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They still need us. Secondary College Closing Service address, 2010 Friends, as I look at the Yr 12’s, I naturally reflect on how they have finished their schooling and ponder what got them through it in such good shape – with a bright future… I know a lot of it had to do with their parents. Can I speak about that tonight…. Being a parent of kids from the ages of 0 to 12 is different than parenting young people living in the teen years. Everyone knows that younger children need their mum and dad. Little kids need some loving person to wipe their nose and other bits and they need their hand held as they cross the scary street. Everyone knows that the whole notion of “quality time” is a myth. The truth is that “quality time” actually is “quantity time”, as far as kids are concerned. Just being with kids as much as possible without even doing anything much for a lot of that time is the single ,most important thing parents can contribute to their kids’ lives when they are young. But then something happens – the most extreme and tricky change a human being ever experiences occurs; ‘teenageship’! Everything is changing. Everything is changing in every way and very quickly. Kids feel weird. Parents feel lost. Little Suzie who used to be so easy to get on with is now in your face; she is intelligent, she is able to match you in sarcasm, she is becoming a mature woman right in front of your eyes! Little Johnny, who was so cute is now breaking out with pimples, attitude, height, strength and everything else. The room is a war zone. The couch in front of the TV is the second bedroom – the teen thinks! And so it goes…. Then something happens to adults. Somehow they pick up the vibe that their little kids, who are now much more complex and challenging to relate to, don’t want them around anymore. On one level this is true! Often teens would rather be dead than be seen with their parents in certain public places – like – the movies, the school ball, the friend’s party… then the main street of Bunbury, any street, even on the front porch of the house on their own street! – Just in case some random person actually makes the link that the teenager actually has you as their parent! But, let me tell you a little story that I see being acted out in our modern western culture – right here in sunny Dalyellup… Because we all have to make ends meet, and because we are all a little unsure of what to do with our teenage kids, and because we have a negative view of “teenageship” anyway (which comes from a very lop-sided, ‘bad news sells’ media spin…), and because we adults feel awkward and unable to control our kids anymore (as if “control” was what teens are needing most), and for lots of other reasons to do with who we are and what we believe, we start to believe the vibe – our teens don’t want us around – OR, “our teens don’t need us around”. I am here to tell you that teens might not want you around sometimes, but they need you around. Here’s the story… Young teen, George gets leaves the house at 7.30am. Mum and Dad have already left for work or are leaving for work in the mornings. George walks or rides to school alone. He sits outside one of the school buildings alone because he arrives at 7.45am. There is no one around – maybe the groundsman and the padre and the odd teacher might be walking around when he is – but not usually. George eventually gets to get inside the school buildings with his friends and he goes through the school day and all is well. He does his work. He gets on with people, even his teachers. George is learning and relating (he is not on drugs. He is not out of control. He is a great young kid who has been raided with love and respect and it shows). The school day finishes and George has to face the prospect of being alone for the next 2 1/2 hours because mum and dad won’t be home until at least 6.00pm. So he walks home alone, enters the house alone, watches TV alone, plays on his Playstation or Wii or iPhone alone, does a few chores alone, makes sure his little sister is ok…… until mum and dad turn up, usually pretty tired but trying their best to get everything done. They are tired, but not too cranky. Sometimes they are very tired and very cranky. George knows they are doing all of this hard work for him. They tell him that a lot. Sometimes George wishes that his mum and dad did not do all of this hard work for him. It makes him feel bad. It makes him feel like he is putting them through all this. It makes him have this sense of guilt just for being who he is. The truth is that George would rather have them around a lot more. Yes, George often gives off the vibe that he does not want mum or dad around at the moment. Yes, George has his moods and weaknesses and he can also be cranky. But on a deeper level, George would like to know that all is OK and that mum or dad, or just one of them are around and that they are interested in his day and that they were not so tired all the time. What’s the point? Don’t leave them when they hit 13, folks. They still need you. Yes, they might give you curry from time to time and give off the vibe that you need to disappear for a decade, but that is only temporary stuff – and not deep stuff. Teens need time like they did when they were little. The same amount of interest and time and commitment but given differently. Yes, it is tricky because this little girl and boy are growing up and testing it all out. Parents have to become Jason Bourne kind of people who know how to sneak in to their teen’s life, stay there a while, get out again and then pick the time to do it all over again. Timing is everything. I am A Christian because I have a Heavenly Father who sneaks into my life, stays there and times everything very well. He says in his Word, the bible, he loves me, is committed to me and will accept and help me when I am guilty, nasty, ugly and broken. He will never fall asleep or take it easy so that I get into bad trouble and get hurt beyond repair. He says he is my shade and my shelter and that he is into teaching me and shaping me for my whole life until I one day see him face-to-face, when I will finally see who I really am and who he created me to be and I will no longer be guessing. I will have finally grown up and become complete. Adults need a heavenly Father; kids need their parents at any age. Don’t leave them. God will not leave you. Our teens still need us. Adrian Kitson, December 10, 2010

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