You ever see that saying, motivational moniker, inspirational BS thing about teenagers that says “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent. I will stalk you, haunt your dreams, yell, scream, and otherwise make your life a living hell so you get out of my house sometime before I retire.” It might not go exactly like that, but you get the idea. I LONG for the days of losing a binky, potty training, teaching how to tie shoes, how to hold the pencil correctly, 1s, 2s and 3s on a report card (even though we all know they actually are As, Cs, and Es, you aren’t fooling anyone, Mr. Superintendent), and recess. Please, give me back diapers, breast feeding, car seats, and Johnson’s baby shampoo. Because teenagers suck. Hard.
Although I suppose there is another perspective I may want to consider. Parenting a teenager sucks. Hard. My God, I question almost everything I say and do. My husband and I don’t see completely eye to eye on the best route to take toward raising non-Maury Povich Episode 256 adults who we hope can get a paycheck and pay rent one day. But thankfully, we are always willing to talk it out and try our best to blend our two opinions. We grew up somewhat differently and let’s face it, a Mom is going to have a different perspective than a Dad. It’s just science. He’s more of a hard-ass, and I’m more of a soft-ass (literally and figuratively).
But sometimes it just doesn’t matter what we decide is the best route to take, the best way to punish, encourage, and otherwise move our boys forward in life. The result is usually one of two things: seemingly passive acceptance with a perfected eye roll or arguing. Is it even possible to win in a negative situation with your teen? I think not. (and yes, it’s about winning…).
Although I’d love to believe that MY kids are different when it comes to consequences. I envision conversations between my oldest and his friends going something like this:
Riley: “Yeah, my Mom and Dad took away my phone and computer games during the school week because I didn’t try my hardest in school and didn’t meet the totally reasonable GPA they expected of me. I admit, I could have worked harder, but I made that poor decision and now I’m getting my just punishment. I’m not particularly happy about it, but I get it. My parents just want me to learn the value of hard work and I appreciate that. I will be a better person because of it.”
Friend: “For sure, your parents sound WAY more loving and accepting than mine. I sure wish I could live in your house.”
Reality? “My freaking parents took away my only reason for living, my phone and computer games. It’s SO stupid. I mean the bad grades weren’t MY fault, my teachers never even passed back the papers til it was too late. I’m going to just be a total a**h*** to them until I get my grades up to where THEY think they should be. Total jerks.”
Friend: “You have an iPhone 6 AND a car AND your OWN computer and really nice clothes. You are so lucky!”
Ok, so the friend response was more fantasy, but it’s what we often fall back on when our kids start complaining about their really tough lives.
So how bad would the GPA have been had we not put the conditions on it? Is that all that separates us from the parents whose kids who get all E’s? Us being jerks to them and requiring an adequate amount of effort from them? I do truly believe that kids crave boundaries, from a toddler until teenage-dom. Then they start craving independence, after all, they know everything about everything for all time. The trouble is they don’t ever ADMIT they want boundaries. It’s just a thing we read in parenting magazines that becomes a parenting mantra I tell myself to feel better. I don’t want to wait for my kids to say “You were right Mom, I see that now.” I believe that will happen one day, I just don’t know when. And meanwhile I just feel like a big ogre.
(Let me take a moment here to say to MY Mom, “You were right. Among other things, I still only buy clothes on sale. I have you to thank for that life skill.”)
I see what happens when parents ARE friends with their kids instead of a strong guiding force in their life. It’s fun for a while, but a larger problem looms in the future. I know what happens if I let my kids slide in life and get away with murder, I watch Dr. Phil. We are edging closer to a 35 year old jobless, basement dweller “holding out for management” every passing day. But it doesn’t make it any easier in the moment to follow through on consequences. Dr. Phil would say I was going easy on my kids because it makes MY life better, not theirs. He’s right. It is easier to gloss over the bad stuff and make excuses for them. Decide that it’s their life, if they want to screw it up, so be it. Cover up their mistakes, allow them a free pass instead of grabbing hold of a teachable moment. I get to enjoy a lot more restful nights and my calendar would clear up a ton, that’s for sure.
Buuuuuuuut we all know that’s not going to happen. 16 years and 3 kids and I still haven’t accepted my role as the bad guy. I’d so much rather be the “fun” guy. Honestly, I think I’m both, but it’s the bad guy persona that keeps me up at night. It’s the bad guy that I am afraid my kids will ONLY remember and cry about to their therapist. They won’t remember all the vacations, the movies, the books read at night, the hugs, the kisses, the help, the food in their bellies, the cool phones in their pockets. Think about all the things us parents HAVE to provide (due to state and federal government mandated laws, grrrr….) and WANT to provide out of pure unadulterated love for our kids. Will they remember that good stuff, too?
So no, I’m not giving up. But I will continue to second guess myself, question my every decision, and celebrate each passing week that I don’t strangle one of my kids, with a large glass (or 4) of wine.
“Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do.” -Matt Walsh