Parenting Teens

Pat's_Family_Photo doctoredBy Kathy P. Behan

Seems like only yesterday. Tires screech. It’s midnight on a stormy Friday night. My heart is only able to slow its frantic beating when it dawns on me that for various reasons, my three children are all safe at home. Do you know where your child is? Well, if he or she is a teenage driver, you might not.

When kids gain the ability to drive, parents lose the ability to track their children’s exact whereabouts. Even if the kids are highly reliable, unless they’re also wearing a homing device, there’s no guarantee they’re where they said they’d be.

The loss of parental control, to put it simply, stinks. For me, motherhood changed from being a very black-and-white profession, to one tinged grey. When my kids were young, I always knew where they were cause I had to bring them there. Plus, my parenting mission was clear. Good mothers breastfed their babies, set up consistent rules, belonged to playgroups, encouraged academics, and always talked reasonably and age-appropriately to their kids. My children were big, bright, healthy and happy so it was easy to think I was doing it right. But when they entered the murky waters of teenagehood, the path was obscured.

I missed the days of being smug and secure in my parenting. Yes, it’s important for kids to become independent, and yet where should the line be drawn? In their teens, they seem to try to weed parents out of their lives. They guard their privacy as if they’re protecting state secrets. Even the most basic questions such as “Where are you going?” and “Who will you be with?” are often met with resentful snarls. But that doesn’t mean they should get away with it – it just means Game On!

As determined as our kids were to keep us in the dark, we were even more relentless in our efforts to stay enlightened. Parenting these occasionally surly individuals seemed to involve a lot of fishing. Fishing for information about what was going on in their lives. Fishing for clues as to what they were really thinking and doing. I’m glad that even though they tried to swim away when they were teens, we were bound and determined to reel them back in. And after awhile, they got with the program. They told us what we needed to know and often, opened up about a good deal more.

The net result is that now that they’re older – all in their 20s – we’re closer than ever.

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