boys do.”
From the mom if the sixteen year old…
- Almost doesn’t count – This lesson was learned after we had to celebrate great performances in which the achievement still wasn’t enough to advance us in competition. We had to glorify second place or being one spot away from advancing to the next round of the contest simply because the task was well executed. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re so close yet so far away.
- Don’t start a sentence with the statement, “I’m not trying to be negative”. One day I found this to be totally aggravating to my son as he followed up with the statement, “But you’re starting off by being negative”.
- Constantly speak life into your child – While we have always done this, eventually they grow older and don’t do things the way we want them to do things. Instead of seeing him as being defiant I had to honor his desires in taking the initiative to do things on his own. I had to continue to praise him and commend his efforts even if it was a fail. I had to be there to pick him up, dust him off and let him know it was okay to start over. I AM HIS BIGGEST FAN!
- Prayer changes things – While this sounds cliche, imagine every member praying for something totally different for one person. We had to learn to fast and pray collectively and make sure we weren’t confusing God. When assembling for prayer, it helped us to understand we were all asking for the desires of the heart as we made our requests to God.
As we count down the final days of 16, it was quite a pleasure to have this conversation with my family. I’m hoping that as we share with each other, we can reflect and assist in the growth of our unit. Sixteen has been grand and as with anything, we are grateful for the experiences of dear old “sweet sixteen”.