Dear Friends and Family,
I wanted to begin our annual Christmas letter with an apology. I am sorry.
For the past 20+ years I have devoted my entire professional career to loving teenagers and walking through the chaos of adolescents in a kind and loving way with kids and a wise, non-anxious presence for parents. Those were good years.
In the space of one year I hung up my youth ministry hat and became a parent of two middle schoolers. And sitting on this side of the fence, my only reflections from this last year are a simple recognition that caring for middle and high schoolers is quite a different thing from parenting them.
What’s funny, is that I have been gearing up for all the chaos, the temper tantrums, slamming doors, strange fashion, abandonment of faith, trying out dirty and dangerous things. We are touching some of that and I am sure there will be more in the future. But these sorts of issues are the challenges of our kids developing their own sense of self and becoming their own version of themselves. I have walked with countless parents through these brutal experiences, but now it is my turn and I am not that thrilled with how the tables have turned.
But, if I’m honest, what I have found to be more difficult and character building is not the brutal challenges of individuation, but the three precursors to this process:
1) The smell. Hygiene, simple hygiene has been an elusive dream for years now. Brushing teeth, taking showers, wearing deodorant, controlling your body; All things that I have taken for granted and miss horribly. I don’t understand that as you grow up and your body smells horrible, is the exact same time you seem to care less. The upside is that it keeps their romantic interests at bay. While the smell is so offensive, it is really the first wave assault in the divide and conquer strategy that is being waged against Katie and me.
2) The total lack of privacy. There was this time when our kids would not only go to bed but also go to sleep at a reasonable time. In fact, Katie and I had this on lock. Dinner, bath, bed, and husband-wife time from 7:45 on. Those days are long gone. They never leave go to bed, they never sleep, they never leave us alone. At the exact season of life we need the most intimacy, most conversation, most agreement, our kids have found a way to invade all of it. Slowly and intentionally, they are invading our space, wearing us down. I can see where this goes before long, before we even know what we are agreeing two, the battle will be long over, and they will be victorious.
3) Their mastery of technology. I have prided myself on being pretty tech savvy, on being in the game and aware of the trends. In a matter of months, I went from being a resource to parents in monitoring and navigating teenagers’ online life to being in desperate need of help. I have no idea how to keep up with their Netflix habits, youtube history, texting, TickTocks, and everything in between. They know more than we think they know and have friendships that have zero touchpoints with our family.
We have believed for way too long that these things were controllable. And they are not. And for that, Katie and I wanted to apologize. The full assault on these fronts is just the first wave of the full individuation that is about to come upon our children.
Thankfully, Katie and I could not be more impressed with the young adults that Noah and MacKenzie are and are becoming. And no matter what sort of chaos the next few years brings, we look forward to the fun challenge to parent, and even more so, coach, love and empower them to be the uniquely gifted, highly valuable, and dearly loved people that God made them to be and we know them to be.
Until next year, our family wants to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And no matter where you are in the chaos of life, may you experience God’s hand of blessing on you and your family this Christmas season!
Love, The Kerns Family. Ben, Katie, Noah, Mackenzie