Every parent’s got a past. Every parent has a history, a history from before kids. No one talks about it. But we aren’t who we used to be. We were once partiers, drinkers, smokers, and crazies. We were the wild ones. We did things that were crazy. We did things that were regrettable. We did things that make us laugh and things that make us cringe. But all those things have one thing in common.
We don’t want our kids to repeat them.
Short of barring our kids from college and high school, there isn’t much we can do to protect them from repeating our own stupid decisions. My dad tried that. He told us about his idiotic college antics. He told us he got drunk. This in no way stopped me from engaging in idiotic college antics and getting drunk. So I despair from saving my sons from the same stupid behavior. They’ll make their own mistakes. I just hope they don’t make my mistakes.
1. I don’t want them to be the mean kid.
There were two kids at my college who had annoying voices and always wanted to talk about themselves. So we mocked them. We excluded them. We made fun of them to their faces and behind their backs. We were bullies, plain and simple, and I look back on this as one of my greatest regrets.
2. I don’t want them to get stupid drunk.
My friend Lauren and I once got so intoxicated we decided to set little fires on an end table. We smoked and drank and set fires. We permanently scarred that table, and it wasn’t some frat house thrift store table either. We were at a house party in someone’s parents’ house. Basically, we said “oops” and left. As someone’s parent today and an owner of end tables: uncool.
3. I don’t want them to smoke pot.
It was easier to get than alcohol, so we smoked. We smoked cigarettes too, which was just a gross habit that wasted money and made us stink. But pot led us to take stupid risks, lie around, eat too much pizza, and play a hell of a lot of video games. I want my kids to steer clear from pot because if you get caught with it, you lose your federal student aid. But if they happen to go to school in a state where it’s legal, toke away. Just monitor your Doritos consumption and don’t drive.
4. I don’t want them to have sex with someone they don’t love.
I did it, and it’s lonely. It can slowly erode your self-esteem and even your sense of self. Of course, everyone has the right to do what they want to with their bodies, and I’m not a puritan. But sex is big, especially when you’re young. Sex is important and unerasable. You can’t take it back, so have it with someone you care about. Don’t have it as a random hookup, which sounds like fun, but you’ve got to wake up the next morning and see that random hookup in all their messy-haired and hangover-breathed glory. And they’ve got to look at you, and you’re not in your finest hour either.
5. I don’t want them to take school for granted.
I saw school as something that enabled my social life (see pot, alcohol, sex). I could have had higher grades, learned more, and maybe had more opportunities if I had been more serious about education. My kids won’t take school seriously either, thus wasting time and tuition.
6. I don’t want them to ditch their friends for their significant others.
I spent all my energy on various boys, whom I broke up with before moving on to another. Meanwhile, my girlfriends learned not to count on me. I have very few girlfriends from college, and a whole lot of ex-boyfriends. I hope my sons keep time for their guy friends, and don’t fall victim to girls who want to monopolize all their time. I lost a dear friend that way, who only reemerged years later, after his divorce. It’s not as serious as Bros Before Hoes and Sistas Before Mistas, but it’s close.
7. I don’t want them to change for a significant other.
I once decided I looooooooved movies. Coincidentally, so did my boyfriend. In reality, I can’t sit through half an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. It’s easy to start dressing, or eating, or mimicking the interests of someone you’re with, even if you’re only dating casually.
8. I don’t want them to overspend.
I dropped so much cash eating out that I bounced a check for necessities at Walmart (this was before the advent of Target). Because my bank account was linked to my school address, and it was the end of the semester, I didn’t find out until they’d piled on massive bank fees and called my parents. I thought Walmart had a warrant out for my arrest and utterly lost my shit. So, yeah, I hope my kids keep better budgets than I did.
9. I don’t want them to drive distractedly or speed.
I don’t mean going 10 over. I mean roaring down the interstate at 95 mph. This is a great way to hurt both yourself and innocent bystanders. I think of all the times we drove that fast, usually on the way to the beach, and I shudder. I also hope they put their cell phones down when they’re behind the wheel. That text can wait. I didn’t understand that, and I took stupid risks and once rear-ended someone because of it.
10. I don’t want them to drop their clothes at the slightest provocation.
I don’t mean getting laid. I mean regular ol’ streaking, usually on a dare, but sometimes just because I could. Luckily I mostly confined mine indoors, but kids, I had a student who streaked across the field at an SEC football game. This turned out to be a monumental mistake, and he’s lucky he didn’t have to register as a sex offender. So keep your clothes on, kids.
My kids will make their own mistakes. I just hope the mistakes they make are limited in scope, and different from the ones I made. Kids screw up. I screwed up. All parents screw up. We just hope our offspring screw up in new, inventive ways. That makes our love totally worth it.