“never do for a teenager that which they can do for themselves” – mom
lol, my brave, psychotherapist, mom said that to me months ago, and I am watching my own 14-year-old…. well, NOT always do that which she can for herself….unless there is a consequence from me.
I suppose I too was the same at that age. I’ve blocked a lot, as of course, I only recall cleaning my room without being asked, playing classical (yeah, right) music softly while doing homework immediately upon return from school, cleaning the dishes without being asked and making gourmet dinners for the entire family after walking all the neighborhood dogs and babysitting for free. lol!
The 60s. The 80s. And today. Girls will be girls. Trips to the mall with no money and small figures to try on clothes we couldn’t afford but giggling and following the cute boys who appeared more interested in the video arcade than our awkwardness. Fashion trends that used to be magazine cutouts from Teen Beat are now iPhone apps or Instagram polls to determine the best dress or shoes or nail trends with immediate inputs from our girl ‘squad’. I remember roller skating parties with hard rock hair, lip gloss and the hope of a cute boy to ask me to slow skate to Rick Springfield or Loverboy, or the school or regional teen nights where again we waited our moment to slow dance with cute boys to the same Rick Springfield or Journey favorites. Girls will be girls. The motive is the same, the approach very different.
We rode our bicycles all over town and to the pool day in and day out, only coming home for meals and darkness. Wore t-shirts over our bikini’s because of feeling self-conscious. We called one another on our princess phones to chat up who liked whom, and whom should ask who to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Today, they text directly without a face to face reality of body language, speak in group chats (and forget who is included), forward information behind one another’s back, create fake identities, “borrow” WIFI, and try leaving the house in outfits a dad wouldn’t approve, watch the “like” frequency grow on their Instagram and Twitter accounts, flirt in a much more overt approach than sneaking notes in class with alter ego’s (i.e. the Soda Pop gang of my own elementary days), and have to delete the photos mom watches online (because well, I pay for the phone, and that is the deal)……but when we as parents really evaluate our teens of today…...the outcome our own kids seek today remains exactly the same as we sought at their same age.
But…..my sweet girl is approaching teen-hood with different tools in the toolbox. We both wanted the same things at 14: To be liked. To be kissed. To fit in. Somewhere. Anywhere. To feel safe. To feel confident. To have our parents trust and respect our choices and privacy. To not get in trouble or be grounded or frankly, caught when we did cross a line.
It is the right of passage to push boundaries at this age. It is a healthy part of development that they do seek the edge, and it is our place as parents to teach coloring inside the lines. We are both doing our part, but it isn’t easy. Sometimes, it is damn hard. And still no one offers me the handbook? So I do the best I can. Sometimes I get it right. Other times, not so much.
So as parents, how do we keep them safe, instill confidence, ensure the toolbox stays within the lines and doesn’t place them in a social bullying situation that appears easier today with a click of the button in a world WE created? I’ve often joked that my use of Breck hairspray likely contributed to global warming; but the internet offering opportunity for endless wonderful resources also offers endless new areas of temptation; processed foods make life faster and easier, but perhaps not healthier (and Celiac disease more prevalent). Friends of my generation, we created this world, and so as parents and consumers, we must face the darker side. Our tool box has changed too.
There are no easy answers, but I do have to give my sweet girl the trust I wanted from my parents, and the resources and knowledge to feel confident, remain safe, and know she is unconditionally loved. I trust her to make good choices. And when we do not agree, there are, in fact, consequences. In our house, there are rights, and there are privileges. They are very different. No, we don’t always agree on the difference.
That however is the fun and balance and journey of this parent-teen relationship….seeking what works for us in 2015 with the toolbox we have today.
Cheers to our own children repeating the same phrase, “never do for a teenager that which they can do for themselves.’ The world will be different at that time, and so too their toolbox.