Parenting

I Used To Worry Whether My Kids Liked Me. Not Anymore.

Being likable is not my job.

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I am a mother to three teenagers, and there are weeks when I think the terrible twos and feisty fours have nothing on these years. This is one of those weeks. My kids don’t like me very much right now, and I am very much okay with that. This wasn’t always the case, though. There were years when I felt as soon as my teens started to pull away or got mad at me it was going to cause too much distance and I’d feel left out of their lives even more than I already did.

Well, I know now it’s not my job for my kids to like me. It’s my job to parent them.

Like right now, my daughter isn’t very happy with me. She got her driver’s license this summer and she wants to drive my car all over town. I put her on my insurance policy but asked her to reimburse me because I think it’s important for her to take responsibility and see what it really entails to have the privilege of driving. It costs a lot of money and it’s better if she learns this now. She doesn’t like it, though.

I lost it on my oldest because he’s completely taken over the garage. It’s cluttered with tires, parts for his snowmobile, and a dirt bike. He has millions of bottles scattered around that he’s been planning to start taking to the returnables so he could get cash. But they have been sitting there for months and it’s a huge mess. He told me to calm down — the last thing he should have said to which I replied: “You have two days to clean this mess up or I’m returning those bottles myself and I’ll sell those tires.”

As for my youngest, I’ve already had to take his cell phone away and we are only a few weeks into the school year. He seems to only wants to play Roblox instead of doing any homework when he gets home from school. When I asked him why he wasn’t getting his homework done first — like he was supposed to — he shrugged his shoulders. I decided then and there that he could sit at the kitchen island so I could watch him get his work done before he can have his phone after school. Then I reminded him since he’s a sophomore he’s really too old for me to have to micromanage his homework and he was more than capable of managing his time.

I’ve been at this parenting thing for almost two decades and I still find myself regretting it when I lose it on my kids. But for too long I said nothing to them because I didn’t want to disrupt the peace. I wasn’t calling them out when they needed to take responsibility. But it started to wear on me and I had to have several heart-to-hearts with myself about why I was doing everything for them. The answer is that I was in complete fear they wouldn’t like me if I pushed too hard.

It’s hard to have a child change from a kid who adores you to the kid who can’t stand the sight of you. Once they turn the corner into tweendom, they’ll suddenly leave the room because you are breathing too loud and never allow you to talk to them in public. The hormones that walk in your door some afternoons make you want to tiptoe away. The thought of poking your mini-beast teenagers and making them dislike you, even more, isn’t exactly something I strive for.

But I’ve realized it’s necessary. Besides, everything you do is pretty unlikeable in their eyes, so who cares?

I’ve decided to embrace the fact that my kids went from adoring me to not liking me very much some of the time. The truth is, they want and crave rules and structure even though they don’t act like it. They need boundaries and constant reminders.

Yes, it does rock the boat. But my kids disliking me in the moment isn’t a big price to pay. Having regrets as a parent because I want my kids to like me is.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.