Monday, February 6, 2017

life with four teenage boys

I've noticed a new, unfamiliar pattern with my weekends lately.  I don't really know when this started, either, maybe when my older two boys got more social with their lives.  But I have noticed the change and thought I'd share a little about it, and life with four teenage boys.

Todd and I have always been in agreement with one another about parenting, and one thing we have always wanted was for our boys to know that their friends are welcome here all the time.  Todd had that when he was growing up, and I had the same.  In fact, my dad gave me only one piece of parenting advice when we started our family, and that was to never say no to them having friends over.  Or at least, if we did say no, to not say it often and to be armed with a good excuse (like a sickness).  We've said no a few times over the years, but from the time they were in kindergarten and first grade, they've ALWAYS had friends over for sleepovers or to hang out for the day.

All of that paragraph above is how we've always been the "hang out" house.  I have lots of friends who are young in their parenting years, and this is for them.  I'm asked pretty often about how that happened, and that's how.  It's so simple, it's almost too easy to believe it would work.  It does, though, and it doesn't always have to be complicated.  Just start when they're young and keep it up; by the time they're teenagers, the precedent will have been set.

I will say here that my kids have always been the type to want to hang out with their friends.  I was that way when I was younger, I loved to spend the night out or to have my friends spend the night with me.  Usually it was that my friends came to me, and that is still the case with my boys.  I don't know if they'll ever outgrow wanting friends to spend the night.

Heck, who am I kidding?  I still love a good sleepover, and I'm forty.  This might be why I do youth.  Kidding, kidding.

Now on to the rest of my post.  We used to have weekends that looked exactly the same.  We would go out on Friday night, we would go to my mom's for dinner on Saturday night, and church would be on Sunday.  My stepdad Bill always warned me that the day would come when nights at their house for dinner would grow fewer and further apart, because they'd want to be with their friends on the weekends.

And he was right.

Nowadays the boys are solo on Friday nights.  The older two driving has made them fiercely independent, and they usually make all their own plans.  They'll use Friday nights for guys night sometimes, or sometimes they'll meet friends for dinner and go to a late movie afterward.  I've taken to making a huge dinner for my family on Saturday nights lately.  And usually, it's not just us, but others will be crowded in around our dining room table.  I love having a table chock full of people.  For two weeks in a row, I made a huge dinner for them on this night, and it was completely devoured.  This weekend I made another huge dinner, but it was just us six.

We can do either way, and I'm content with that.  (Drew has one friend who loves my cooking, and often he will eat with us.  We are always prepared for extra people.)

Often time, after dinner, they invite friends over.  Sometimes it's just guys, and sometimes it's mixed.  This week it was only three people, but they had fun laughing, and watching movies in the playroom upstairs.  Sometimes it's crowded, sometimes it's simple, like this weekend.

This was an extra large crowd, on New Years' Eve, and some of the regulars that always come were out of town, but lots of weekends, it looks like this, or at least close to this.

Notice my house is NOT large.  There are always people on furniture, around tables, and on the floor, but they don't mind.  And usually when their friends come over, the house is dirty.  Dog hair is everywhere.  But that's okay, teenagers don't care about that either.  I will clean on weekdays and let the house be lived in over the weekends, when we're all home together.

Also, if I've not mentioned this, Todd works a lot of weekend nights.  The night changes pretty frequently, but sometimes I'm here with these people alone.  I don't ever mind, honestly, they're all easy.  Sometimes if my friend Missy isn't doing anything, she'll come join me, but usually if Todd is gone, it's just me.  On those nights, I have noticed that they stay downstairs.  I will watch any movie they request...even High School Musical.

So this is what our weekend nights often look like.  The key is to be open to the plans that my boys make.  One thing I try to tell them is to make sure they include everyone.  They have this group text that they always use to talk back and forth, and sometimes a lot will respond to that, but this weekend, only one responded.  They are okay with whatever, honestly, and often have even more fun on the nights when it's just a few here.  The laughter seems louder on those nights, from what I can hear downstairs.

Also, most of this is about my older two boys, the sixteen and seventeen year olds.  Jonah and Noah are thirteen, and they always have at least one friend here, my "bonus" son, and sometimes they'll have him and one other friend.  Not usually, though.  Alex is here more often than he's not on the weekends, and usually they won't ask for anyone else to come over.  I know that day will change, though, and they'll be the ones who make our house burst at the seam with friends.  Also, the fact that I volunteer as a youth leader at church helps tremendously.  I know that God has given me a supernatural love for teenagers, and not everyone has that.  I would prefer a house full of teenagers, though, over a few babies or toddlers, or even elementary aged kids.  I've always loved wherever in life my boys were, so since they're all teenagers now, this makes perfect sense.

God has done this, though, and He is the one I want to boast in, not myself, not my husband, and CERTAINLY not our parenting skills.  God has given us the wisdom and knowledge we've had thus far, and I pray all the time, for all of this.  We are totally human and we are flawed.  We've mimicked what our parents did for us, and we've used what we have learned from our godly pastor at church.

I know and recognize that these boys are not ours; they are the Lord's.  His plans, His ways are totally perfect, and I trust Him with their lives.  I hold them loosely in my hands, with my palms outstretched to God.  They are His.  When we mess up as parents, He is there to pick up the pieces and gently guide us on the right path.

Thanks for reading my blog.  I pray that God uses this to encourage someone today.  Love to all.


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