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Raising a Teenage Hope

A reflection by Louise, Hope Nottingham's Admin & Facilities Coordinator.


“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain

 

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on raising teenagers. We’ve had a teenager in the family for almost 4 years now so I’m obviously an expert on the subject and I can share the following observations:


1) When they were babies and toddlers the whole world was happy to tell you that whatever you were doing was probably wrong. Now your children will join in with this too and confirm that you are in fact, completely incompetent.


2) Other people’s parents are more laid back/supportive/generally better than you. You can comfort yourself with the knowledge that their friends' parents are currently hearing what a legend you are.


3) You are incredibly old and out of touch. How did you live before the internet? What is an encyclopedia? Here’s a tiktok video that will make your ears bleed. No, tiktok is not for you. Frankly, youtube is pushing it.


4) Despite all of these shortcomings, you are sometimes not too awful and can be rewarded with occasional hugs and moments of random loveliness that will apparently come from nowhere.


I love having teenage children. I found the baby and toddler years really difficult and I enjoy being able to talk to my kids about things and see them grow into independent people with ideas and plans of their own. It’s a fantastic and exciting part of their lives but it’s not without its challenges. Teenagers look as if they’re standing on their own two feet but actually they’re still growing and consolidating all the things they learned as children. You can look at them and see the person they were at two whilst maybe being able to glimpse who they could be at 20.


It’s a transitional time and a hard one. There aren’t any rules for raising children. What works for one will be a disaster for another. You can look at what other people are doing for guidance but there will always be exceptions or things that make an idea unworkable in your situation. So, all we can really do is muddle through and try our best. We have to accept that along the way mistakes will be made, hoping for grace and forgiveness when they do. And hold onto the fact that there will be wonderful, amazing moments, making time to celebrate those when they come along.


Hope Nottingham is also in its teenage years. In fact, if Hope were a child it would be in year 9 and choosing its GCSE options! Like a child, Hope started off small, grew consistently and then hit a growth spurt at around 11. We are the lucky people that get to parent Hope through the tricky teenage years. And it is tricky. Two-year-old Hope was very different from fourteen-year-old Hope. We now have multiple foodbanks, all with their own individual flavour and expertise. We’ve got a volunteer and staff team that’s based across different sites, days and projects . Growth is good but it’s hard. And Hope is growing and changing. If ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ - I think that makes us all the village elders or at least some very active townspeople. We’ve had a lot of change over the past year and we’re looking at more change as we recruit to new roles and consider new projects. Hope is a place where people come to us with the difficult parts of their lives and ask us to help make them better and that's never going to be straightforward or easy. And like any teenager, Hope wants to do new things whilst also having no idea how or even if they will work. As with parenting teenagers we can look at what other people are doing and learn from them, but it will always be slightly different for us because we’re not like other foodbanks. Or other Christian charities. Or other anythings really!

 

Our chaplain, Lauren, often says that God brings the right people to Hope at the right time. So, by that logic, all of us, together, are the right people to care for teenage Hope and help it through this stage of its life. We’re the ones God has chosen to support it and help it grow through the awkward, inbetweeney-stage. The ‘you're-ruining-my-life, I’ve-made-you-a-coffee, I-don’t-have-any-clean-shirts, can-I-have-pot noodle-for-dinner, I’ll-pay-you-back-on-Friday, can-you-take-me-to-Tom’s-and-pick-me-up, everyone-else’s-parents-said-it-was-fine, that-cardigan-makes-you-look-like-Gran, I-emptied-the-dishwasher-last-week, can-I -have-a-hug?’ stage of its life with all the joys and challenges that go with it. We won’t do it perfectly, but we will do our best, offering grace and forgiveness when things go wrong and celebrating with joy and gratitude when they go right. We’re a good team. We care about one another, and we care about Hope and our community. And if that’s all we’ve got then it’s enough.

 

To close, here is a prayer by Thomas Merton that has been one of my favourites for a number of years and has been particularly helpful to me recently.


My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

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