A Different Type of Adoption
By T. Suzanne Eller
I traveled to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of a couple, the parents of a childhood best friend. I sat nonchalantly enjoying cake and punch when I heard my name called.
“I’d like to introduce a friend who knew my mom and dad when she was growing up. She’s a writer now and maybe she’d like to say a few words.”
I brushed the cake crumbs off of the front of my black pants suit and walked to the front, trying to whip up an appropriate message in 30 seconds or less. The truth is that I wasn’t sure how to express all that was in my heart.
For these two adults, now in their early 70’s, were second parents to a young teen a long time ago when she needed it the most.
Their home was my Friday night hang out. Every weekend we piled into cars and headed for their house. I’m sure we were loud. I’m sure we ate more food than their budget could afford. I knew we left messes because I was responsible for some of them (toilet papering their yard). I’m sure that they would have rather turned off the lights and climbed into bed, but they didn’t. They popped popcorn, teased us, and treated us like we were all family.
I watched them interact as a family. Even then I was packing tools in my parenting suitcase for future reference. I watched them tease each other, playfully jest with their kids, and I watched my best friend’s dad read the Bible in the living room while we made noise around them.
They weren’t my parents, but they had adopted me during a critical time in my life. I was a young believer whose family was struggling. They didn‘t know how difficult things were at home. When I would thank them for letting me hang out at their house, one or both would usually respond with, “oh honey, it’s nothing.”
All of that was racing through my head as I stood like a deer caught in the headlights at the 50th reunion.
I cleared my throat and glanced at the couple nearby. She was wearing a wig, evidence of her recent battle with cancer. He was standing behind her, his hand protectively resting on her shoulder. His hair was grey, but he seemed just as strong as he once was.
I smiled at them as I began. “You taught me what a home could be. You showed me normalcy. You taught me about God on a practical, relevant level. You were not only my best friend’s parents, you became spiritual parents to me and a lot of other kids.”
Later I hugged them and they both said, “Suzie, we didn’t do anything special, honey. We just opened our home to our kid’s friends. We loved you guys.”
Perhaps that’s the key. They loved us in spite of the noise and chaos that comes from having teens in your home.
They impacted not only me, but their own children. By opening their home to their teenagers’ friends, they shifted the power of influence from peers or society to their own home. There were boundaries and limitations, but also a lot of love.
WHO ARE OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS?
This is a question asked by Teen Mania founder, Ron Luce, in his book, BattleCry for a Generation. Are your sons and daughters only those related by DNA? Or is it possible that you could be a spiritual second mom or dad to a teen?
What can you do to impact teens? You can become involved on a number of levels!
- Serve as a youth sponsor or discipleship teacher.
- Volunteer to pray before or after service for the needs of the teens (nearly half of teens who attend a youth service are either unchurched or have families who are not believers).
- Pray for the youth pastor and his family.
- Serve as a chaperone at events, camp, or a mission trip.
- Open your home one night a week or bi-weekly when your teen’s friends can come over.
- Involve teens in the men’s/women’s group. (Many teens graduate from high school without ever having interacted with church family outside of youth.)
- Sponsor a teen financially. Make a life-changing donation by paying for their camp fee or mission trip.
- If your teen doesn’t drive, fill your car with your teen’s friends. Yeah, I know. Gas is high, but so is your influence.
What if you believe that you can’t relate to teens? They aren’t looking for “cool” adults. They aren’t seeking adults to figure them out or solve their problems. They just want to see genuine faith played out in real-life families and real-life situations. They want to know that someone believes in them.
You can do that!
What if they eat me out of house and home? What about your white carpet? Throw down a cheap rug from Wal Mart on top of the white carpet. Buy Little Debbie snacks and .50 off brand pop (they like it just as much). Have a snack cabinet that is designated just for Friday or Saturday night get-togethers. Set guidelines with your teens on keeping the place fairly picked up.
What if you haven’t had a teen in your home for a while (teens need spiritual grandparents too!)? Buy wholesome and fun used DVD’s. Pick up a second hand ping pong or foosball table. Stack the shelves with games. When you go by Sam’s or Costco, pick up a case of popcorn.
ISN’T THIS A LOT OF EFFORT?
Maybe, but later in life when they hit roadblocks or they are searching for God, they’ll call you. Wherever God takes them and whatever they do, you have played a small part in God’s plan for their lives.
I think one day my friend’s parents will enter eternity and their comment to God might be, “We didn’t do anything special, God. We weren’t superstars. We were just an ordinary family trying to serve You and to love our kids.”
I think God will hand them a beautiful crown with lots of jewels. Each of those jewels will shine and reflect the Son. “How come there are so many jewels?” they might ask. “Is this for someone else?”
I think God will point to each and every gem and patiently name each and every youth they impacted, like me.
Read Suzanne's past articles:
What You Teach Me About God
Does Your Teen Feel Accepted at Home?
Are You Really Listening?
'But I’m Almost 18!'
My Teen Won’t Talk to Me
Suzanne Eller is a veteran youthworker, youth culture columnist,
conference speaker, and author of Real
Issues, Real Teens – What Every Parent Needs to Know (Life Journey, 2004). You can reach Suzanne at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://realteenfaith.com.
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