I’ve been chatting with several friends lately. We’ve a lot to chat about — our teenagers. We’ve seen these sweet innocent boys and girls evolve into often surly, questionable creatures. “Where’d this one come from?” We try putting it off. It’s wise to share notes and comforting to know we’re not alone.
One thought, however, I find comes up repeatedly is, “Well, look what we did as kids and we’re OK.” Honestly, the thought has crossed my mind as well. But, it is such a cop out. I mean, my age group (I’m 50), had one of the most interesting childhoods in history. My parents were older than most, so I had some really interesting perspectives from which to draw.
“I don’t think our parents could possibly have imagined what we were up to, it was so foreign to them,” said one friend, nailing it on the head. I mean, I loved my mom dearly—but where would I be today had I had some boundaries and guidelines? I know I am lucky for her making her values clear about life in general, justice and equality for all. Good stuff. But, she had no rules about not being out while she was working nights.
I think my friend was right — our parents had no clue. However, that means that we do have a clue. My generation is caught in the quandary of, “well-I-did-it-so-how-can-I-say-they-can’t?” and the aforementioned cop out of, “I turned out fine.” Truth be told, we’re not all fine as much as we’d like to think we are.
And, hello, we’re the parents now — not the kids, not their friends, but their parents. Yes, we’re friends on one level, but when we signed on to this job (intentionally or unintentionally), we registered as parents — to feed and shelter, to protect, to teach, to enlighten with our great wisdom. (No, that wisdom does not mean how to make a pipe out of an apple.)
Should we be so lucky that our kids get caught engaging in risky or downright stupid behaviors, we need to step up, quit being so lazy and take action. That means enacting consequences (uh, yeah, there are consequences in real life, folks), being consistent, sticking to our guns and keeping our expectations and boundaries clear. It’s OK to take privileges away because they are just that — privileges, not rights.
As much as it peeves my son that I call parents to make sure he is where he says he is, especially if it’s someone new on the roster (even established homes get called often), he knows I mean what I say. He can trust me to do that. He knows what’s expected of him. It’s about responsibility.
If you can’t be responsible for teaching your child right and wrong, how do we expect them to know? We pitch a fit when someone else (schools?) kick in and pick up slack—Well? Yes, our kids will figure out ways to sneak around and get away with stuff. That is as normal as being dorks in the first place. At least they may think about what is going into their escapade. Maybe.
Please, parents: be parents. Follow the rules yourself. Hold your kids to the rules and the consequences, whether ones put out by the community or ones you’ve administered. Be consistent. Use your youthful experience to be aware of what your kids may be into. Just because “we did it and survived” doesn’t make it right. We were lucky.