In my 15 years as a mother, the most consistent piece of unsolicited advice I have received was to “just wait.” My friends with tweens and teens would see me out having fun with my young kids and caution me, “they’re so sweet now, just wait.” Usually they would warn me about the sucky, but universal, behaviors of which I, too, had been guilty. “Just wait until they…”
start talking back…hide their grades…lie…slam the door in your face…call you the worst mother ever…
I hated the idea of my kids turning into little shitheads, but I had been one (and according to my mother-in-law, my husband had once held the crown of King of the Teenage Assholes) so I unwittingly accepted that this would be par for the course.
As my kids got older, and had yet to show signs of this inevitable assholery, the advice became louder and more fervent. The most vocal parents were those with unruly, disconnected, and/or promiscuous teens. They would shout it from the rooftops, warning me that my happy and well-adjusted 2nd and 5th graders would soon turn into Traci Lords and Lyle Menendez, “Just you wait! Wait until they are in middle school and they…”
sneak out of the house…get suspended for bullying…do drugs…get arrested…insist on only wearing thongs…give oral sex in the back of the school bus…
WHAT. THE. EFF!?
Part of me knew that these parents hoped that by making their children’s inappropriate behavior seem natural and expected that they would feel less guilty or alone. But mostly, I felt sorry for the kids. How could vulnerable children be compelled to make good choices when their parents expected them to screw up? What kind of self-worth could they have knowing that their own moms and dads were broadcasting their mistakes all over social media as cautionary tales?
I couldn’t just accept that some magical birthday was going to change my kid into a monster. I was tired of being told to brace for the worst based on the behaviors of a sample of children in reaction to their own personal upbringing. We are not all the same. Our kids are not all the same.
Case in point: My kids are now teenagers and haven’t yet turned into drug-addicted school bus hussies.
Stop trying to make me feel like that other shoe is about to drop—and that if it doesn’t there is something wrong with my child. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard a parent say, “I would rather my kid be the bully than the socially awkward nerd.” One is not the opposite of the other.
Stop perpetuating the notion that a teenager must be angsty and uncommunicative. Not only are we, as parents, continually holding our breath waiting for the crappy days to arrive, but we are inadvertently embedding these ideas into our kids’ heads. Teens shouldn’t feel that there is anything weird about having a good relationship with their parents. We shouldn’t feel that there is anything unusual about having a good relationship with our teens. Who do we expect them to turn to if not us?
Stop telling me that I should give up on the idea of being my child’s friend as well as her mother. Those are not mutually exclusive concepts. It is possible to enjoy my children’s company and vice versa.
I’m no longer standing with bated breath expecting the worst. I choose to be kind, open and honest with my teens, and so far they have returned the favor. I respect them, give them healthy advice, warn them when they are about to make a mistake and teach them about repercussions. I laugh genuinely at their jokes and listen to their long and sometimes confusing stories about friends, school and their favorite YouTuber. I keep their secrets and encourage their dreams.
They have been my best friends since birth, and regardless of any bumpy roads ahead, I predict we will stay friends for the rest of our lives. Just you wait.