Parents should not be in the parenting game to win a popularity contest.
I am currently about 18 months into a 4-5 year sentence as the father of a teenager. Don’t get me wrong, my daughter is very special to my wife and I. She is our first born, tall, gorgeous, intelligent, funny, goofy, talented and considerate (sometimes).
But make no mistake, she is a teenager and is behaving the way a teenager is supposed to behave (or so I am told). She can be disrespectful, goes through rapid mood swings, is self-centred, tests my wife and I on a regular basis and tends to sleep in really late on the weekend.
The sleeping in I can handle (although I get frustrated when she comes down stairs around the noon hour on a beautiful sunny day – half the day wasted in bed).
However, when she tests us by making comments that are disrespectful, is painfully unpleasant for no apparent reason and takes her morose moods out on her parents and her little sister…that, I have a problem with and I need to exercise my parenting muscle.
Being a parent means being tough but pliable. Being a parent means disciplining and making decisions that are often unpopular. Being a parent means having your teenage child go storming up the stairs in a rage to her room, slamming the door with you being the object of many nasty expletives muttered under her breath, while your probably doing the same thing under your own breath.
Being a parent means riding that slippery slope of knowing when to dig your heels in and knowing when to bend a bit and sometimes make mistakes.
I never thought for a second that being the parent of a teenager was going to be easy. I don’t think that I or any of my fellow 46 year olds, were “walks in the park” for our own parents. In fact, its probably good that my daughter is scrappy because it means she has backbone. But I also know she is stretching her “wings of independence”. She wants to feel like an adult but clearly still is very much a kid. She wants to try things on her own but wants to know that her mom and dad are there to catch her (or drive her to a friend’s house).
I remember talking with a Child Psychologist a number of years ago. We were having a conversation about a child’s different stages of development. While we weren’t talking about teenagers at the time, we might as well have been. I think that a child going through any developmental change is akin to them climbing a mountain. They want to venture off on their own into life each and every time, but want to have that safety rope wrapped around their waists just in case.
Our daughter is going to come out of this stage of her development some day. It might be soon…it might still take a few years. We will have our ups and downs and our periods of frustration and anger. But I know she will turn out fantastic because my wife and I have laid a solid foundation. Her core and her values are in tact and cannot be messed with. Others will try to influence her and persuade her to get into things and she will take missteps along the way. We will be there, with our rope, knowing when to pull in the reins so that if she should fall, we will catch her.
When we are old and crusty (which I sometimes feel), she can be our friend.
But we will always be her parents.