With three daughters, people have been telling me to “watch out” and “just you wait” for years. As such, I have been living with a phobia of teenage girls for quite some time, cowering at the thought of sharing one roof with raging hormones and bad attitudes times three. I imagined a home where the rest of us were tiptoeing around emotional eggshells and dodging estrogen-induced verbal surprise assaults. Now, with all three in their teen/tween years, I have to say, it’s not so bad. I love being the mom of older kids, and this adolescent road has been fairly devoid of bumps. You cannot see me but my knuckles are bruised from how furiously I am knocking on wood.
Maybe I am just lucky so far, but I think I will take some credit. Why not? Lord knows I take the blame often enough, I have a little credit coming my way. No matter what you hear from parents who have been beaten down by the teen years, surly, dramatic adolescents are not necessarily a matter of course. I know plenty of people who are sailing quite smoothly through this parenting stage, and there is a common thread, a fundamental parenting trait which can be summed up like this: Do not try to be your child’s friend. They have plenty of friends. They only have two parents. Parenting is not a popularity contest.
I know how tempting it is to want to buddy up to older kids. They are starting to look and act like real people and since you share DNA you probably share some other common ground. As such, there is an inclination toward wanting to treat them as you would a friend. Slow your roll. There is plenty of time for establishing friendships with grown children. For now, understand if you treat your teens like friends, they will treat you the same way — probably worse because they know you can’t ditch them. Command the respect you deserve as their mom and dad. You can be very close with them, without blurring the line between child and adult. You can have a great time with them, without becoming a target for their frustrations and angst.
Being a “cool” parent is not all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve watched very cool parents publicly berated by their children, and then simply roll their eyes and shrug their shoulders as if it is all part of the job. It is not part of my job, and perhaps more importantly, it is not part of my kids’ job to provide me with friendship. I know while they occasionally wish I was cooler, they do not want me to be their friend. Friends are unreliable, friends betray, friends need to unload their own problems. Parents are constant, parents love, parents do not burden children with their problems. When teen issues arise, as I know they will, my daughters will need their mother. I lost mine at 34 years old, and I continue to pine for that relationship every day. There is no substitute for it. Friends will come and go. Be the parent — it is the best thing you can do to encourage a healthy, supportive relationship, one built on mutual respect, with your teenage children — not to mention, it will keep the eggshells off your floor.