I know my last post on this topic of having teenagers was a bit rambling, but I just had to figure out a way to tell and comment on that story about the kid and his coffee cake wishes.
This post will probably be a bit briefer and more to the point. Maybe.
First of all, people living with other people is always problematic. Because people are problematic. There are times when I think it would be lovely to have my own studio apartment with a murphy bed and shiny hardwood floors. There would be nothing in it except the bare essentials and my Mac. And I think we all wish this sort of thing from time to time. Do we actually want it to happen? Nah. It's just that people living with people has its stresses, as well as its rewards, no matter how much you love each other.
And so it is if you have teenagers. It's going to get stressful. But, it can also be a lot of fun.
How can we make it fun?
It starts when they're little, as I said before. Have fun together, enjoy life together, but make it clear that you are in charge. If you say something, it goes. It doesn't have to be a fight. You can be friendly about it.
For example, if you are in the park and it's time to go home:
Mom: You have five more minutes to do what you want to do and then it's time to go home.
*Five Minutes Pass (Or ten. When they are three, they really have no idea.)*
Mom: (in a friendly, yet firm, voice) We are leaving now.
Children: (whining) Can't we stay just five more minutes!?!?!? Pleeeeease!?!?!?
Mom: (calmly walking over, picking up the youngest child, fully expecting the others to follow) We are leaving now.
If you do this, each and every time, it will work. I think. You just have to be consistent. And calm. And firm.
And if you start this with your toddlers and your pre-schoolers, things will probably progress rather smoothly as your children head toward adolescence.
Then, one day, your adolescent child (especially if said child is a girl) will roll her eyes at you when you ask her to do something quite reasonable. Do not lose your temper. Just smile mischievously and take her picture with your iPhone. I actually did this (though not with an iPhone, as they weren't invented yet) and my daughter started to laugh. Calmly re-assert what you want your child to do and expect that she will do it. Of course, before you make your request, you have to take your child's personality and state-of-mind and mood into consideration. Don't set yourself up for failure. Set yourself up for success. It is best to make requests of your child when she is not feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with life. Because -- let's face it -- teens these days do have a lot of pressure. One mother told me that her child was told to take the SAT at least three times and to fill out a minimum of ten college applications. No wonder so many of them are on anti-depressants (the moms and the teens). So, start by making small, reasonable requests when your child is in a good mood and not in the middle of a term paper. That way, she will get used to cooperating with you in a pleasant way.
In this vein, do not ever fight with your teenagers. Don't get into shouting matches. Don't threaten. Just don't do it. You will lose. Every time. They have way more energy than you do. They can come up with clever plans to get around you. They have friends who will collude with them against you. Even if they are homeschooled.
How to not fight?
Firstly, listen to your teen without judging. Kids like to tell you things, even when they are teens and young adults, if you don't judge them and what they're saying. So, if your teen is telling you her opinion that short hair on guys is better than long hair on guys -- which is a totally screwed up opinion, in my opinion -- it is best just to listen. Or if your son is telling you that if he doesn't get into college, he has figured out a way to live independently on minimum wage, just hear him out. My husband once said to me something like this, "The kids tell you all kinds of crazy things, and you don't say anything." "Well," I replied, "they will eventually figure out most of these things for themselves."
Does this mean you should never say anything? Of course not. My Bridget and I have had many discussions about the hair of Thor versus the hair of Captain America. But, this is the thing. You have to gauge the state-of-mind of your child when she starts talking. Is it time to have a mutual discussion or to just be a listening ear? If in doubt, go with the listening ear.
Secondly, do not micromanage your teens. Nobody likes to be micromanaged. Keep your expectations simple and basic, such as: have good personal hygiene, pass your classes, speak politely to your parents and siblings, don't date douche-bags, no sex, no illegal drugs, drive in a legal manner. Keep your requests reasonable, too. For example, I have always thought a strict curfew was lame. But, on the other hand, I had to know where my kids were going, with whom, and by when they would be home. The time I expected them to arrive home depended on the activity. And I expected them to call if their plans changed or they were going to be late. And if they gave me a bad time about these reasonable things, I would calmly explain how they were reasonable things and what could happen if they did not do them. These kinds of discussions evolved over time -- starting from when they were in grade school -- so, my expectations were no big shock when they became teenagers. (Confession: Even now, even though they are in their 20's, these rules still apply. They will apply until my kids get places of their own. Because I cannot sleep if I don't know where they are. I start imagining them being kidnapped. Yes, this is idiotic. But, it's the way it is and the price for living at home with a mother who gets slightly anxious even though she tries not to. Did I say "slightly?" My kids would probably laugh at my use of that word. They are patient with me, though. Most of the time, anyway.)
Thirdly, and probably most important, enjoy your teens and let them see that you are a "cool" person. By "cool," I don't mean that you have to take Metal Class on Mondays (like Chris Bruno) -- although that is very cool. You don't have to act like a teen yourself, because -- frankly -- that will just embarrass your teens. But, be the kind of parent whose teenagers will enjoy having their friends over to your house. My kids have lots of parties with their friends at my house -- even though they aren't teens, anymore. And their friends seem to enjoy coming over here. Probably because we let them drink beer (now that they are of age). We even buy their friends beer sometimes. And, sometimes, their friends buy the beer. They even let my husband and I attend the parties and have some beer, too. Let me say, though, that nobody -- EVER -- gets drunk. That would quickly end the parties, and my kids know it.
I guess I have digressed a bit -- in talking about beer parties -- from the topic of teenagers. For whom you should never, ever buy beer.
And while we are on the topic of enjoying your teens -- now that I am done digressing -- maybe it is worth it to discuss the issue of TV and movies. These things often cause conflict among parents and teens. For example, Mom might want to watch "Magic Mike" and her kids might think it is inappropriate. Well, Mom, it is time to assert your parental authority here. Or Mom might want to watch "SouthLAnd" and her kids might think it is too violent. Again, time to assert the parental authority, and -- if your teen is female -- point out the hotness of Ben McKenzie, thus luring her in and making her your "SouthLAnd" buddy. My point being? If you don't act all judgmental about your kids' TV shows and movies, they won't act all judgmental about yours. And if you want your kids to watch your stuff with you, it is important that you watch their stuff with them. And then talk about their stuff with them in a friendly, non-threatening way. Here are some possible discussion questions that you can use when discussing TV shows and movies with your kids:
1. How come the Rules For Being A Vampire are different in each vampire show?
2. How come it is taking Charlie so damn long to propose to Amita?
3. How come some actors don't mind showing us their bums and some do?
4. Do you think this role is more or less likely to cause the paparazzi to show up at Shawn Hatosy's house?
5. How do you like the way the abortion issue is handled by the writers of "The O.C."?
6. How many sexually transmitted diseases do you suppose Ben Sherman has?
7. When did Neil Patrick Harris suddenly become hot?
8. Who is Channing Tatum?
9. What do you suppose would happen if you spent hours upon hours locked up in a pool house alone with Ryan Atwood? Would this be good sense?
10. Did Sammy steal the money from the bank robbery? If he did, is that actually such a bad thing?
11. Is the guy who plays Jim in "The Office" more or less of a douche in real life than the guy who plays Dwight?
12. Was Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" the most rockin' thing you ever saw, or what?
13. What was your favorite scene in Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing"?
14. How is Hollywood's representation of gay characters, of sexuality, of women's rights the same as, or different from, what others in the homeschool community might have you believe?
15. Should they have killed off Marissa or let her and Ryan live happily-ever-after? How did the killing off of Marissa affect your opinion of how Hollywood might affect the souls of young actors?
So, I guess we have now discovered whether or not I would be briefer and more to the point today.
I hope, though, that you have been entertained by this post. At least a little bit. And I hope that, perhaps, you have gotten something out of it that is helpful to you, or will someday be helpful to you.
And I want you to know that I really appreciate the time you have taken to read my meandering ramblings. ;-)