Monday, October 1, 2012

Ill Equipped

Okay, so know what?  I realized recently that I do not have the necessary requirements to parent a teenager.  Seriously.  Who decided I am qualified to do this?

Last week, one day after school, Cole called to see if he could go to Caribou with some friends.  My first reaction was, "I don't know!  Why are you asking me?"  After brief internal deliberation, I told him he could go, but be home in an hour.  Then I called my mom and said, "Can my teenager go to Caribou after school?"  And she said, "Oh, I suppose.  For a little bit."  And then I was super relieved that I said the right thing.

I mean seriously.  When you're parenting a teenager, you need to think about things like:

Who are his friends?  Are they nice?  Do they drink coffee drinks nicely and study together or do they run around the coffee shop like idiots?  Is it okay to drop in and check on them?

Who are their friends parents?  Do they let their kids go to Caribou after school?

What happens if he goes out after school?  Will he get his homework done?  Is he with who he says he is?  Is he where he says he is?  Is it okay to buy spy gear to ensure I have necessary intelligence to make good decisions?  Do I trust him?  How will I know if I can't trust him? 

Truthfully, I do trust him.  I think he's an incredibly grounded young man.  I think he will make good decisions.  I think he will choose good friends.  I think he will be a Democrat.  (What??)  I think he will be a really good human being and we will survive these years.

But I also think that for good measure, I'll make sure to have a pair of night vision goggles and maybe a lie detector kit on hand.  And my mom on speed dial.


elizabeth said...

I love how you snuck the Democrat line in there. Laughing away over here.

I say, Eeeeek, to all of that! I cannot even imagine it. Also, I have faith in you.

You know who would be another good person to have on speed dial? The Lie to Me guy. I wonder how you get to know him.

Lisa Hansen said...

So Leanne, you've hit a subject close to my heart. Let me ask you these questions: How will Cole know if his friends are trustworthy if he never spends time with them outside the presence of an adult? How will he learn to develop relationships with others if someone is always watching what he does? What does mistrust of our kids at someplace as innoculous and public as Caribou tell our kids about what we think of them as people? How would you feel if your husband got spy glasses to watch you when you hung out with your friends? And if you think that your presence will keep him from making mistakes, are you prepared to be with him 24/7? What kind of an adult will he grow up to be if he hasn't had a chance to exercise his own discretion about his behavior but relies on someone else to do it for him? Now, you know my story, so you know that I say these things being intimately acquainted with the fact that teenagers' brains are wonky, that they can make some superbad decisions, but that we cannot ensure that they will not make those bad decisions by keeping them under observation every minute of their lives. Give the boy some space. Let him find out who he can trust without you deciding that for him. Because right now, his friends are the most important part of his life. And if you control that part of his life, you are cutting him off from something essential to his development. Talk with him about trust, about its fragility, and why you think he can be trusted to do something like go to Caribou with friends. And when he betrays that trust (which he probably will at some point, probably inadvertently), that will be an opportunity to let him him know how that affects you and to help decide what consequences he should suffer because of that. Some might say that given my story, I must not know squat about raising a boy, but I've learned a lot in the last few months, and one of the things I've learned is that we can't control every variable in our kids' lives. If you're interested, I'd love to sit down and share with you what I've learned.

Leslie G. said...

ah - the value of questioning ourselves. "I've never had one of these before" is the the phrase that rings through my head as my oldest male child verges on adolescence and pushes buttons and boundaries I didn't even know existed, as if he can smell them. Trusting and questioning, like my aging washing machine that spins out of balance now and then and makes an awful whomping sound, like my heart when I think, "who am I? to know these answers?" But we have each other, our social media and speed dial; together we can survive the unbalanced spin cycle.

Leanne said...

Lisa - thank you. Those questions I asked and those you asked are ones I've just been mulling about. And that's what I said on facebook about communication. I always tell him my fears and my thoughts and we had just such a conversation tonight. They are good, rhetorical questions that don't have great answers, but you're right...loosening the reins is hard, but I'm working on it, I promise. I should follow this up with another blog post that addresses some of what you said. Because I do know that these are important years for him as he tests his wings, and I've acknowledged that to myself and to him. He knows I want him to grow and learn and be himself. Even if he's not a democrat in the end. ;) I just keep encouraging him to keep me as much in the loop as he can because it's hard to raise a teenager. Thank you for your perspective!

And Leslie -- YES. I've never done this before. Something I've gone so far as to admit to Cole before. He's never been a teenager before, and I've never raised one before. Good luck to you too!

MindiJo said...

Jot down all the answers and give them to me, then. Thanks. ;)

Great post with a little humor mixed in. I'm glad I get to see you dealing with this, because it does give me a heads up for what is to come. Thanks, friend.

BTW: my word verif is "aredems".