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Lara Patangan considers the unexpected challenges of being a parent to older teens and young adults.

Parenting is a weird gig. Just when you think you have figured out one stage in your child’s development, they morph into a more perplexing one. By the time they become teenagers, a once pivotal milestone like potty training seems almost trivial. After all, what’s a little pee on the kitchen floor among family?  

As children get older, the mistakes they make can feel a lot harder to clean up. More is at stake, yet our roles as parents require us to say less. While this is warranted in the name of their growing independence, I can’t help but feel like the more freedom they have, the less I do. My expressed opinions, insight, and experiences are sometimes seen as unwelcome intrusions in the lives of my young-adult children. I’m in a season of self-censorship where I try to say less in general—and, more specifically, not say anything irritating.

As you can imagine, this is a losing battle. It turns out that almost everything I have to say is irritating.  

I call these the duct-tape years of parenting, not because I sometimes feel like binding my beloved children with duct tape to make them listen to me. It’s because I realize I’m the one who needs restraint. I need to step back so that they can step in and manage their choices and responsibilities. Even though I realize how important this is for both them and me, I still struggle with what I mistakenly consider a God-given right to express myself.  




Yet, when you really examine the life of Jesus, it becomes clear that He used few words to teach, minister, and heal. His emphasis was never on self-expression but selflessness. He didn’t force His beliefs. He didn’t dictate or demand. He merely offered a path. Jesus gave us free will to choose whether we wanted to follow Him. Sadly, duct tape is mentioned nowhere in the Bible. Jesus didn’t use His power to force, but to empower us to choose for ourselves. While He hopes that we choose the goodness and light of love that He offers, He knows that not all of us will.  

This is what I try to remind myself when I feel a serial killer-like urge to purchase duct tape as part of my parenting strategy. Saying little is not about self-censorship, but having the good sense to understand that even though my children are inescapably woven into my heart, they are also individuals who God willingly trusts to have autonomy over their lives.

The beauty of being in relationship with God is understanding that He didn’t come to condemn us but to share His merciful compassion with us. He knows we are going to make mistakes. He isn’t as worried about our stumbling as much as where we stand in relationship to Him.  While there may be times when I’m called to step in and offer guidance to my children along their path, I recognize that my greater role is to step aside and trust them to take the next right step.   


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Jesus didn’t use His power to force, but to empower us to choose for ourselves. #CatholicMom


None of this is easy for me because I’m not Jesus. My love for my children is fierce, and protecting them from the world (even from their own mistakes) feels primal. Yet, I look to his example and I realize that genuine love requires both surrender and trust. Besides, I know from my own experiences that mistakes are often great teachers, and if things really fall apart there’s duct tape and Jesus to help me put them back together.  



Copyright 2023 Lara Patangan
Images: Canva