At some point, we all have to really look at the teenagers whom we’ve loved and raised with thoughtful dedication. We’re going to have to smile and say, “Cut your shit.”
These three words not only help our children become better adults, but also help make the world a better place.
My parents never spoke to me or my siblings in this manner. Luckily, I met a great guy when I was 18 years old and fell in love. After two dates and about 30 phone conversations, he looked at me during dinner one night and no doubt put into words what many before had only thought. He said it with love and humor, but he also meant it. I was ranting and raving about something I thought he should have done. Perhaps I criticized his voting habits.
“Cut your shit,” he said.
So I did. We’ve been together ever since, going on 27 years now, and this directive long ago helped me to be a kinder, more decent human being. I stopped with all the unspoken expectations. I no longer believed I was always right. My opinion was not consistently valid and worthy of expression. I listened to others’ points of view for a change, and when walking through an open door, I began holding it open for the people behind me.
It’s the little things that add up in life. Pretty soon, we’re either reasonable or we’re jerks. My evolution to “reasonable” didn’t happen all at once. Marc had to say it to me a few more times, but I eventually made a conscious decision to move past the controlling, self-absorbed girl of my youth.
In contrast, my siblings never met anyone who told them to cut it. As a result, my sister still believes everyone on a family vacation should abide by her wishes, even if that includes a three-hour opera with no potty breaks. My brother married someone who only smiles and nods, so he still believes it’s perfectly acceptable to demand a $45 birthday cake (because the really expensive desserts have no preservatives).
Really. It’s cake.
As former teenagers, and now parents of teenagers, we know this is the age when such unreasonable behavior starts. Between 14 and 18, previously adorable children decide the whole world revolves around them. They’ll believe that forever if we let them.
The transition sneaked up on me; I was too busy multitasking to pay attention. My sons went to bed with a hug and a kiss and woke up with pimples and scowls, believing that in fact, the entire world now revolved around them. They needed my help to snap out of it. I told them to cut their shit.
It isn’t easy, but neither were the toddler years when we wanted to sit them in front of cartoons all day. Fellow moms and dads, we can do this. Here are some standard teenage statements in our house that required a soft but firm reality check right away:
“I’m an adult!”
“I am not going to talk about it.”
“Bobby’s dad said we could.”
“Enjoy your wine much?”
“The game only has three minutes left, then I’ll join you for dinner.”
“You can tell there’s no cereal left, just shake the boxes.”
“Who scheduled Aunt Martha’s funeral during playoffs?”
“I wasn’t talking trash on the basketball court, Dad. I was speaking the truth. I really am bringing the heat.”
“I need you to drive back up to school and bring me my gray folder. Or would you prefer I fail?”
“While you’re up, can you hand me the ketchup, a napkin, more French fries and the remote control?”
“I’d like to finish my thought before you lecture me.”
Let’s do this together, fellow parents. We’ll have no one else to blame if our kids grow up to be jackasses. It’s time now to stand up straight and say, firmly but not without tenderness, “Cut your shit.”
We’ll say it with love and humor and feel fantastic about it, and so will a grateful planet.