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Parenting on The Big Blue Bus

Parenting is not for the weak hearted. I remember when the boys were little and I was sleep deprived and overwhelmed raising these three little boys. I would listen to parents who were raising teenagers talk about how tough it was at that stage. All I could think was “you obviously don’t remember what it was like to be where I am, because your life looks like a cake walk right now.”

My little sister has 4 children: a 5 year old son, 3 year old daughter, 2 year old son, and 6 month old daughter. Her life is C R A Z Y. I know because we lived with her for a month. They can be naughty and they make the most awful messes, and they don’t sleep through the night and there are still 3 of them in diapers! Thats a lot of poop. How she stays sane is beyond me (well, she has a really amazing husband which makes things quite a bit easier).

As my children have gotten older, I’ve realized that now there is a new level of responsibility for me as a parent. When they were young, I had to keep them fed and safe. I had to keep the house clean and try to shower occasionally. We had to talk about sharing and not hitting and being nice. But then we could finger paint and go to the park and read stories and I felt like a really good mom. It wasn’t easy – by any stretch. I was tired and I worried a lot and I prayed for help to get through some days. But we made it through.

And now here we are. Our boys are 17, 13, and 11, young men. I can’t help but remember that this part is supposed to be a cake walk, isn’t that what I thought? Because at least I can sleep through the night and I don’t have to change a million diapers or deal with the constant whining and runny noses. We can have rational conversations and we don’t need a babysitter to go out without them.

But – oh my word! Parenting teenagers is a whole different ball game. It’s not enough to simply keep them alive. It’s now about little details like character, work ethic, empathy, personal responsibility, humility, courage and respect. Add communication, spiritual growth, kindness and love. Don’t forget education.

Don’t get me wrong – these things are important for a 5 year old too. In fact, that is where the foundation starts! But there’s a bit of a time crunch when they hit those teen years and you realize that your stewardship over these young’uns won’t last forever. They are more independent and are making real choices for themselves. They don’t rely on you like they used to. Their habits are starting to show and you begin to glimpse their future. Some days that’s a scary place for a parent.

Yesterday was one of those days here on the bus, a day that made Jake and I question our sanity and the job we’re doing as parents. There’s been a lot of bickering between the boys lately. Pointless quarreling and it’s been driving us crazy. Today reached a breaking point. I suppose we could blame it on the tight quarters, but I don’t think it’s just that. The tight quarters are simply magnifying issues that need to be resolved.

Time for a family council. It was bound to happen. Time to define life on the bus. We’re not on vacation. This is LIFE. There is no entitlement. We all have to work for what we want. The bickering has to stop. Personal responsibility must be increased. Living in a small space means we have to work harder to speak softer, to support one another, to lift each other’s burdens. It’s not about one person, it’s about the family.

Parenting requires careful navigation, supervision, and constant course corrections for a positive outcome. It’s about the little things. Because all those little things turn out to be the big things. I’m not a parenting expert, by any stretch. I yell too much and I lose my patience on a regular basis. But I love my kids and I want them to grow up to be capable, hard working, responsible, contributing adults. That won’t happen unless we show them how. We teach by example and through life lessons. Moments like this I’m glad I have Jake by my side. I wouldn’t want to have to navigate this part by myself. There’s too much at stake.

The family council went well, with a minimum of crying (on my part) and a healthy dose of discussion and goal setting. I’m optimistic that we’ll get through this adventure. And hopefully we’ll come out on the other end stronger and more refined. Maybe parenting is as much for the parent as it is for the child. Perhaps that’s all part of Heavenly Father’s plan.

October 23, 2013 - 9:11 am

Nickie Mullin - Really needed to read this today. It’s comforting to know that someone else is going through the same challenges as I am with my children. Been lots of tears and prayers lately.

October 23, 2013 - 10:04 am

Sarah - THANK YOU for sharing!! Glad we’re not alone in this parenting teens world :)
I wish you luck, and pray as more of mine enter teen hood that im able to navigate it a little easier.

October 23, 2013 - 2:59 pm

Christy - I have always said I dread the teen years…so much pressure on all parties! (and I only have one!)

I’m great full for your candor…and optimism!!! ❤❤❤

October 23, 2013 - 4:47 pm

Rhae Anne Etheredge - Beautiful

October 23, 2013 - 5:08 pm

Heather Presley Ellsworth - beautifully written, amy. and so very true!!

October 23, 2013 - 6:12 pm

Melissa - I really related to your perspective on parenting “little” kids and parenting teens and Tweens. I felt the same way when my kids were little. Pareting at every stage has it’s rewards and challenges and thank you for always keeping it real. It’s nice to feel like we are all in the same boat, or bus, or house!

October 23, 2013 - 9:39 pm

Kimberly - Thanks so much for writing this. It was perfect timing. We have had a rough few days since I got back from my trip. After reading this we sat down and had a family counsel and the mood has been much better. Thanks Love ya!

October 23, 2013 - 10:58 pm

Camille Packer Duckworth - I”m totally going to steal a quote from you!~ You are inspiring my friend!

October 23, 2013 - 11:12 pm

Mike-Sarah Mackay - Totally relate to this post! As a parent of 3 teens, an 11 year old and 3 younger ones life still has an element of the crazies but also the older kid whole different ball game parenting! Thanks for your post today showing that there is another family in a bus raising teens!

October 23, 2013 - 11:22 pm

Margie Malkin-Juszczak - Totally can relate..just a few years ago I had 4 daughters, 4,3, and newborn twins- today my daughters are 24,23 and 19 year old twins…a few years back we ventured as a family on a three week european holiday..there was so much fighting, and crying and carrying on that we actually stopped all vacationing together for a few years just to keep our sanity. The fact is my husband and I look back at that trip and say, it was like living a war, my girls look back at that trip as one of the best family vacations ever…amazing..we can now all be together for a few days in our bus, but sibling stuff comes up all the time- hopefully as everyone matures they will appreciate how lucky they are to have all these sisters, and there is room in both mom and dad’s heart for all of them!

October 24, 2013 - 1:51 am

Danielle - Amy, as I was reading this I am wondering if tensions aren’t running because of close quarters, being on the road, but from also having come from so many changes recently, and facing new ones very soon. Jacob leaving on his mission soon is bound to cause some emotions that the boys just don’t know how to share in the most appropriate way. Think of all that has happened in the past months. you left florida, drove to Alaska, spent a whirlwind time up here and left again. And while here Jacob found out where he is going and when. Your family is about to change in a big way very soon and even though its for a wonderful reason, it’s probably taking a toll on them each in his own way. Not to mention you and Jake!!!! If that didn’t come up in your family council, maybe bring it up and see if anyone has anything to say on that matter. Just suggestions, coming from one who is dealing with a vast array of emotions coming from my own family every day, and we haven’t moved lately, but you know what we are dealing with. I love you and pray your time continues to be wonderful and fun and EPIC!!!!!! Creating memories. Living Life! love and hugs to all of you. Danielle

October 24, 2013 - 11:35 pm

Megan - My sweet sister. You are a wonderful mother and have some of the greatest young men I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I love them and miss you all. Oh and I really do have a wonderful husband :)

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