Wednesday, May 23, 2012
NEVER SURRENDER. okay. maybe. do.
i learned a little something the other evening.
it's okay to 'give in' to your teenager.
even when you've laid it down.
and hammered it out.
and made a plan.
and it's a school night.
and there's still some homework left.
and he still has laundry and a room to clean.
it's okay to negotiate and soften and say yes. really.
teenagers are marvelous negotiators. given that they suffer from the disease of 'right here right now the future is nothing but a theory' they really have no idea what they are saying so they'll tell you exactly what you want to hear. sometimes they even believe it. when more time with your friends is on the line you'll say anything.
because if you don't keep constant vigilance and say yes after you said no they'll surely right then and there develop an insatiable need to feed with drugs and alcohol and inappropriate facebook posts and pictures and promiscuous sex. or girls with daddy issues. or, drummers.
so i went into this particular parenting phase being an accommodating and fair parent, but i am firm. understanding, but firm. allow in the beginning, but do not concede after the no. don't negotiate your position once you've firmly stated it. ever.
this is as much for safety as it is for sanity and let's face it, perceived control over a mass of hormones and emotions and growth and dorkiness hurtling through your space and bouncing off whatever happens to be in the vicinity. or, eating it.
the thing is, what i forget to remember sometimes, is how MUCH it is to be a teenager. how it's the little things. it's that one moment that means EVERYTHING OH MY GOD. i forget how much is riding on making that call and asking for extra time. when your friends are hovered around 'ask her.' 'what did she say?' 'tell her that blah blah blah.'
when everyone else gets to stay and watch the fireworks why shouldn't he be able to, too. to him it's the most unfair thing, i am too protective of his time, his sleep, etc. etc. oh, he's too respectful and he wouldn't say those things out loud to me, but i know that's what he's feeling. and he has every right. but, to me it's that i only want him home because it's getting dark and late and i want to feed him something healthy and make sure he gets a good night's rest.
(i know. i have it so rough with my unruly teen. boo hoo, poor mama. don't worry, i have a point.)
and i am in charge and i am right so what's the deal.
here's call #1 we made a deal, honey. oh and here's text #2 with more better info and a way home. and text #3 to papa, 'tell her...'
finally i just called him. hey, we made a plan. i said no. we were firm before you left the house. i feel like you're putting me on the spot and i really don't like that.
you're right mama. it isn't fair for me to do that. i don't mean to manipulate you, i just really want to stay. i want to see the fireworks. and i wanted to tell you it's at a different spot closer to home so i'd been home sooner.
how much homework do you have left?
a half an hour tops.
really? that's it?
yes. i promise.
and at this point i don't know if he has a 1/2 an hour of homework or 3. or if his promise to start his laundry and finish his room tomorrow means anything. i just know he really wants this one thing. he wants me to give him this one stinkin' thing when he does all the things i want him to do. well, except put away the milk. he's 15 and he's with his friends. he's having trouble with some idiots at his school. he likes this group of friends. they are always so busy he doesn't get to see them a lot except at school. he's moving in a month and he hasn't put up a stink about the change. he's 15. tonight is what he has right now.
fine. be home right after the fireworks. get to your homework right away. and no tomfoolery.
i don't even know anyone named tom.
thanks mama so much i totally appreciate it!
so this may not seem like a big deal. at all. so your kid got to stay late for fireworks after you said no. um, okay...
but here's the deal. and it's not just a mama/teen thing.
this particular time when i wasn't saying yes i felt like all i was doing was holding on hard to my *control* of the situation. that's it. it was the control. i was RIGHT but it didn't feel right. i wasn't really listening to his position. my maintaining control was more important than listening. i had already said no and it was easy to hold onto that. I SAID NO GODDAMMIT! i was thinking to myself. even as i was ALSO thinking to myself, so he gets to bed later. so he just eats hot dogs all night. where's the issue? that's being a teenager. this is an isolated incident.
in our relationships, especially parent/teen, we think the way to get what we need/want/have to have is to be unyielding. if we are in complete unyielding charge we will be listened to, right?
i'll give you a minute to consider your own adolescence. your own relationships.
hey, it's easy to be 'right,' especially as a parent. especially as a parent to teens. but i think we do this out of personality (some of us) and fear (a lot of us.) fear that we will lose our perceived control, fear that our kids will jump off the cliff because everyone else is, fear that if something 'bad' happens it's because we let down our guard and loosened our grip.
it's very important that this is NOT how we teach our teens to be in relationships.
it's important that they listen to us and respect us and have rules and boundaries, but it's also important to be told no and to push back successfully. this is an important skill to have. i used to tell the duke, learn the rules and boundaries and respect them FIRST. then you can figure out when to push.
i think he figured it out.
starting out small is fine, too. ;)
hey, you, don't be afraid to NOT be in charge all the time.
whether it's your teen or your toddler your partner or your pal.
even if you're right and you know it.
especially if you're right and you know it.
at the very least take a minute to listen.
it'll be good. i promise.