The Best Way to Stay Engaged with Teens: Forced Family Fun

Some time is longer
than the rest—
and some
is very short.
— Emily Dickinson

Our time with these teenagers is short, though it is endless.

We tend to wish away the years until the doppelgangers are replaced by our old, familiar, loving progeny.

Forgive me for so quickly moving from the Belle of Amherst  to a more contemporary (yet equally controversial) source, but Matthew McConaughey (in addition to making those bizarre Lincoln commercials, spoofed by Ellen in equally odd fashion) lately said something profound. It was really Jay Leno who said it: he advised a young Matthew, upon his nervous first Tonight Show appearance, to "act like you want to be here." Mr. McConaughey, on his last spot with Jay, thanked the host for advice which has changed his perspective and made things easier, time after time.

While raising, living with, and doing the laundry of our teenagers, we do best to act like we want to be here. To that end, I recommend "forced family fun" with teenagers. Keep your expectations low; remember, you are essentially hanging out with toddlers, and they are not known for their relaxing qualities. While driving slowly through another red-rock canyon on our annual "forced family fun" Colorado vacation, we try to act like we want to be there. Most of the time, we fail. But amidst the bickering and ennui inspired by these times together, we find ways to laugh. We make memories. As always, fleeting moments of joy shared with teenagers is worth the pain of getting there. Give thanks; bank the memory; forget the horrible parts; do it again and again.

Parents, let us act like we want to be here for these few remaining years with our children still in the nest. Let us engage with them so we KNOW who they really are. Let us open our eyes to any real danger so we can PROTECT them on their journey toward adulthood. Let us HONOR them enough to let them fail; let us always remind them that they are worthy of our love. Before we know it--the time is very short--they will be grown and gone. These final years together will be so much sweeter if we try not to wish them away and instead find ways to enjoy them. Force a little regular family fun. I promise, you won't regret it.



Regardless of how you feel about him, you might not mind the visual. :-)