Teenage Thorn to Adult Rose
by Melinda Neeley
Someone once said, "You can either complain
that rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that
thorn bushes have roses." A teenage child
is like a rose bush - one of God's most beautiful
creations, yet covered with an armor of defensive
thorns. For a parent who loves their teenager,
it can sometimes seem impossible to penetrate
this armor and connect with the inner beauty.
To enjoy the texture and beauty of a rose bush,
we must be protected by insulation thick enough
to shield us from the painful pricks and jabs
of the thorns, yet thin enough to allow us to
maintain our mobility and sense of touch. Our
gardening gloves offer this type of insulation
- they softly encapsulate our skin, yet enable
us to pull the thorny stems close, absorb the
beauty of the roses, and inhale their soft,
In a similar way, wearing gloves of emotional
strength, parental maturity and unconditional
love can insulate us from the thorns of fear,
hostility and anger that protrude from our teenage
children whenever their modes of defensiveness
are engaged. The key is not to allow this insulation
to make us thick skinned. Somehow, we must still
preserve our ability to feel.
This "insulation" process can be
tricky. Sometimes we can over-insulate ourselves
from our children's spiteful jabs, and we end
up creating a wall that actually barricades
us from them. Being insulated is not synonymous
with being apathetic. We cannot insulate ourselves
so much that we disengage from our hearts and
fear embracing our children or praising their
Sometimes it is a challenge to remember that
the defensive thorns of a teenager are his "protectors"
from the dangers of the world. Just as God gave
the rose bush its thorns as protection against
a hostile environment, he provided his children
with the wisdom to design their own thorns as
The thorns of a teenager may seem like the
quills of a porcupine; from the teenager's perspective,
they serve as protective shields from pain,
sorrow and humiliation. Bitterness, anger and
self-conscious behaviors are some of the sharpest
thorns. Still, we must never forget that those
ugly thorns are intertwined with an inner beauty
that is growing and blossoming - even if we
are only permitted to view that beauty from
a distance. True, we will inevitably be "jabbed"
by unkind teenage words or actions during our
attempts to connect with their hearts or appreciate
Nonetheless, we must try and focus on the beauty
of their laughter, the gleam of hope in their
eyes, or their giving hearts. It will help us
endure the pain from a few nasty pricks.
All too often, teenagers wish to be loved from
a distance rather than share an intimate moment
of closeness with their parents. On the rare
occasions that they allow us to get close, perhaps
even embrace them, we are usually forced to
place our arms somewhere in between the sharpness
of their thorns. But we can learn to be at peace
In the same way that we accept the thorns of
roses and do our best to care for them so they
will be healthy and beautiful, we must consistently
nurture the physical, spiritual and emotional
well-being of our teens. A teenager should be
fertilized with the nutrients of love, admiration
and respect; spiritually nurtured with God's
Word, and showered with encouragement. Eventually,
they will grow into loving, responsible adults.
Helping our teens flourish includes fending
off destructive influences. The "weed killer"
of discipline must be applied so that a teen
does not choke or die from the wild, uncultivated
invaders - the "weeds" that try to
raid their territory and drain the nutrients
from their otherwise healthy, fertile soil.
These weeds can include drugs, alcohol, premarital
sex, juvenile delinquency and more. Consistent,
firm discipline with our children is vital for
maintaining a strong, durable foundation that
is resilient, yet unbreakable.
One important thing to remember is that not
all thorns are visible - some are hidden. But
a parent can learn to recognize these, too.
For instance, a frown, glare or scowl clearly
indicates your teen is angry, and at these times
they usually wish to be left alone. However,
other edgy behaviors may be symptoms of anything
from anxiety and fear to hunger and lack of
sleep. To identify the cause, we must be aware
of such things as their school and social activities
and eating and sleeping habits.
As parents, we must especially seek to be attuned
to our teenager's hearts. We must cultivate
emotional strength, compassion and unconditional
love. A heart that remains filled with unconditional
love and compassion will always be accessible
to our children. And we must continually seek
God's wisdom. Each child is unique, and God
knows what he or she needs at any given moment.
Over time, we will learn to give thanks for
the thorns - for these are the temporary protectors
that will help them survive the tumultuous teenage
years. Without thorns, rose bushes would be
helpless and hopeless - without thorns, our
children would never have a chance to bloom.
Melinda Neeley is a freelance writer from
Morrilton, Arkansas. Her background includes
newspaper reporter, feature writer, and editor
of several local newsletter publications. Neely's
published writings include: "House of Stone,"
Reflections: A Poetry Quarterly, Winter 96-97;
"The Cemetery Women," www.healingwordspress.com,
Fall 2003; and "From the Hollow of a Bell,"
Ascent Magazine, www.bcsupernet.com/users/ascent/,
February 2004. "From the Hollow of a Bell"
was also released last spring in a short story
anthology, "Clerestory," published
by DLSIJ Press. Melinda also enjoys writing
mini-biographies for people who wish to have
lively, inspirational accounts of their lives
recorded on archival paper.