Lately, and quite often (ahem), I keep thinking of the saying, “Raising teenagers is like trying to nail jello to a tree.” Maybe you would agree? I remember the first time I read this quote. I was heading home from work, before we had any kids, and read it on a church marquee. I thought, “Haha! How cute- that’s funny!”
Fast forward several years and here I am with three of our four kids now teenagers. Day after day, I’m trying to nail that jello to the tree. I still laugh at that analogy, but in a different kind of way. I laugh at myself for thinking maybe I could actually do it… escape those notorious teen years of trial and prayer and skate through drama-free. I could nail that jello on where it would be firm, intact, and stay put right where I wanted. Uh-huh. Yea. No big deal.
Technically, jello can be nailed to a tree. But, it would have to stay in a box- safe from outside elements. The thing is, that is not how jello is intended to be- all boxed up. No necessary ingredients have been added to mix in, strengthen and mold it to it’s desired state.
So, let’s say we do away with the box. Take the jello, add water, mix together and let it do it’s thing to firm up. It’s on it’s way to becoming a Luby’s-worthy cube of gelatin goodness. Yes! Just like I’d imagined. I decide to give it a go, find a tree, and try to nail it on. It may even stay in place for just a bit. But, not long after, it begins to wiggle and shift and just can’t stay in that one place. It gets a little sticky and a lot messy oozing out from the grip of the nail.
Today, this is where I find myself with raising teenagers. Parenting often feels like a gloppy mess. I can try really hard to keep them safe in the box. But that’s not how they were made to live. I have to expose them to the things that will mold and shape them into the strong, Godly people I know they can be. But they’re going to test the water. They’ll wiggle around, oozing out their independence to find their way… figuring out the right path to be on. It’s a necessary part of growth. Just like the jello, it will get a little sticky and a lot messy. I’d imagine every parent before me who has ever raised a teen would agree.
I need to remember our sweet teenagers aren’t meant to have things all figured out. They need us. I need to do my part to help these almost-adult young people figure out the person God is calling them to be. I need to be patient with the process of how they shape and mold. And, I need to always remember that there will be a mess. It’s just a fact. Things will get sticky. That’s a natural side effect of them figuring out their own way. And that’s okay. Messy and sticky. It’s what happens when you try to nail jello to a tree.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not lean on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take.” -Proverbs 3:5-6