Who Are You and What Have You Done With My Kid?

“I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: ‘Checkout Time is 18 years.'” — Erma Bombeck

I heard one of my favorite parenting stories years ago while listening to an interview with a famous actress. She was asked whether or not she was afraid, now that she had a child, that her choice of career would cause emotional “damage” to her daughter and was she at all insecure about blending motherhood and career?

The actress replied, “I once knew a woman who conquered her fears of being a good parent by purchasing a piggy bank for her son at a very young age. Each time she did something she felt might not have been the best parenting choice, she put $.25 in the bank.”

“When her son turned 18, she handed him the bank and said, ‘Here, this is for therapy. I did the best I could.'”

From the moment our kids enter the world, we love and adore them like nobody else. Our children are miraculous, perfect little beings – extensions of ourselves walking around outside our bodies. Everything they do is cute, cuddly, and perfect. Ain’t parenthood grand?

Yeah. Then they turn 13. 

And 14…15…and (gasp) just when you thought you had it all under control, they’re driving! If you don’t recognize the angry, mercurial child who’s recently been living under your roof, welcome to the World of Parenting A Teen.

I love my teenagers with my entire being. My 17-year-old daughter is one of my closest friends, and I respect her opinions on many things. My 15-year-old son is one of the most confident, happy, and academically gifted kids I’ve ever known.  I know in my heart that I’m a good parent – loving, supportive, (though sometimes too “mushy” if you ask my kids) and I try to strike a healthy balance between being too permissive and being unreasonable (that there’s a blog post in itself).

However, even with the knowledge that my parenting is better than average (though far from perfect), sometimes a word, a look, or a gesture from one of my teenagers can seriously knock me off center, causing me to “adios” all previous opinions of my sweet children through the nearest window. Who are these people? Where did I go wrong? Who drew this target on my back?

Well, have no fear! Your children are still with you, though they’ll only appear when they’re sick (Momma, make me some tea! *cough*) or need money (Momma, you’re the best! About that $20 you were going to give me?)

The good news is, if you’ve done your job right, they’re growing into interesting, independent, fascinating adults. Step back sometime and listen to your conversations with your teen. What do they value? What are their interests? Are they kind, compassionate people?

The answers to these questions probably won’t be clear for a long time. The secret to surviving parenting a teen is to understand that this is a time when they’re SUPPOSED to be separating from you; they’re SUPPOSED to be spending more time with their friends than at home with the family and SUPPOSED to be exploring (and yes, questioning) the belief systems they’ve grown up with. Their job is to discover who they are in relation to the rest of the world, and ours is to coach and monitor their progress while loving them as best we can (some days this will be easier than others).

To quote my dear ol’ Dad, “Children grow up in spite of their parents.”  They’re going to be who they are, and we as parents can only love and guide them as best we can. Remember – we’re not the only influential people they will meet during their first 18 years!

It’s my fervent hope that this website will bring solace and comfort to confused and anguished parents of teens, and help prepare those of younger children and “tweens” for what’s around the corner. You can do this! With the occasional help of a teen/parent support group and lots of time spent commisserating with fellow parents, I know we’ll all make it over the “hump” to their happy, healthy, independent adulthood.

And if they never get there, we did our best, right?


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by E.J. Stephens on February 27, 2011 at 9:13 am

    I am so glad you are doing this blog. This is a tremendous first article. I am lucky to live this life at your side, but I still found myself learning from your post. ILY – eddy


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