To the Future Me Who is Frustrated at His Teenage Kid,
Kids are confusing. But teens are even MORE confusing. They say you don't get a manual on how to be a parent. You may want to learn as you go, or do it how your parents did it. However, let me offer you something that you've already learned from a different perspective but will probably forget in the years to come.
Right now, I'm mentoring some of the most hardworking, dedicated, enthusiastic, and loving teens I could hope to be around. Despite having great educational opportunities and a fantastic community, they still struggle with their parents to varying degrees in many of the same ways you struggled with your parents. In many instances, you didn't feel loved, respected, or supported by them. They never hugged you or said "I love you" or "I'm proud of you."
As you read this, you may be saying to yourself, "I endured 10 years of tough training, and now I work over 60 hours a week as a plastic surgeon just to provide for them! All they do is play all day and do a little homework. They should be grateful for what I do and just do as they're told!" Remember when you were on the receiving end of that? Remember when you promised that you would never make anyone else feel that way?
Here's the thing, David. Take a close look at your kids right now. Remember that they do not belong to you. They are God's children. God thought about them, loved them, and planned to breathe life into them since the beginning of time. He entrusted them to you for a short time, and He will take care of them after you are gone.
Also, remember that they are people too. Little people, but people just the same. They think, feel, and love just as you do. They experience joy, hurt, and sorrow in the same ways you do. They relate to people the same way you do, and so to build a relationship with them the way you would with your wife or anyone else, you need to give them love through not only gifts and service, but also through words of affirmation, quality time, and touch. I know you may not feel like it sometimes, or you may feel like they don't deserve it. However, you weren't called to receive from them; you were called to give and serve so that they may one day learn to do the same for others.
Spend time with them. Ask them about what's going on in their lives and truly listen without judgment. Hug them. Tell them you love them. Tell them how proud you are of them. That's what it truly means to give them everything you never had while growing up.
-Younger David, Possibly More Naive, But Who Nonetheless Loves Irvine North SSM
P.S. - Never forget that your Father in Heaven chose to continue loving you and staying by your side despite how many mistakes you made in life.