This is not one of my normal posts, and I apologize in advance to any of you who will be disappointed today. I'll be back tomorrow with one of my more standard posts. (Is there such a thing from me? I don't think so ….)
I'm going to talk about trying to parent teens, and for those of you who are not parents I apologize in advance for boring you. Although, if you were ever a teenager, maybe you won't be bored. And no, I did not pick this topic due to the much publicized Oprah episode on being a mom and/or a mom blogger yesterday. (I'm not normally an Oprah watcher and I found the episode to be highly disappointing.)
For the record, I don't consider myself a "mommy-blogger" because I rarely write about my kids.
However, last week I got an email from a reader and it gave me reason to pause. I haven't asked permission so I'm not going to reprint the email in its entirety here, but it included comments on the following.
1. The reader's concern over keeping her college-aged daughter out of trouble, particularly over spring break.
2. Inquiring how I handle beach vacations.
3. A reference to my "accidental nudity" (this phrasing – so polite – made me laugh out loud.)
4. Requesting a post on how I keep my college-aged kids in line.
5. Flattering me about being cool and hot which is something I loved and can never hear enough of. What? Do you think anyone in my family ever says those things to me?
6. Offering to buy my book. (Which, by the way, I haven't written.)
But … YAY … one person wants to buy my book if I ever write one!
I write about my life, what it's like living in Orange County, my struggle recovering from my disabling car accident, sex, male/female communication, along with other subjects and situations that interest me. I try to inject humor into most (but not all) of the things I write about because it helps me focus on something outside of the physical pain I live with.
Also, I think I'm funny and I like to crack myself up.
Sometimes I just whine. I apologize for subjecting you to my pity parties, but I'm sure I'll do it repeatedly given enough time.
My kids are all teens and want privacy. They've very specifically told me they don't want their lives on the Internet for worldwide viewing. That being said, they're on Facebook with their entire lives available for worldwide viewing.
I suppose that's lesson number one about teens – they make no sense.
To be honest, most of the time I don't know what I'm doing with any of my 3 teens, but I really appreciate the vote of confidence expressed in the email I received.
My daughter, TR, is in college. My son, RC, is a senior in high school and my youngest, PR, just turned 14 and has not yet begun high school. Having one kid in college certainly doesn't make me an expert on college-aged kids. Also, my daughter lives at her college so I'm not with her except when she makes trips home to visit.
I had very serious discussions with TR before she left for college about drinking, drugs, date-rape, non-date rape, never leaving a drink unattended, birth control, and every other topic imaginable. I also discussed all those things with her when she was in high school just as I've discussed them already with both of my boys. I'm very mom-ish like that. My kids and I are very close. I actually think they listen most of the time.
Why we are so close and why they listen, I can't explain.
Since the email I received focused primarily on my college-aged daughter I'll respond in kind regarding her. In observing moms with daughters the same age, I think I mainly just got lucky. TR and I are very similar and as a result we really understand each other. (She tells people, "My mom and I are basically the same person.") Sometimes our stubborness clashes, but it usually results in both of us bursting into laughter at how headstrong we can be.
I suppose neither of us are easy personalities (!), but we realize it and we're both willing to own it. We can laugh at ourselves when we need to. Laughter goes a long, long, way with teens.
I've also made more than my share of parenting mistakes.
I've had some very big challenges with parenting. Briefcase has traveled extensively our entire marriage. I've played the role of single mom more often than not. Having a spouse gone so much presents a myriad of parenting and marital challenges. (That's a subject I could write a book on!)
In addition, I was knocked on my ass by the car accident nearly three years ago. I could barely function for over two years afterward. I was undergoing numerous surgeries and very drugged up a good deal of the time while Briefcase was traveling. I couldn't even cook a decent meal for over two years. I'm far, far, far from being a perfect parent. My kids have not been in a house with perfect, ideal conditions.
Have I qualified this post enough yet?
I not only love my kids, I really, really like them. They know it and they not only love me in return, but they like me also. We have a lot of mutual respect. I'm their parent though - not their best friend and my kids have never questioned that. I think a lot of parents try too hard to be a friend first and a parent second.
In addition, most of the time, I have very good communication with my kids and that, probably more than anything, seems to head off a lot of problems from the start. I really listen to them and I think, in turn, that makes them more willing to listen to me.
Did I mention my kids aren't perfect? At all ….
Problems and disagreements come up and we deal with them as they do. Boyfriends, girlfriends, issues of responsibility, and issues of wanting more independence than they've demonstrated they can handle arise all the time with teens.
One of the questions in the email was regarding beach vacations and I don't know how to respond to that. Our life here is a life that has always included the beach. We are beach people. Our life, compared to most people's, is pretty much a year round beach vacation. My kids hopefully know how to handle themselves, safely, at beach parties.
My daughter did take a "senior trip" to Hawaii with a group of friends (all female) to celebrate her graduation from high school two years ago. We made her pay for it herself and she had just turned 18 years old at the time. My feelings are once they're 18 we, as parents, can continue to guide them but they are adults and deserve to be respecte
d and treated as adults.
Being treated as an adult also means taking full responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
By the way, when she took that trip to Hawaii she had a boyfriend. Boyfriend did not go on the trip and actually hung out at our house a lot while she was gone. I may not have felt as comfortable with the whole idea if circumstances were different.
TR's college is in California. The kids at her college don't do the big spring break weeks many kids do because the beaches are right here all the time. Do they party? Yes, absolutely.
Would I approve of everything they do at their parties? I'm sure I wouldn't. However, I was a college student once too and I did my share of partying. I survived it and ended up being a fairly responsible adult.
I do try to make my kids be accountable for their actions. Do they screw up? Do they make mistakes? Yes. (So do I – still!) We've tried to teach them not to make excuses, but to own up to their actions, be accountable, and try to rectify things if need be.
That's another thing missing in Orange County. Accountability. Parents make excuses for their kids right and left here. (Not ALL parents … but a lot of parents.) Isn't it our job as parents to teach our kids that actions have consequences? And what happens to them as adults if they've never learned that?
We've always insisted our teens (from age 15 on) hold paying jobs. To some of you this is a no brainer but I live in a very affluent area. Teens here are handed BMW's on their 16th birthday. (Not my kids, but a lot of kids.) Many kids in Orange County get everything they want, in addition to many things they haven't even thought to want yet. Briefcase and I feel it's important for our teens to learn all the lessons that come from having to work.
I can't tell you how few parents allow or encourage their kids to hold jobs in South Orange County.
Have these lessons been full-proof? No. Just the other day my daughter sent me an email from college asking if she could have a vacation in New York for her birthday. She and her best friend were going to each pay for their own flights. She wanted to know if we would pay for their hotel in Times Square "for several days" as her birthday present.
I emailed her back and said no. I asked her if she had any idea at all what a hotel in Times Square costs per night, and what exactly, did she think her birthday budget was? She then went and googled hotels and pricing, reality set in, and she emailed me back to say, "Oops I guess that won't work."
Parenting is an ongoing process.
What did your parents do RIGHT while getting you through your teen years? And what has worked or not worked for you if you are, or have been, a parent to teens?
** Now watch, I will have jinxed myself by writing this post. One of my teens will inform me they're pregnant, about to be a daddy, addicted to heroin, or have just been arrested the minute this publishes! **
© Twenty Four At Heart