I’m just going to put it all out there and share something with you: My house is a constant battle zone these days. That’s right, a battle zone.
My kids are at the ages where they are looking for more freedom than they can handle. They push and pull, and I push and pull harder. And we’re caught in a game of tug o’ war in the process.
They might not know it, but they are looking for boundaries and it’s my job to give them those boundaries. They are always asking for things I am just not comfortable with. For instance, when I run errands, I am comfortable with them being home alone (they are almost 14, 12, and 10 and it’s glorious to do this solo). But when they want their friends and girlfriends to come over while I’m gone, nope.
I’ve explained to them my rationale several times. I told them it’s too tempting to do things they aren’t supposed to do without supervision, and once we dabble in wrong behavior and get away with it, it becomes diluted. And so the next time we try out something a bit more dangerous. Sometimes parents need to just say “No” to our kids without explanation, but I try to use times when a life lesson can be taught as an opportunity to explain things to my kids so they can make good decisions.
A former teenager myself, I know that teens don’t always make the best decisions and my kids love to have good time. Let’s just say, there isn’t a goody two shoes in my clan. So I set boundaries and play the part of the “mean mom” every once in a while. We’re past the stage when the biggest offenses are sneaking cookies or using each other’s iPads without asking, so I need to be even more aware of what my children are doing than ever before.
Because of this, I’m constantly putting a huge damper on their lives, and they are always mad at me. Just the other day one of my kids let me know just how mad he was at me, and I found myself saying, “I don’t give a damn if you’re mad at me.”
And I didn’t.
Except I did.
When a mom tells her kids she doesn’t care if they are mad at her, what she is really saying is:
I am not going to change my mind even though it bothers me when you are upset. I know more than you do about what you want to do because I’ve been you. I, too, thought in my young teen years I should have been trusted to do things that I shouldn’t have done.
I know it feels like everything to you now because it was everything to me then. And the fact I am taking it away sucks, but I’d rather have you mad at me than get hurt or hurt someone else. I care about you deeply, and the reason you are mad at me is because to want more control. Someday you will have it but today is not that day.
Telling me how mad you are and how unfair I am is not going to make me feel guilty and change my mind. I am not going to argue with you. Accept that, and be respond in the responsible way I want you to.
I want you to be happy, but I am not responsible for making you happy all of the time. My job is to look out for your best interest, are we clear?
You aren’t old enough to dive into these waters you so badly want to swim in and I am here to act as your life jacket for a bit longer. I don’t care if you are embarrassed if the other kids find out, but I care about you.
I will let you go a little at a time, but we both have to be ready. And if I let you do some of the things you thought you were ready for and something horrific happens, we would both have a much higher price to pay than a couple days of the silent treatment. I love you too much to let that happen.
So I’ll take you being mad at me because it’s the lesser of two evils. I understand why you are pissed. And I do care, a little bit. Just not enough to let you do something you may regret. I’ll take the eye rolls and you staying in your room for days at a time as a way to express your anger. It’s a small price to pay in comparison to what could actually happen.
Because moms do care when our kids are mad at us. Just not enough to open every door, sacrifice our kids safety, or let our kids act like assholes.