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Making Memories with Your Teen

There's Still Time to Make Memories
Teens don't want to be seen with their parents, much less talk to them or do anything with them. That's what we hear all the time. I don't buy it. I never did.

Oh sure, when my daughter and my son were in their teens, they wanted to spend most of their free time with their friends. And that's how it should be as you try to find out who you are, as your hormones scream incessantly and as you prepare to leave home and your parents. But there were always those special times, planned and spontaneous, when we enjoyed being alone with each other, when we connected deeply, when we were reminded again how much we loved one another.

These were not designated "quality times" or structured "learning experiences." They didn't take place on long drives to their grandparents, while they were held captive in a car and forced to listen to another caring lecture about the importance of keeping their grades up. These poignant, joyful, melancholy, intimate times always took place when they knew that I wanted and needed to be with them, only them. I had to share something with them that I knew they would enjoy. I needed to abide with them while they were adrift. And in those very private moments, I believe they also wanted to be with me.

If you've taken the time throughout their childhood to really know and appreciate who your children are -- and to share who you are with them -- there will be many times during their teenage years when they will want the pleasure of only your company, when they will need you by their side, when they must have your arms around them.

Make a Date with Your Teen
I recall how delighted my 14-year-old daughter, Alisa, felt when I asked her for a date to see a movie, a movie I had recently seen with her mom, a movie I told her was her type of movie. It was a bittersweet Italian movie, Cinema Paradiso, and I wanted this story to give her a sense of what it had felt like for me to grow up as an Italian boy in a small town, where life was simple and where everyone knew one another. I wanted her to know better how her father had been nourished and shaped. But I made it very clear that what I wanted most was a special date with my daughter.

We both laughed and cried during the same scenes in the movie. She adored the movie. I knew she would -- because I knew her. I decided we should complete our evening with some lively conversation at a nearby bakery. We ate biscotti and drank cappuccino. I told her the movie was now so much more special for me because I had shared it with her. She smiled. She understood. We made a memory that night. We still make loving references to it as one of our special times.

Seize the Moment
From our living room window, I saw my 13-year-old son, Jason, tearfully searching our vegetable garden for a place to bury his pet boa constrictor. He had requested the snake as our Bar Mitzvah gift and his boa had met an early demise. Because my son had suffered with asthma and allergies all his life, he could never have the dog, the faithful buddy that he so desperately wanted. Every pet he had owned -- hermit crab, lizard, fish, or snake -- had died. And they had died much too soon after he had excitedly shown them their new home in his room.

I was at his side as we searched for the best gravesite. We dug the grave, said our good-byes and then he cried. He cried hard and he asked me why every pet he owns dies so soon. I could feel his heart break against my chest. And he sobbed about all the puppies that he saw that he wanted to bring home and love. Mostly I just held him close, trying to absorb some of his pain because I knew I couldn't take it away.

We both knew something happened that day in the garden. Much more than the burial of his pal. He let me hold his aching soul.

Share your heart with your teens. Show them repeatedly that you know and love who they really are. There are tender memories waiting to be made.

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