I’m tired of her looking down on me. I’m going to tell her the truth even if she doesn’t want to hear it.” So goes the recent conversation I had with my 24 year old son in regards to a flare up between him and his sister (26) at a family get together.

They’re two years apart and have always been this way. Ok, not always. They were very sweet together as young children, but even then the older sister knew how to get under her brothers’ skin. I love them both very much, but parenting them at these ages may just do me in. And don’t get me started on on my 19 year old. At least I think I still have a 19 year old, he still hasn’t texted me back after a week.

The hardest part of parenting these three wonderful 20 somethings is change. I don’t mind them changing, that’s normal, but do I have to change too? Well, according to the new book I’ve been reading, Growing With by Kara Powell and Steve Argue, I do, if I want our family to be transformed by God’s grace and mercy.

This is a parenting book as well as a youth ministry book, and to be honest, it showed up at a critical juncture in mine and my wife’s journey with our kids and it’s already impacting us.

Let me share a few words that jump out at me from the first chapter.

Mutual

To be honest, I never thought of parenting as mutual growth. I never thought of me growing as a parent as they grew as adults. I grew up with the Me Tarzan, You Jane mentality of parenting. “I’m the parent, you’re the kid, now shut up and do what I say.” Thankfully, not all of that rubbed off into my parenting style.

To take it one step further, my dad passed on when I was around 8-9 and I had no model to lean on to know what it meant to be a father. I parented and am parenting by the seat of my pants, with God as my guide.

Kara and Steve define Withing (a riff on #adulting) as

“Growing with parenting is a mutual journey of intentional growth for both ourselves and our children that trusts God to transform us all”

My wife and I are, currently, empty nesters. We just turned 50 and sent our youngest to college last year. It’s been easier for me than my wife, but we both feel the empty spaces at different times.

Our daughter and her husband live three hours a way. My middle son lives 45 minutes a way and our youngest lives 90 minutes away. They are all within visiting distance, and we try to get together as often as possible.

I think I’ve always felt our journey was mutual because I’ve used the term Team Turner over the years when there were big challenges we needed to work through, together. Even though our kids live various distances away, I understand that we are still in this together. Their growth and our growth are intertwined.

Posture

I like this word. This word tells me a lot when referring to something like body language. We can tell how someone feels or their general attitude by looking at someone’s slumped shoulders or direct eye contact.

Posture, in a vocal way, communicates whether someone is backing away from something stupid they’ve said or doubling down on it. Words communicate what we can expect their posture to be going forward.

Parental posturing also sends a signal. My kids know when I am defaulting to old ways of parenting. They know when I’m not open. They know when I’m using old tactics that used to work when they were 10. They’re not 10 anymore, so why do I strike a posture as if it will/should work on them?

This is not news. I’ve been a youth pastor for 30 years. I’ve helped hundreds of parents navigate their own posture with their kids and vice versa; It’s just a little harder with my own and most times I feel like I’m too close to the situation to objective.

I should also say, my kids and I get along fairly well. It was not always so, but I have improved, as have they. We’ve grown up together and have healthy relationships, not perfect, but healthy. We all still have some growing up to do which means I have to prepare to change my parenting posture when the time comes.

Markers

I, like many parents my age, are frustrated. We feel like someone switched the price tags. I was under the impression that when my kids turned 18, they would have dreams and goals and the ambition to pursue them. One out three isn’t bad.

My daughter jumped out to college and graduated in four years (with debt). My youngest and middle son have no idea what they want to do. This is hard for a guy like me who, although I didn’t go to college, I knew I wanted to be a youth pastor at age 19 and started my first church job at 22.

Before that, I worked all kinds of jobs from dishwashing to bagging groceries and a bunch in-between. I had hit many of my adulting markers in short order. I worked, went to school, got married and had our first child before the age of 24.

Time, culture and biology have moved the markers. This “surprise” happens for every generation, but our culture doesn’t change drastically, it happens incrementally, subtly, while we’re focused on other things like living our lives.

Teens and young adults are hitting there markers much later. They’re getting married later, finding their calling later, moving out later, even getting their drivers license later or not at all (once again, my boys)

The conflict begins when we, the parents, first recognize that our kids are not going to hit their markers, and we start to worry and become anxious and wonder if our kids will hit their markers at all and will I (the dad) ever get my man cave!!

As I read through the Growing With book, some of my fear and worries were alleviated knowing that I’m not the only dad who’s worried about his man cave, his privacy or his parenting skills not being up to par. There are plenty of parent testimonies in the book and ideas of how to deal with the stages our children are going through (more on these in the future posts)

Growing With lays out a way for parents to interpret our kids needs based on age and how we can best support them at every part of their journey. The book goes into great depth about what Withing means but not only Withing, but Faithing and Adulting.

Growing With is a wonderful and, in my case, timely book for this generation of parents. Don’t miss the chance to grow with not apart from your kids.

Next: Three Roles Parents Must Take On As Their Teen Grows

You can pre-order the book here and join me over on my YouTube channel where I will be further breaking down the book for youth pastors on how they can use this book to navigate the youth/family ministry in their church. You can watch my video pitch below.

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