When parents and teens roll up their sleeves and delve into a project together, everyone might be pleasantly surprised at what they can accomplish.
Our muddy boots directed shovel blades to cut thin strips of sod. My dirt-under-my-nails hands grasped the wooden handle as the rain drizzled from the ominous gray sky.
The year's first autumn chill had blown in with the rain shower, and she and I were racing against the calendar. We were intent on turning over a plot of land to have it prepared for next spring's garden.
She, so she could transplant baby plants into the May soil, plants that she would grow from seeds and nurture inside through the cold days of winter. (You'd never believe what she planted them in.) Me, so I could tackle a project with my teen.
She was thinking about salads and salsa of next summer. I was thinking about how parents and teens simply don't spend enough time together.
That was last fall, and today I stand amazed at what we have cultivated.
Physically, with a bounty that has blessed our kitchen and our pantry, but also relationally, with a common bond that we will treasure long after the last canned vegetable of summer becomes part of winter's meal.
Anytime she asks for my help with a new project I say “yes.” Even if the whining voice in my head cries that I have more important things too do, even if I hate the sound of whatever she is planning, even if I am ill-equipped for the task she's undertaking, I say “yes.”
Maybe I'm quick to acquiesce because this daughter who had me peeling up a garden, strip by strip, last autumn is not the first daughter I have assisted with a scheme. She has two older sisters who have coaxed me into my share of out-of-my-comfort-zone projects. Our projects had us–parents and teens–working elbow-to-elbow and included everything from sewing machines to creepy insects, from power tools to even robots. But along the way, I've discovered many reasons why I want to tackle every project I can with my teens.
5 Reasons Parents and Teens Should Tackle a Project Together
1. It's an investment.
It might not look like much. It might even seem half-baked or impossible, but when you and your teen invest in a project together, you are bound to reap rewards.
This spring, her diminutive cotyledons didn't look like much, but all the promise was there for a crop of wonderful beans. Your awkward teen, who isn't too sure about much right now, holds all the promise for the wonderful, driven, focused adult he can be. If you invest in him, help him discover his passions, and develop his talents, he will grow beyond what you imagine.
It's guaranteed. God promises that when we give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord (and what job is more important than ours as parents?) our labor is not in vain. (I Cor. 15:58)
2. It gives teens a new perspective.
No responsibility I have is more precious than the one God entrusted to me the day He placed this wonderful teen in my life as a sweet baby–to show this child she is a creation of The Great Creator. The best way I've found to show her the Master Creator's fingerprints on her life is to help her discover the talents and passions that are latent within her. When I'm muddying my boots by her side, I can notice if she has a nack for something or point out to her that she has been working hard on a certain scheme for months now, even after many set-backs, so she must be passionate about it.
3. It's a perfect time to talk.
You'll be surprised how much you can enjoy conversation over pounding hammers, whirling motors, or whatever your teen's project might entail. In fact, I think it's the very nature of the distractions that make it easier for teens to share their thoughts with us.
After seeding her cucumbers and beans this spring, my new gardener left the chickens free-ranging without thinking one afternoon. (Yes, our family moved from suburbia to a very rural 14-acre farm last year, and she has taken on many livestock projects as well, including her chicken.) Her beloved hens reeked havoc of her neat rows of promise. So she decided to build a make-shift fence out of what we had around the homestead… wooden pallets and metal stakes.
Over the sounds of pounding metal, we talked about her goals and her dreams. It was a beautiful opus.
4. It's a learning experience for them.
We made plenty of mistakes. In her eagerness, and due to our lack of knowledge about the New England climate we had just moved to, she planted in the cool spring soil a few weeks too early. All of those tiny seeds she nurtured into young plants through the winter? Only one survived.
But that persistent plant was the most beloved member of her garden, and those tomatoes seemed sweeter by far. The rest we reseeded or bought as plants, and she tended them diligently, soon having her garden growing well, despite her initial discouragement.
Then she asked other gardeners and read books from the feed store until she learned all she needed to make next year's garden an even bigger success than this year's. She did in-depth learning on her own, because it was something she was wholeheartedly interested in. If a teen is asking YOU to help them with a project, a project of their own design, they are eager to learn. You will be amazed to see them devour their new knowledge and take it to heart.
5. It's a learning experience for you.
Whether I wanted to or not, I have learned fascinating facts about the nitrogen content of rabbit manure and the ease of feeding free-range chicken. And I'm sure the lessons will abound, taught to me by my teens as we tackle new projects in the years ahead–parents and teenagers side-by-side on this little piece of New England soil where God has planted our family. Because, ultimately, it is He who is growing US.
So the next time the parents and teens in your house throw around ideas to decide if a project is worth tackling, don't hesitate. Whether it's a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) or a simple, almost crazy idea, wholeheartedly invest some time. Point out your teen's talents and passions as you work. Enjoy the conversations that will surely ensue. And revel in what you both learn and cultivate together.
Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:58
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