Monday, November 2, 2009

something different for a minute...

so i've had babies on the brain pretty much continuously for the past few weeks. i think this is understandable. but something else i've had on the brain that i don't think i've blogged about is having high schoolers on the brain.

my teen decided to join the high school youth group at our church this year. he really likes music and the music the youth minister plays at the teen mass has really drawn my oldest in, so he was ready to make a commitment. i have struggled for awhile with how to handle my children's religious upbringing...i know when i baptized them i promised to raise them catholic and i believe i have. but i think i've said before, my favorite quote about religion is about preaching the gospel everyday, and using words when you have to. so i have not ever made my kids go to religious education classes. my oldest went when we lived in the same town as our families because his cousins went and it was fun to do stuff with the cousins. but once we moved, they never had any interest and i never pushed.

well, this year, as my teen decided to try out the high school youth group, my two middle kids also decided they were ready to take their first communion. now, i can be a rebel and such, but i wasn't exactly ready to just let them start taking communion. so i explained that they'd have to start taking classes and learn about the sacrament before they could do it...much like taking driver's ed before learning to drive. could they learn without the class? sure. but it's just better to take the class and we can work on it at home, too. turns out the religious ed director decided as a hsing family, it would be ideal for them to join their normal religious ed classes with their peers and i could do the reconciliation/communion education at home (these two sacraments go together...kind of like washing your hands before you eat in a spiritual way). so now they all go to religious ed classes (because you know, the littlest does not like being left out of stuff these days...well, the littlest for the next few weeks, right?). it's been a big adjustment and it's added a lot to our schedule, but it's also added a lot to our family life as well as to the community that is supporting us. and that's been an awesome thing.

but this doesn't go very far in explaining why i have high schoolers on the brain, does it?

right when my son decided to join the high school group, the youth minister made an announcement during mass that the high school group was very short on adult women volunteers for small group leaders and anyone able to help out should talk to him. now, i was seven, almost eight months pregnant at the time. but i knew the youth minister because i coached his son on the robotics team i co-coached last season (oy, we all remember that, right? :) ). and i really liked the whole family. and i felt a pull to volunteer. but i did not let myself rush off and jump into something i would not be able to handle or complete. i thought about it for awhile...why i felt pulled, if and how i could make it work, etc.

i think the main reason i felt pulled to do this was because i have a high schooler in my house. and more on the way. my second born will be twelve in just over two months...and that's only a year away from the big "T", you know? so i felt like i needed to make some peace with teens...spend some more time with them and get to know them. and seriously, what better place to do that than at church? with other adults there to guide and support and pray for these kids (and ourselves, i admit...we do often add ourselves to our intentions when we pray for these kiddos...that we're able to be true instruments of peace for them). it's awkward sometimes, walking into that room of high schoolers. i can't deny, it calls to mind all my own high school angst and weirdness and shyness and anxieties. weird, huh? i've only recently really started talking to them. i just watched them for the first month. they're really quite beautiful, under all that make up and funky hair and loud, tight, "just so" clothes. even under some of their scowls. they are so sincere when you listen to them...homework really is one of their biggest concerns and it really is a challenge to get it all done and still do the things they enjoy. they are still young enough to make silly jokes and get excited about music and sports and books and let it show in such an open way. but they're also getting older...developing their convictions...taking responsibility for their futures. i think i knew all of this intellectually. but it's been a whole 'nother ball game experiencing it first hand. and it's been incredible.

so i spend a lot of time praying for these teens in my small group. we wade through discussions of difficult and sometimes awkward topics...i can tell they're wondering if i'm going to tell their parents what they say or if i am judging them by what they say. so i try to offer some of myself...enough to get the ball rolling but not so much as to overwhelm them. lol this is not always an easy balance to find. but i think sometimes we're kind of proud of the stuff we come up with as a group. well, at least i'm proud of them for what they offer and share.

so that's why i've had teens on the brain. it's been awesome to see my oldest interact with the kids in this group...and with the adults. it's been awesome just getting to spend time with and develop a true respect for these guys at this amazingly pivotal time in their lives. i don't think our culture does a great job of supporting them through this transition, but rather than sit bitching on the sidelines, i'm glad i took the chance and got in the game. i am sure i will learn a lot, and that always involves making mistakes, but why should i expect my life to be any different from theirs?