the gift of teenagers

This weekend I became the mom of a teenager. Out of excitement, I’ve had a countdown app on my phone for last 6 months. Chris and I are incredibly thrilled about the idea of a house full of teenagers.

Oddly enough, our excitement seems to be counter-cultural. There is this common conversation about how terrible the teen years are for parents. So many other parents have said to us, “Oh – you just wait.” or “You are going to wish they stayed babies.” Or something along those lines about how the teen years are something to dread and how instead of enjoying our kids, everything will shift. I am fully aware I have no idea what it is like to parent a teenager, but I know my kids. I adored them as babies. I relished them as toddlers. I loved them as kids. I treasure them as preteens. I’m pretty sure I’m going to still cherish them as teens. Call me crazy, but I refuse to believe the teen years are something to dread. It drives me bonkers.

6147885520_83466e6974_oalmost88.29.12-79.30-06I remember my teen years quite well. I had amazing teenage friends – the believed they could change the world, be anything they dreamed of, and weren’t jaded by society. They were fun, smart, funny and so very odd. They loved others. They served others. They cared about others. The teenagers I knew were all kinds of awesome. I am willing to bet my parents would agree. I have a feeling they miss the days their house was full of a bunch of teenagers hanging out and being fully teen.3.16perspective-12


In college, I worked in the youth department of my church. Again – all kinds of amazing, big dreaming, people-loving, wonderfully odd teenagers.

The teenagers I know these days are the kids of my friends. And they are just the same as the teenagers I remember – all kinds of amazing, big dreaming, people-loving, wonderfully odd teenagers.

4.16ArchesCanyonlands-07I know we will have our battles. I know there will be challenges and probably tears on my part and theirs. I know teens make life-altering decisions – sometimes those bring great joy and sometimes they bring great pain. I know so many of you reading this have walked through horribly painful circumstances and challenges as you raised your teens. I know the years ahead could be especially difficult as my teens gain independence and make mistakes. I’m not blind to any of that, but right now we are choosing to celebrate and step into this season full of wide-eyed hopes and dreams. Kids hear what adults say about them. Teens hear it too. My kids hear over and over again how excited Chris and I are about their teen years. They know this is a season that their parents are thrilled to enter with them.

My daughter recently asked me if I could have a super power what would it be. I told her the ability to go back in time, not to change anything, but just to enjoy moments a second time. When I see old pictures of the boys, I want to jump in the picture, scoop them up and hug them as tightly as humanly possible.


As I finished typing this post (and wiping tears from seeing that old picture), my teenage son asked, “What are you writing about?”

“I’m writing about how awesome it is to be the parent of a teenager.”

He smiled and headed upstairs.

Welcome the teen years Corbett. As much as I would love to kiss your cute little boy cheeks again, I’ll stand in awe of your ripped abs, deep voice, and massive food consumption. Your parents are so overwhelmingly grateful that we get the gift of knowing you as teen!

back to top share on facebook tweet this post pin site image email a friend
  • Christi {Jealous Hands} - These are my thoughts, almost word for word. I adore my teenager and will have another teen by the end of this year. Teenagers are fun! And hard sometimes, yes – but what age hasn’t been?

    Happy Birthday to your boy!

  • Helen - My favorite quote from my mom… “Every stage is the best stage; enjoy the one you’re in.”

  • Steffany - My goodness, this is beautiful. I have a 5 and 7 year old so we’re not at the teen years yet, not even close but I have caught myself saying those words, “She’s like this now, what will she be like when she’s 13!” Thank you for this sweet reminder, to love and embrace them where they are at. I love one of the other comments as well, “every stage is the best; enjoy the one you’re in.” True, true, true. I will come back to this again and again, I can feel it. Hope Corbett had a wonderful birthday!

  • Carrie - What a refreshing point of view!! Thank you for being so positive!

  • AJ - As always I love your outlook and encouraging words! I have been completely surprised at how hard mothering a teen has been. The difficulties aren’t necessarily from my own child but from all the mean things friends do. We have always had an open door policy and usually had a gaggle of friends running around chomping cookies and chips. However, suddenly without notice the flow stopped. I am told it is because sports and school schedules are too intense. It has been heartbreaking not only knowing that schedules make things hard but that as others start to make unwise choices they avoid coming around. We are constantly praying for friendships. Please continue to remind us all these are good years. I try to treasure the last of the days before they fly away from my nest, but it is more challenging than I ever knew. It seems like blogs are full of parenting messages for babies and littles, but I rarely read anything about teens or teen friendships especially that is positive. I enjoyed finding your post.

  • Kristin - Attitude is so much a part of how you will experience this. You clearly love your children for who they are, and I am sure you will love this season as much as the others.

  • Kathy - You are spot on! Our kids hear everything we say, and how wonderful that yours are hearing your joy in entering this new stage! It sounds like you have your eyes wide open and are choosing to welcome the wonder and awe of the teen years. That is wise. Our four are/were fabulous teens, and continuing to get to know them is our delight — the relationship you have deepens as they grow, and learning with your teens and then young adults just has to be one of the greatest treasures here on earth. We as parents continuously evolve as our children enter new stages. As a wise friend counseled me years ago, think the best of your teens, and they will rise to your expectations.

  • erin - This is a reminder that I have been reading your blog for a long time. I can’t believe how quickly your kids, and I guess mine, are growing up. You have taught me to appreciate every stage and season with these little people. Happy birthday, Corbett!

  • jenw - I so enjoy “hearing” your enjoyment of each stage of parenting. When you remind us that, while a stage might be hard it is not something only to be endured or survived. It is something it be reveled in while we survive. Watching my kid develop and mature and become his own person is one of the true sublime joys in life.

  • Tina I. - What a great attitude to have! I spent years dreaming of having a house full of teenagers and their friends hanging out at our house and eating us out of house and home. I need to remember your positive attitude as it has slipped away over the last couple of years. Some teenagers come with depression, behavior problems and ADHD and its not as awesome as I thought it would be. As a matter of fact, its lonely and hard and challenging and stressful and painful. Thanks for the gentle reminder that a positive attitude can make all the difference and that I can still hope and dream for an amazing teenage experience.

  • KW - Teen years are awesome. And his will be awesome as well because of the incredible foundation you all have built with him thus far. He will definitely go through stages where heart break is inevitable and difficult decisions will have to be made, but it’s all part of that growing up process in preparing him to be a successful adult. He can, in a sense, “practice” his way in to independence under the protection of you and Chris until he feels comfortable and confident to fly on his own. That’s how we’ve approached the teenage years… it’s all about learning… how to be a good friend through all of the difficult and awkward stages he and his friends will go through, how to be a considerate and respectful student of all things – whether it’s school work or learning new skills, how to be a responsible steward of money, how to cook and clean in a way that not only makes sense but also is efficient and healthy, and how to apply your faith to your every day life – from the constant conversations with God throughout the day, to daily devotional time, to sharing that love with others, and also in how to handle the haters and the people that make fun or mock your devotion. Because it does happen often, and it will only be harder once they get into college. Teenage years are confusing and scary for the kids, but secretly awesome for parents when you get to watch your babies flourish, ask all the right questions and really dig in to things they’re passionate about, and see their dreams develop into reality. And when they’ve got that support and solid foundation like what our kids have, it’s so much easier to navigate and support them through all of the ups and downs. You all will have so much fun!!! And he’s going to thrive in these years… so hold on and just enjoy every minute!

  • cindy - this is so great! I always love reading your positive outlook on life! Happy Birthday Corbett

  • Amanda - So beautiful-thank you! And happy birthday Corbett!

  • Michelle - happy birthday, Corbett! Welcome to the teen years, enjoy!!

  • cathie w. - Your perspective is always so refreshing and sincere!
    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for the last 6yrs or so. My boys are 4 & 7, sandwiched between your own. You’re words always give me a glimpse of what’s to come, but gently remind me to cherish the now.
    Happy Birthday Corbett!

  • JanetV - Happy Birthday, Corbett! I love that attitude! As a mom of two amazing teenagers, (the oldest of whom is about to graduate and head off to college – ugh!) I am enjoying their teen years immensely. Of course, they have presented a unique set of parenting challenges (as does each stage of a child’s development), but we have thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow and begin to become their own individuals. Early on, my husband and I determined to keep the lines of communication open with our teens. This includes encouraging them to express their opinions, (on all topics–even those that might not be in line with our thoughts) and frustrations, with us and found at times, their frustrations have been WITH us (shocking, I know!). We committed to being open to listen. And while we have not always agreed with their opinion, there have been many instances where their viewpoint prompted changes on our part that allowed for a deeper appreciation for each other. We have been completely candid about the fact that we don’t have all the answers and that we are just as new at parenting them in this specific phase of their lives, as they are at experiencing it! Since a menagerie of their friends seem to find their way here and actually want to sit and talk to us about their lives, their problems, their accomplishments, as well as seeking our advice about college choices, relationships, jobs, etc., we have had the privilege of having a group of wonderful teenagers become part of our lives.

    While we are unbelievably sad at the thought of our daughter “leaving the nest”, we are also boundlessly excited to see what she accomplishes—the glimpses we have seen of the woman she will become have been breathtaking! Enjoy all the moments–they go too quickly!

    P.S. Long time reader of the blog, first time commenting. I thoroughly enjoy your posts…you have made me laugh and cry countless times…thanks for inviting all of us into your corner of the universe.

  • Carol - You are right, I miss those teenage years and all your friends but have had the joy of watching you, your sister and your friends become the most incredible young adults. Would not change that for anything. Truly a blessing

  • Jenn Dynys - I rarely comment, but this really struck a chord with me. I totally agree, we have 8 children our oldest is 14. People make the same comments to us, trying to give us a sense of dread. I know we are not far into this, but my 14 year old is awesome! We have so much fun together and he is such a neat person. As with all things parenting, from littles up to adults, it is all about relationship. We have a good relationship, I respect him as a person and an individual. It is a joy to watch them grow, after all this is our work coming to fruition! How exciting! My favorite is watching them play sports or something and catching a glimpse of their baby face, you know like an expression or a gesture that reminds you of them as a little one, it is just so sweet. They are still that same person, not gone just more grown up…and goofy!

  • susie - Happy birthday from Gillette, WY Corbett! I enjoy the teens too. My boy is into weight lifting also and so wants to go weight lifting early at school. This morning I was too tired to bring him so he biked and it is snowing and windy! Crazy boys will do anything to get their weightlifting in!

  • brady - It’s so refreshing to hear someone be ENCOURAGING about the future instead of throwing around the “just wait…” phrase. Thank you for not being one of those people! I feel like as sweet as they are as babies, there’s nothing more awesome than watching your kid grow into the person God is making them to be! I LOVE going through each age. There is nothing I found more discouraging as a new mom than someone saying, “Oh, it’s only going to get worse.” I appreciate your positiveness and hope Corbett had a wonderful birthday!

  • Maureen - As Mom to 3 adults, I too have have relished and adored every season. My children have been oh, so precious and amazing at every stage. Of course, there have been tears, often for them and with them, but it is so incredible to see those sweet baby hearts become adults, with still lovely hearts and souls.
    Looking back, my advice is always.. Love them with all your heart, and talk, listen, talk, listen, listen, listen.
    So many conversations sitting on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night, or driving for hours where conversation is at it’s best, I believe forged the trust and relationships we treasure.
    This is a time you cannot be too tired or too busy, pro-active always beats retro-active. The teen years are as amazing and wonderful as the years before and the ones ahead.
    Be prepared to be amazed and have oh so much fun!

  • Tammy - I have always loved teens and never let anyone bad-mouth them in my presence. You’re going to have a ball!

    Happy Birthday, Corbett!

  • Becky - Oh Ashley – you’re headed into a great season! My baby turns 18 tomorrow. I enjoyed every stage of my girls lives as well. I love that our home has been the home all the friends hang out at. The grocery bill is crazy but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Don’t let anyone tell you that girls don’t eat much! The teen years have been so wonderful and fun – there have been occasional bumps, but that’s to be expected. Overall, it’s been fun to watch them grow and follow the path God has laid out for them. My oldest is 20 and has recently fallen in love – now I’m preparing myself for the next stage. I think it’ll still be wonderful…

  • Hailey - Happy Bday Corb! 😉 Can’t wait to see you guys soon!!!!

  • Tiffany - Tomorrow morning…at 1:08AM, our oldest will become a teenager. What an appropriate post for me to read today! Thank you Ashley! I am looking forward to these teen years, despite what so many parents say about these years. I believe that if I can keep a positive attitude, a smile on my face, and my focus on God, these years prior to adulthood will be some great years. Happy Birthday to you, Corbett…. My prayer for you (and our son too) is that God will be the Corner Stone of your life, and all that you do will bring honor to Him! “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord..” 2 Peter 1:2

  • Kiera Chambers - AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!
    Thanks for writing this! I love parenting our teen girl, she’s 16, and look forward to our son turning 13 also (16 months!).

    Parenting is a privilege and yes, there are hard moments, but OH MY the good so out weighs the hard. I had loved my children at every stage and cherish who they are becoming!

    I’m a pastor and get the honor of speaking at different parenting things throughout the year, I always challenge parents to drop all the stereotypes and embrace the fact that they are raising future adults. That we’ve been honored to nurture the natures of these humans and we should never speak negativity into the now but rather trust that God has placed these specific humans in our care to guide.

    When our daughter has her friends over we love having a house full of amazing, smart, funny, God seeking teenage girls and the truth and life these young women have spoken into those seeking God and into my own life is such a gift. And, I can’t wait to see who the young men in my son’s life become as teenagers!

  • nichole - You will love it! We tell people all the time that it is so fun having teens in the house. Our children go from ages 1-16. We had a 9 year gap and decided it was time for 1 more. They are awesome! Enjoy! You will find yourself laughing…a lot!

  • Amy K. - My mom has always said that she enjoyed each stage of my growing up more than the last… except when I was 13! NOW, I am able to respond that 13 was awful for me too, but overall, her comment makes me feel so loved.

  • Carolyn Kelley - Aw I love this! My mom said she loved every stage and told me that if you go into the teen years with a bad attitude you can probably expect it to not be fun. She loved it and said every stage with kids has it own challenges but also has its own fun. My son is only 1 but she is always encouraging me to love the stage we are in. People are already “warning” me about the twos, threes, and teen years and I’ve loved the crawling and walking phase despite the warning about that. It is so nice to hear someone say they are excited for the teen years. Not that I don’t trust my mom but I was beginning to think she was the only one. It’s hard to stay positive with so much negativity. I needed this today <3

  • Alice H - I love teenagers! Sometimes my teens get mad at me because their friends like me. Lol! Enjoy the teen years!!!!

  • the inadvertent farmer - I have lived through teenage years with three boys (all 20 somethings now with lives and families of their own) and now have a teenage daughter and the last son getting close.

    Teens are silly, dramatic, idealistic, sassy, independent, and needy…sometimes all within the same 24 hours!

    Enjoy this time, it really is a special era in our lives. Before you know it they will be bringing home wives which will lead to grandchildren. Now THAT is something to look forward to!!! Kim

  • MC - Yes, massive food consumption! 😀 😀 My 14 year old is always hungry. Thank you for another wonderful post.

  • Laura - Some of my best laughs I’ve ever had were with my 3 teenage boys!!! If you haven’t figured this out yet, it’s all a big wonderful mess!

  • TheDenverPack - Yes! Yes! Yes! Teenagers are awesome, and they listen to the words one uses to describe them. Absolutely, enjoy every stage but do not fear teenagers.

  • Ruth - Aw, parents of teens… Thanks for writing this. Whilst mine are a bit older than yours 15 (just a week ago) and 13 1/2, I have loved this adventure and seeing the young adult spring forth. Still childlike in so many ways but tackling responsibility head on (even if it’s a bit forced) my teens have been pretty awesome and I’m enjoying this stage too. Each stage has had individual challenges, but I love the emerging confidence and capability in them both.

    On a side note, if it hasn’t already happened be prepared for convos involving body hair, primarily armpits, lets and face, and deep voices and muscles. So. much. talking. on. these. subjects.

  • Nicolet - My son is a 8 year old and some times a see a peek of he might be like when he is a teenager and it makes me so curious of the next phases to come.

  • Becky - My mom talked about teenagers like they were demon terrorists. She kept her distance and never touched me or connected with me after about age 7, at best, and stated thousands of times that we would hate each other when I was a teenager. It was so painful and I couldn’t navigate it as a child. I felt like a monster and so guilty. Looking back…I was a really good kid and teenager. If she’d ever wanted to go to lunch or hang out, I would have jumped at the chance. I was lonely.

    She says the same things now and warns me about my TWO year old hating me.

    Don’t write teenagers off. Ever. Thank you for being another step on my journey of healing and learning that there are other ways to parent. I genuinely appreciate it, because I’m always looking for good examples and things I can learn. You’re doing a real service for your kids and for other parents. I can’t thank you enough!

  • Erin - This is such a beautiful post. I’m the youngest of three, and no longer a teen (soon to be 21). I wish my dad had seen this post before my brothers and I became teens. I just read to him the opening part of your post, and he said “she doesn’t know what it’s like to raise teens. There can be good moments, sure, but the hormones take over and they become little monsters.” It really makes me wonder how the teen years would have been different for my brothers and me if dad had the mindset you do (my mom thinks more like you). So, as someone who aspires to one day be a mom and a wife, thank you for this eye-opening post and the reminder that there is adventure and joy in all stages of life.

  • Cynthia - The teen years are definitely NOT ones you will dread! I loved all the stages of my kids too! There’s different challenges at all stages. The main difference is the separation, but it’s part of the journey as we evolve and they come into their adulthood. There will be some tensions and disagreements, however I embraced that as they developed their own views and opinions. You’re definitely not embarking on gloom as some may make you think. Happy birthday to your eldest! The time spent with our children at all stages are PRECIOUS…continue to absorb and enjoy it!

  • Heidi - Have you seen About Time? This post mreminded me of it. If you haven’t seen it, it’s one of the loveliest movies I’ve ever watched as a mother.

  • Tracie M. - YES! I am so excited to read this. My oldest will be a teenager in July, and my husband and I keep reminding ourselves that we shouldn’t doom her by saying how hard the teens years will be. We are instead looking forward to it and will be celebrating too! Good words today!

  • Emily Bartnikowski - I am always looking forward to the next stage of their lives. The current stages are awesome, but I don’t understand the people who dread their children growing up and cling so tightly to keeping them babies or toddlers. A houseful of lounging and laughing teenagers sounds amazing. I can’t wait.

    Happy Birthday Corbett!

  • Anna Brown - You speak so much sense Ashley. My husband and I run a youth club and love the teenangels. Parents are stunned that we enjoy it. The young people are so much fun and have crazy amounts of energy. The thing I love the most is the potential, and developing characteristics and talents. Everone says it will be different when ours are that age, 2 years to go for our oldest. Thank you for being an ambassador for teenagers Ashley And Chris

  • Stephanie George - SO beautiful.

    “When I see old pictures of the boys, I want to jump in the picture, scoop them up and hug them as tightly as humanly possible.” Sob! Tears.

    “As I finished typing this post (and wiping tears from seeing that old picture), my teenage son asked, “What are you writing about?”

    “I’m writing about how awesome it is to be the parent of a teenager.””

    I love that positive message. To relish what is now and what will be. Yes looking back is heart filling, but looking forward with excitement is so powerful as well. <3

  • Julie - Thank you, thank you for this beautiful post. I feel the exact same way. It is such a bummer as a mom of young children to have people stop me and say, “Enjoy them as much as you can now. It gets so much harder when they become teenagers.” Ugh.

  • Jeannine - Thank you. My kids are all still small. My smallest looks like your youngest boy in the photo above. I had to go and find him and give him the biggest smooch. I am going to miss not having any toddlers in the house.

  • Recogidas de Muebles - Solidarios y Comprometidos con el Medio Ambiente: Reducimos, Reciclamos y Reutilizamos

  • angie - Thank you! This was a much needed light shining into my heart and soul. I never realized before how much I feared the teen years and projected that fear until I read this post. How I needed your adjusting! Truly, u have touched my parenting, my kids, and my attitude. I can’t utter exactly how much this post means to me. I had very rough teen years and as a result feared the worst with my own. Unconsciously, I think I’ve been setting myself and my kids up for failure. Without sounding too dramatic, please know you have touched my families life in an unimaginable way. If I could hug you I would!!!

  • Romy - i’m crying… AGAIN!

  • Hannah Inman - SO lovely to read this – we are at the other end of the spectrum where everyone tells you about the terrible twos – or the threenagers and ‘if only we could keep them at 18months’. It is so amazing to see my boy grow and learn each day.

    I can’t wait to be where you are, but don’t want to rush away a minute x

  • Sara W - Thank you for this post. I love my young teenager but lately have felt the pressure of parenting in this season of giving him more freedom and I have lost my joy. The decisions feel weighty and I’ve let that cloud the fact that I have this amazing kid in front of me that I need to not only parent but also enjoy. The Lord had been working on my heart recently and this post is another help along the way. Thank you!

  • Melissa - Words stright from my mouth. I dream all the time about going to back and doing it all over again. Great post, love your writing!

  • Kassie - So beautiful and true. My girl is 2 and every single day is more amazing than the last. Parenthood is the greatest blessing

  • marcie - You are so smart to think this way. There is no more “bad or hard” in the teenager stage than any other stage. There are ups and downs with each but teenagers, I have to say, are pretty awesome. I loved every minute of my daughters teenage and college years. Her friends were fun, the milestones were exciting and each year as she moved closer to being an adult the closer we became. It’s pretty amazing to watch and participate in… and I think it’s more often affected by the parents pre- conceived notions and attitude than anything the teenager actually does or doesn’t do!! My daughter is 25 and I miss those house full of teenagers days!! Enjoy!

  • Jessica Mattson - Ashley, I love everything about this post. <3

  • Nicole L - I agree! I was a pretty horrible teenager so I’m *very* well aware of the dark side of teens. BUT I am a year away from having a teen and I could not be more excited! I started working with the youth group last year too and the more I’m around that group the more appreciation God gives me for their sweetness and excitement for life.