'The look' that pierced the side of my head

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Ashley Graves

This week my own teenager daughter gave me “the look.” We all know “the look” a teen gives when they think you are about to preach at them. Yes, that look.

As I have said before, my passion and joy is walking beside teenage girls and mentoring them. The young women I have the privilege of mentoring never give me “the look” when I begin to offer them some wisdom from my experiences. Yet, the second it becomes my own child, I do not know a thing and I am preaching. Funny how that happens.

As I recognized her expression, probably from giving it to my own mother, I began trying to decipher a way to communicate my point that would not be perceived as preaching, but rather as teaching from my own experiences. After all, I have had far more of them. Surely, I learned something of value.

Henri Nouwen explained teaching as, “a friend who has a very long journey and has learned something so important that he does not want to keep it for himself.” That is what I am trying to do. I want my children to learn from my mistakes and my trials. The path I took was not the easy one, and I pray she may learn a glimpse of wisdom from my mistakes. And yet, here we are in a car driving down the road with her stare of annoyance piercing the side of my head.

After much consideration, I have decided something that I have known for many years for other young people. Teenagers need wisdom from someone other than their parents. They need a safe and sound individual that will speak truth into their troubles. With this role of mentoring comes great responsibility. Qualifications include (but are not limited to): the mentor should have the same belief system; the mentor should never undermine the parents and their decisions; the mentor should be several years older than the child (a minimum of 3-5 years older); the mentor should be the same sex as the teen; and the parent should feel comfortable with the wisdom the mentor can offer.

Another thing that occurred to me is that I speak to my daughter differently than I speak to the ones I mentor. Heaven help me, I was preaching. I was not offering a conversation or listening to her points at all. My conversation was one-sided and void of a dialogue. I would give myself “the look” if it was physically possible.

Now, I am not condoning that parents stop teaching their teens, but make sure it is a two-sided conversation. Whether they admit it or not, your teen is listening to you. They are hearing you through the looks of disdain and sheer annoyance. So, keep talking. Don’t stop. Do not give up!

Appreciate that one day, your child will recognize that you have wisdom to offer, and that your voice will be the one they need to hear in their life situations. Our season of ignorance is just that, a season. One day, you and I will be brilliant again. I promise. Until that time, keeping offering your wisdom until that one day it becomes brilliantly welcomed.

Ashley Graves is the executive director of Choices Clinic & Life Resource Center. She has been mentoring teens for over 15 years, and has a passion for guiding them towards healthy life choices. Ashley may be reached at Ashley@ChoicesInLife.org.