Domestic Enemies of the Moms of Teenagers

In a nod to one of my favorite blogs, Rants from Mommyland, here is one post they have yet to get to, bless their hearts….

I almost wrote of “Domestic Enemies of Teenage Moms” but then realized that would give this post a totally different meaning.  There are 15 years between my first two children.  That means I started this craziness at 21 and have a 19 year old, a 3 year old and am pregnant.  It also means I have a clue as to what is in store for me… and that I am clinging to every wonderful, exasperating and adorable moment with my toddler because I know that remembering how cute and precious he is now will help me resist the urge to strangle him one day.

1. (of course) Drama.  Now, granted, my oldest is a girl and the other two are boys, so there is hope for me in the future… but I remember the first time I tried to talk my daughter through a break up when she was about 15.  She actually told me (through sobs) that I could never understand how she felt and nothing I could ever say would ever make her feel better. It really was the end of her world and her life forever.  Of course, she was right.  I was 36.  And divorced….and had been through more break ups than I cared to even think about between the ages of 15 and 36.  So, obviously, nothing from any of my experiences could benefit her in any way (ditto this for advice on any subject about which you may have knowledge and the teenager does not.  Advice can only come from other teenagers who have no experience, not parents who do.  Duh.).

2.  Entitlement.  This is the biggest and most insidious problem with kids – and the one that can do the most permanent damage, in my opinion.  My room.  My clothes.  My Playstation.  Oh, really?  Because I distinctly remember that I was the one who purchased it all – and everything else you “own.”  That room that is “yours” and, therefore, you think is off limits to me?  That is under the roof that I pay the mortgage on every month.  You have these things because I have a job and I pay the bills and I buy the food you eat.  However, if you want to keep up that smart mouth, we can get rid of all those extras you enjoy… starting with that Playstation. [Best advice I can think of so far… a summer construction job to teach both the value of a dollar and the difficulty of really hard work.]

3.  Clothes.  Have you seen the way kids dress?  Pants that are made NOT to stay up.  Sexy clothes for 13 year olds.  And all of it is expensive – especially the clothes that look like they have been run through a meat grinder and will fall apart at any minute. But if your kid doesn’t have the latest cool Vans, you will be responsible for making them the outcasts of the entire 10th grade. You learn very quickly never to ever voice a preference when you take your kid shopping.  If they pick up something you actually like, pretend to hate it. If they get a whiff of approval from you, they will put whatever it is back and insist on buying something even they hate to avoid your consent.  They have to be totally different… just like everyone else.

4.  Electronics.  I gave my daughter an iPod for her 16th birthday.  I thought having her name engraved on it would be a deterrent to theft.  And, of course, she was not allowed to take it to school.  She had it for exactly 6 weeks before she got it out in class and a teacher made her take it and put it in her locker.  By the time she went back to get it at the end of the day, it was gone.  I don’t know how many cell phones she has had. I actually replaced them when she lost/broke them.  I could not send my teenage daughter out into the world without a cell phone, right? She might need to dial 911 or call me text her friends 1500 times a day! Take my advice, when you buy electronics for your teen, don’t get the latest and most expensive and, for God’s sake, purchase the warranty.  They can destroy things in ways you cannot imagine.

5.  TV. Jersey Shore Keeping up with the Kardashians. 16 and Pregnant. Skins.  Do I need to say anymore?

6.  The Internet.  My daughter was never allowed to have an internet connection or video game in her room.  So she would just go over to any number of friends’ houses whose parents did not have that rule.  I shut down at least 3 MySpace accounts when she was 13.  When I finally allowed her to have one, I checked to make sure there were no personal details a cyber-creep could use to stalk her.  Well, her account was fine, but she was linked to all her friends who put where they went to school and all their personal details, so it didn’t take me 5 minutes to find out everything about her through them.  I am not even going to go into all the other things (like porn) they have access to – and your teenage son knows how to clear his Google searches and history.

7.  Other Parents.  You set limits for your kids like a good, responsible parent should.  But what about all those parents who cannot be bothered to check up on their kids? They give them money or buy them expensive toys to make up for not spending any time with them.  And now your kid is friends with their kid.  And wants to spend the night at their house.  You talk to the other parents on the phone and they seem nice and responsible… and then you see your daughter’s Facebook page and the pictures they posted from when they snuck out during that sleepover and you have a heart attack.  You call the other parent only to have them treat you like you are overreacting.  Then there is all the drama that comes when you tell your kid they are never allowed to spend the night there again.

8.  Driving.  Teaching a 15/16 year old anything is a miracle – they already know it all, don’t you know?  And driving?  They have been watching you do it for YEARS…how hard can it be?  These days drivers’ ed in public school doesn’t cut it.  You have to send your kids to the state sanctioned driving school – for at least $400.  And it doesn’t matter if you drive a 10 year old beige Volvo station wagon and have a perfect driving record, once you add a teenage driver to the insurance the premiums will go through the roof.  But you have to do it.  I mean, this is America.  If you are living outside New York City, you have a car and drive – everywhere. So, go ahead and buy the Clairol to cover the gray (or white) streaks, pump that imaginary brake in the passenger floor board and try not to scream – you will probably live through it.  And there is an upside to having a teenager who drives: run out of butter in the middle of cooking dinner?  Guess who would love to run to the store for you?  Oh, and those keys can be bargained for any chore and taking them away can be a glorious punishment.

9.  Video Games.  I detest video games.  It may just be that I have virtually no hand-to-eye coordination and, with the exception of Wii bowling, I suck at every single video game I have ever attempted to play.  BUT have you seen these things?  Grand Theft Auto?  Halo?  I know they are just games and are supposedly off limits to teens, but remember the “Other Parents” section of this post?  Yeah, your 13 year old has a friend whose parents see nothing wrong with it.  I mean, it is just a GAME….with prostitutes and cop killing, so their little psyches are subtly conditioned to the violence, but whatever.  And they can spend hours and hours and hours sitting moving nothing but their thumbs playing this crap.  Don’t even get me started on stuff like World of Warcraft.

10.  Your Teen (Manipulation).  Your teen knows you.  I promise you that they can play you if you let them.  They know that you would never allow certain things (like Grand Theft Auto or to be dropped off at the downtown mall on a Saturday night and they will “just get a ride” home), so you will never hear about them.  They will say the right things and will leave out the red flags. They will even coach their friends.  But remember this… what were you getting away with that your parents had NO CLUE about when you were 16?  Scary enough for you? Well, let me tell ya… that was 20 years ago… and teens have come a long way, baby.

And that brings us to….

11.  Drugs, Sex and all other things that will keep you awake for next 5 years straight.  Your teenager needs every bit as much supervision as your 4 year old.  But you cannot watch them that closely and they don’t want you around like a 4 year old does.  You will question everything.  Is this friend a good or bad influence?  Can I trust this other parent? Am I being too permissive or too over protective? And, dear Lord help me, what about sex?  All the black and white areas of childhood have just become muddled shades of gray.

One day you will look back on the days when you could not pee or get a shower alone with nostalgia.  And it will be right around the time you have to physically block the path to their room to say hi and ask how their day was and, hopefully, get a hug… and you will see your adorable off spring’s eyes roll and they will say exasperatedly, “It was FINE, Mom. Can I go now?”   You will want to smack them, but you won’t.  You will just remember that you have been raising them to leave you and this pulling away and distancing themselves from you is normal.  And later that night you will cry on your husband’s shoulder after that second (and third… ok, fourth) glass of wine as you remember when the teenager in the next room (who has been on the phone with his girlfriend for the last 3 hours straight and has still not taken out the trash) was 3 and used to beg you to snuggle with him at bedtime and he’d wrap his little arms around your neck and kiss you and say, “Mommy, I you best friend!”

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