How to Act When Your Adolescent Acts Unreasonable

Phil 4:12

…continued from yesterday.

When I shared Sarah’s news about purchasing a one-way ticket to London with Pedro, he didn’t take it very well. “Cut off her phone and let her go!”

“I think there’s more to this than we can see,” I said. “I don’t think just letting her go is the right path.” We debated on and off all day, and finally decided to pray about it together and on our own. After all, no one ever gave us a guidebook on how to act when our adolescent acts unreasonable. Authors cover this in depth for the toddler and teenage years—but not for a young adult.

Meanwhile, Sarah’s posts on Facebook took on an even more sinister feel. She posted photos of herself with small cuts on her face and arms and talked about her eagerness to escape ‘hell’ (being in Puerto Rico with her grandparents). She posted photos of herself smooching with a guy (which really startled me because she wanted to go to Europe to meet up with the young man in Portugal).

The next day, Pedro and I agreed to write her one last letter and try to reason with her.

Dear Sarah,

Before you start reading this, take several deep breaths and pray for guidance and wisdom. What we are about to say, might cause a ball of anger to rise up in you. Sometimes, honest communication does that to people. When you finish reading, please take more deep breaths. Pray. We are not trying to ‘interfere’ with you. We have spent a lot of time praying before we wrote to you.

First of all, we love you and we see so many wonderful character traits in you. You are fiercely loyal and can be generous and sweet and caring. You are also extremely intelligent, not to mention an incredibly talented artist and musician.

Having known you for a long time, we also see a few things that can make life difficult for you. Your temper can blind you sometimes. Your insecurities cause you to trust people who promise you things that you want (even if you don’t really know these people and they don’t really know you). You can be greedy (in a way that walks all over people who love you).

Once again, we love you. Our greatest desire in life is that you have your own, grown-up mature relationship with God and that you be happy (we know from personal experience that the second thing is impossible without the first).

We would love to support your dreams and aspirations, but they seem to change so rapidly that we are often left feeling as if we had whiplash.

We love you and we certainly want to trust you. You speak about ‘having so far to fall.’ We want to assure you that the closer you are to Jesus, the less distance you have to fall.

We want to honor your current quest for autonomy, maturity, and independence, but in all fairness we feel that we have to let you know in good conscience how the real world operates.

In the past, we have been supportive of your decisions (even if we may not have agreed with them—leaving school for a quarter and visiting your friend in another city would be a case in point) because you discussed them with us and you had the money to support your choices and you didn’t owe anyone any money.

You are now a year older and have had more experiences, therefore, the burden of your decisions falls more on you than on us. We don’t want to ‘interfere’ with your plans and your dreams, but we must point out that part of being an adult is paying your own way BEFORE you incur more debt.

Saying you’re going to ‘pay later’ is not really an option. If you hadn’t lost your ATM card, you would have paid for those things yourself. Therefore, now that you have access to your money, you need to pay up. That’s the adult thing to do.

We realize that by paying your debts you might find yourself in financial difficulties—especially considering your plans for London. As one businessperson to another, we are willing to discuss the situation with you under the same circumstances that a bank would.

Banks and people do not just lend money to others without 1) a business plan (we had to do that when we borrowed money to build the house, and we had to prove that we could pay the money back in a certain amount of time based on our employment contracts) 2) Security of some sort. The bank actually owns our house and our cars. We don’t own them. They will be ours in a few years, but if we don’t make our payments the bank has the right to take them, sell them, and keep the money.

To borrow the money for both the house and the cars, we had to show the bank our debts and our income and explain how we would be able to pay.

We are willing to do the same with you. Pretend we are a bank and you have a dream that feels within your grasp, but you’re not sure you have the funds to cover it. Write up a business plan and list your debts and your expenses and your plan of action.

Be real. Be honest with yourself. Is there any part of your plan right now that causes you to hesitate because you’re not sure for your personal safety? Is there a different way of carrying out your plan that would make you feel safer?

Remember, we are a bank—that’s what bankers do (we had to sit down with a banker and talk about risks and possible failures before the bank gave us money to build the house—it was uncomfortable, because we owed a lot of money from cancer at the time).

Once again, we love you. We want for you to feel empowered, mature and purposeful. We are willing to help you.

Love, Mom and Dad

Sarah Ojeda:
Ok
Be careful
Don’t ruin my plans
Ok?
I am very happy right now
Ok
Sounds good
I am going to pay later as in this week.
Goodness gracious. I know money
I know what I am doing
I really didn’t need that big long text
You probably feel better after sending it but I feel the same.
In what way would you be my ‘bank’ ??
What the heck
Wells Fargo will be my bank
Way better that way unless you want to give me cash and your card numbers.
That would be ridiculous
So not gonna bank with you …
Pointless
My favorite word
Is being manifested in all your words.
Pointless for me
I have not needed your crap these weeks. It is not all criap I admit but lots of it has been.
way the hell Too Much Shit
I love you two
Too
Thank you for your prayers
I will pray for you but God does not listen to me that often.
Anita Ojeda:
Maybe you’re not listening for his answer!
Sarah Ojeda:
Well no freaking duhhhh. Please. You are making me feel like an idiot. Which I am of corse. But Life and lessons have taught me everything you and dad are telling me these days. So. Once again. Please stop being this way and treating me like a baby 10 year old
I am almost 21
I can smoke weed and drink vodka and have sex and have a baby.
I’m not going to make any effort to do any of those things.
Anita Ojeda:
The banker analogy was simply an analogy. We’re willing to continue helping you financially (phone, insurance, contacts, incidentals and travel), but it’s up to you. Your decision.

Her reaction to our well-thought out letter both angered and saddened me. We had prayed together for wisdom and for the right words, and our labor of love received a smack down.

The only place I felt content was on my knees, pouring out my heart to God about my fears for my… Click To Tweet

I wanted one of us to fly to New York to intercept Sarah on her way home. Pedro pointed out that she wanted autonomy and independence and maybe we should allow her to have those things. I worried that her bizarre behavior portended something more serious—such as a full-blown drug addiction. Once again, we found our only comfort on our knees.

In three days’ time, we would know whether or not she would carry out her plans to stay in New York for five days and then fly to London.

…to be continued.

(Note to readers:  This series is co-written by myself and Sarah. She sees each post before it goes live and approves of the content).

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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