To my very weird teens

I know we’re different.

Just like you, I’ve seen the reactions, heard the mutters and gasps and whispers. I’ve watched you carefully steer conversation from risqué topics in groups, and I know that you’ve demurred, more than once, on a movie night with friends that ran afoul of our standards. I’ve seen you avert your eyes in public spaces, pass on offers of trendy free reads, and admit to your peers that no, you’ve never played that video game… or any video game without Mario involved, actually.

We’re not just different, it seems– we’re weird. We are salmon battling our way upstream, holding our breath and pushing on while every other fish contentedly meanders with the flow, watching our struggle and wondering, “Why do they bother?”

To my very weird teens

It’s a good question. Heck, it’s a great question. It’s a question I ask myself on really rough days when I wonder if it really matters whether I read The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies to my 2 year-old or park him in front of whatever Amazon Prime has on the offering, or if I am deluding myself in thinking that a pot of curried lentils really matters in a world full of Lunchables. If I ask myself that question as one of the people who gets to quantify the answer, well… you’re allowed to ask it, too.

What you don’t know– can’t know– that there is just as much pressure on this side as there is over there. It’s not just the kids with their pockets full of fad toys and heads full of distractions. It’s adults who don’t understand why we can’t just let well enough alone and do what everyone else does.

Your dad and I have taken great pains to make sure you know the answer to that question. We really don’t care what the other fish think, but you, well… you didn’t ask for this lifestyle, but you’re charged with living it out. You didn’t choose to be homeschooled, to be a foster family, to be missionaries, to have lots of siblings, to be minimalists, to abandon the standard American diet. You just naturally came along for the ride the moment we felt the call to fight the current.

And my goodness, you’ve been amazing. All these years of being the odd ones out, of reading Beowulf when everyone else was reading Divergent, of watching “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” when everyone else was watching “Deadpool,” of being co-pilot on grocery trips when everyone else was fiddling with their new tech gadgets. You’ve embraced this “not the norm” lifestyle and run with it, and I’ve never once heard you long for what everyone else seems to have.

You guys… you’re the fruit. Truly. The fact that we spend evenings laughing over UNO or talking through what your your dad has just read from some 16th century Puritan author? That’s amazing. The fact that you hash out doctrine with each other, that you come alongside younger siblings and help them along as they navigate their own hurts and fears and successes and triumphs? Unheard of. And it’s what people can’t see. Every no has given us a bigger yes as we’ve pushed against the tide. Every thing we aren’t has returned us a bigger piece of who we really are. I love that we can bask in that, even if no one else ever sees it.

So, I’m not sorry that you’ve never had those Lokai bracelets with bits of both the Dead Sea and Mt. Everest in them, or fidget spinners, or Ugg boots, or your own iPhones. I’m not sorry you haven’t competed in travel sports, or been part of youth group nights complete with games involving flying fruit. I am sorry if anyone made you feel less for it, but I’m not sorry we’ve rejected the dogged pursuit of sameness. I am glad we are different. And I’m glad that you’re glad, too.

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