Adventure, Mothering

Teens: Learning to Let Go

By JeanneTakenaka

They were a cluster of testosterone, those teenage boys. As a mom, it was intriguing to watch my son take steps toward manhood as we spent a week on a school tour of Athens and Rome. 

He didn’t want me around. Groaned when he happened to be assigned a seat next to me on a plane ride. 

He didn’t want Mom. 

He wanted his friends. 

He craved independence.

As the mother of two teen boys, my biggest challenge is learning how to let go and let them fly . . . And flounder.

He was polite to strangers and to the guides who shared their abundant knowledge about the places we visited. He made some wise choices in his interactions with others. 

I stepped back as he made some purchasing choices I thought were . . . unwise. But, it was his money, and he has to learn how to move beyond the draw of the moment, how to step back to evaluate if the purchase will be a good one after the shine fades. 

Watching a young man try to fit in is hard sometimes. I relaxed some of our normal family boundaries so he wouldn’t be teased by his peers. He embraced his freedom as we traveled with our tour group.

He knew how to handle himself in an airport, even when our flight was delayed, and we were stuck overnight in a foreign city. 

He turned his normal anxious response to a screen and lost himself in a game. All the boys did, really. I don’t know if that is the healthiest way to deal with stress when life goes sideways. But in this instance, I appreciated how he didn’t freak out and slather me with all the emotion churning inside.

When plans didn’t go as he expected, he expressed his feelings, but in a good way. 

There were moments when the “new” felt too big. I was glad I could be his home base when he needed a moment to regain his bearings and figure out how to deal with the environment. The feeling that comes from being who he turns to for stability is  . . . comforting. 

Looking at photos I took of him, I realized he’s lost his boyhood features. His face and size are growing into manhood. My heart broke just a little at that realization. The days sometimes feel long, but the years . . . they’re flying by. 

Quote: The days sometimes feel long, but the years . . . they are flying by

As much as I’d love to hold onto the child that he has been, even more, I look forward to seeing the man he will become . . . 

. . . the person God created him to be. 

These years are an in-between stage where childishness gives way to maturity . . . usually in stutters and tumbles. But the hints of who he’s becoming are there. I just need to step back to witness them.

I signed onto this trip knowing he’d want to be with his peers more than with me. But having a front row seat to observe how he interacted with unfamiliar situations gave me a deeper respect for him. While he didn’t jump into every new thing, he walked forward regardless of his feelings. 

Mothering teenagers is a hard privilege. 

Hard because they don’t want to listen to us—their parents. They yearn to try things on their own terms and discover how it works. 

Privilege because, knowing we’re in their corner offers them the freedom to grow, try new things, make mistakes, and to know we still love them.

Ed and a  teenaged friend gazing at the Colosseum in Rome

Our trip was unforgettable for many reasons. I went into into it knowing I was more a bystander than a participant in his experiences. This perspective eased the sting of some of his words and actions.

We’re home, and I’m seeing changes as he’s settled back into daily living with a new, broader understanding of the larger world. We’re finding our footing in our relationship with each other, and with Hubs and Peter. 

And yeah, as the testosterone continues to pump and sometimes drive both boys, Hubs and I are talking and praying and learning how to release our hold. We yearn for both of our boy-men to become the men God designed them to be. 

What about you? What special memories do you share with one or more of your children? How have you learned to let go so those you love can grow and learn?

Click to tweet: The days sometimes feel long, but the years . . . they’re flying by. 

I’m linking up with #TellHisStory and #RaRaLinkup


36 thoughts on “Teens: Learning to Let Go”

  1. What a lovely, loving essay, Jeanne!

    \My teenage years were different.

    I lived beneath the Gadsden Flag;
    best not to tread on me.
    My armed response knew no lag
    as I forswore all pity.
    To my teachers I was nice
    and they responded well
    for they knew my paradise
    was their vision of hell.
    The Head was a decent sort
    and his kindness was unswerving.
    He asked, for a police report
    that I only shot the deserving.
    True, the pistol was efficient,
    but my fists were always quite sufficient.


    1. Andrew, I can imagine you were a handful in your teen years. But, I also have a sense that, when you knew someone was on your side, you were fiercely loyal to them. I appreciate this glimpse into your history and your heart. I’m praying for you, friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So many good things that spoke to me here:
    “These years are an in-between stage where childishness gives way to maturity . . . usually in stutters and tumbles.” YES!!! In stutters and tumbles! And it’s not only ok, but it’s supposed to be that way!

    “Mothering teenagers is a hard privilege.” Oh, amen to this! Amen.


    1. Rebecca, we’re in the throes of this journey with our teens, aren’t we? I’m so glad that the stutters and tumbles will eventually even out. Now for the grace to walk through them in each moment. Thank you so much for stopping by!


  3. Oh Jeanne! I kinda sorta know how you feel! The teen years were my favorite parenting stage. I LOVED it, but it is hard to let go. Especially hard for me was letting them stay out later at night on the weekends. I still remember the night my son called –he was 16 or 17–to ask if he could have a beer with the family friend he was out with. In Turkey, there was no enforced drinking age. I said, “Yes,” to honor the fact that he was calling to ask for permission and to honor that family friend. I loved reading about your trip! I’ve been to both Athens and Rome. ❤


    1. Betsy, I can only imagine how hard it would have been to say YES to your son’s request. Our oldest isn’t quite driving yet, but he’s ready for all that independence. However, we moms know that independence comes with responsibility. And this seems like it can be a tricky balance for them to achieve. It sounds like your son was able to find that balance. And how beautiful that he was willing to call and ask permission first. How fun to know you’ve been to both Athens and Rome!


  4. My biggest takeaway from these teen years is RELATIONSHIP. It’s such a big deal, and it’s my weakness. When my kids were little, they needed me to DO for them, but now even the high school guy has become very independent. So . . . we connect over Algebra at the dining room table, and when those grown up boys come home, I try to be all ears and to slow down enough to let them know that I’m there for them.


    1. Michele, we task-oriented women struggle with just “being” with our teens, don’t we? Sometimes, I have to watch my emotions after one of them has been hurtful. I’ve (and I’m hanging my head here) been the mom who was still working through the sting of mean words and declined to set things aside to reconcile with the boy when he asked. Yeah, I’m still struggling with the whole pride-thing some days. We do learn to connect where our kids are at though, don’t we? I love that you are intentional with your boys, regardless of their ages.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jeanne,
    As my mom says, “When they’re little they pull on your apron strings; when they’re older they tug on your heart strings.” So true!! I remember when my son stopped giving me a kiss goodbye as he darted off to school with his friends. That was a sad day, but our job as parents is to equip them so that they can fly on their own. Nonetheless, the letting go is truly difficult, but even as they pull away from mom…boys still always have a soft spot in their hearts for their moms.
    Blessings in the journey,
    Bev xx


    1. Bev, I love that saying your mom used. It’s so true. I got a bit teary when those kisses ended too. And yes, we’re in the throes of figuring out how to begin letting go of our sons so they can spread their wings and learn how to fly. I grapple with this often. And I am thankful boys do have a soft spot in their hearts for their mamas. That’s a saving grace!


  6. Loved your thoughts on this topic Jeanne. I am the mother of three boys, the youngest of whom is 34. I am still learning to let go and to do it gracefully.


    1. Thank you, Laurie. I suspect you’ve walked through some of these issues with your sons. 🙂 And yes, I’ve heard we never completely let go of parenting…the role just changes as their ages progress. Here’s to consistently gracious interactions with our sons!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely thoughts on motherhood, dear Jeanne. It sounds like you’re finding the perfect balance of leading and letting go. The tenderest moments for me have been when my sons displayed the same rich thoughtfulness towards me that they have witnessed their dad do.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac


    1. Wendy, I can’t claim to have found the balance, but I’m learning what it looks like to live in a place where that balance is. I still topple to one side or the other on an embarrassingly regular basis. 🙂 How hopeful that is for me, that your sons are thoughtful in the ways they’ve seen your husband be.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Such wonderful thoughts. While I have been an empty nester for many years, I remember the toughness of letting go. It gets better. They come in the form of grandchildren. Enjoy the memories of now.


    1. Yes, letting go is tough. At every stage, it seems. 🙂 Thanks for the hope that it does get better, Anita. I needed those words TODAY. 🙂 Grandchildren . . . that will be fun, but I hope not for a number of years yet! 🙂 I’m so glad you have the gift of grands. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I am beyond these years with mine (both now in their 30s). I look back and am grateful that I was encouraged then to give them responsibilities and allow them to suffer consequences. As hard as it was, I can see how the Lord was growing them up. It is only later that we are privileged to see the fruit of our labors and the work of the Lord in their lives.


    1. Beth, it sounds like you are a wise mama. We have also given our boys responsibilities and allowed them to suffer the consequences. It is hard sometimes! But, that’s how they learn and grow. Thanks for the reminder that the fruit does show itself and become real . . . sometime down the parenting road. I need those reminders still. 🙂


  10. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip of learning not just the place! Keep having these adventures with your teenagers, as they do make a difference when they are off much further in adulthood (and maybe taking care of you on an adventure)!


    1. Yes, Lynn, the trip was wonderful on many levels. We’ve been looking for ways to have other adventures with our boys. They’re only with us for a few more years. It’s CRAZY to realize that. Thanks for the encouragement that these days—the easy and the tough—do make a difference down the road, that these adventures will be special to them. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh this is a challenging transition period. It looks like you are a wise and loving mama. If we are fortunate, over time, our children grow and become our dearest friends.

    Meanwhile, I love that your son let you post his pictures and share your story! That says something mighty fine about him …

    And you.



    1. Linda, yes, this season is filled with moments where my kids seek me out, and moments where I’m invisible. But, choosing to love them regardless is what I hope will keep my relationship with them strong. Actually, the pictures are mine. 😉 And, he is becoming a fine young man. 🙂


  12. My boys are now 40, 38, and 36, but oh, how I cried reading your post and remembering how I had to let go. The summer before each son went to college, I took a few minutes to sit in his room and weep for the farewell to his childhood and pray for his entry into adulthood. That way, on the day we dropped him off at college, I could hold it together–at least until we made it off campus!


    1. I love how you sat in each of their rooms and prayed for them before they went to college. I want to remember this and to both allow myself that time to grieve and to pray for their onward journey. I’m sure my boys would appreciate a mama who doesn’t cry and make a scene when we drop them at college. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this, Linda.


  13. I loved reading this, Jeanne … watching our children demonstrate various aspects of the character we’ve hoped and prayed to instill in them is such a blessing, isn’t it? 🙂 While always remembering that they are works in progress, just like us. I was especially touched by reading that you gained a deeper respect for him as you watched him navigate unfamiliar situations. That’s something our kids long for, I think … our respect. Hugs, friend.


    1. Yes, Lois, it is a blessing to witness our children beginning to walk in true character. We are all works in progress, aren’t we? I let him read this post before it went live. I hope he saw that part of the post. 🙂 Have a good weekend, my friend.


  14. My ex put our daughter in boarding school five years ago, when she was 11, while I fought for my life in the hospital. Now that she’s sixteen, she largely ignores my attempts to reach out and refused to come for Christmas when I scraped together the funds. It breaks my heart. I would appreciate your prayers.


    1. Candy, my heart is so sad for you. My heart grieves for you. I have been praying for you and for your daughter today. As long as there is breath, there is hope for healing. I’m praying this for you. Thank you for sharing your heart here. I’m sending you a virtual hug.


  15. I don’t have children, but I did enjoy this thoughtful and open description of what it’s like to let go in phases of your child as they grow into adulthood. I once had a peer tell me that he believed that adolescence and teen years were God’s way of helping you to let go of your children – because of all the changes they bring. Perhaps he’s right. I can only imagine how hard it is, but I think you’re doing the right thing by recognizing that you have to adjust so that your child can grow and become the man God created him to be.


    1. Afi, I’m grateful you stopped and shared your thoughts here. I would agree with your peer. They assert their growing independence, and it isn’t always pretty. They do bring changes, but they also bring joy and keep us on our knees and dependent on God. Thank you for your kind words!


  16. I love this sentence: “Mothering teenagers is a hard privilege.” Oh my goodness, yes! I was detailing that recently in a piece I wrote that involved when our teens, “The Hypocrisy Police,” began weighing in on our every word and deed. My heart is full as I consider how to respond here. I’ve launched six children. My oldest is 41 and my youngest 25 – four boys, two girls. It was hard to let go of every single one of them, to live through these changes, to watch their mistakes as they learned from them. Mothering isn’t for the weak at heart. Yet, the transformation that occurs on the other side, once they’re done asking all their questions about the whys of so many things we couldn’t discuss with them when they were young, is that your children become lifelong friends, the people you love to hang out with more than any others, the givers of advice to you as they become more peers than children. It is good! You sound like an incredibly wise mother. Stay the course, sister!


    1. Melinda, I didn’t realize you have six children. What a gift. My boys have called me on things I’ve said too. They’re good at that at this age. 🙂 You’re right, mothering is not for the weak of heart! I’m enjoying, as they grow and mature, having deeper conversations with them, hearing their thoughts, and opinions, and discussing different viewpoints on the issues of their hearts. I’m looking forward to growing friendship with them. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, lady!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love talking with kids that age, so many new opinions forming, discovering who they are, filled with thoughtful information. Your trip sounds so wonderful and your parenting very wise. I bet your son thinks you’re amazing, even if he doesn’t tell you at this point. One day, he will!


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