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You remember how life felt when you were a teenager, very unfair, right? I remember thinking my parents were the strictest of them all that time in sixth grade when I was the only one out of all my friends (okay, maybe there was one other person) who wasn't allowed to attend a co-ed birthday party. I knew with my whole being they were trying to destroy my life and induce great suffering.
My mom sat on the edge of my bed and told me they just didn't think it was a good idea because they knew there was no way one or two parents could watch over almost 30 pre-teens; they didn't know the parents who were hosting; and they were more comfortable if I stayed home. With them. On a Friday night while all my friends were having the time of their lives. Meanwhile I was watching Wheel of Fortune planning on my escape out of my window that night.
According to my kids, I not only tend to be the strictest parent who has ever lived, I've also made it my mission in life to say, “no” every time they ask me to do anything, which of course if so far from the truth because I clock more miles in my car, carting them around more than any Uber driver ever has.
I know explaining to them why I choose to do this doesn't do much. Whenever my parents would give me that spiel, it always represented white noise to me. So I spare them the long lecture but try to offer more than just "because I said so," because let's face it, that can be annoying—although I do enjoy using the phrase when I'm really tired (from carting them all over the darn place).
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It doesn't mean they always hear me in a way that I want to be heard, nor will they until they are parents themselves if they decide that's what they want. But I do like to express to my kids as their mother, I get final veto when it comes whether they spend their Friday night on the loose or not.
For example, that time my son wanted to go "hang out at the grocery store plaza" sounded sketchy to me. I told him no but added they could "hang out at our house." He deemed me as a fun-sponge and hated his life.
The thing is, I have a lot of respect for people trying to get their grocery shopping done on a Friday night after a long week of work, as well as for the people who work at said grocery store. And while my son and his friends are pretty well behaved, they are still young teenage boys who had no good reason to be tearing stuff up at the local market. I had a feeling at least one bad decision was going to be made and ultimately, I am responsible for those decisions, too.
And when my youngest declared he was the only one out of all his friends (and all the other middle school-aged kids in the land) who didn't yet have a phone to call his own, I let him know he wasn't ready for the responsibility of such an expensive device.
I know at one time or another every parent has asked themselves, "am I being too strict with my child," yet they also know (deep down) it was the right choice because you know what is best for your child and you would rather be safe than sorry. You know the long-term goal is to ease your kids into being responsible and independent and there are times when that takes a few tries.
And it's not fun to feel like the "uncool" parent who is always behind the times and not on board with anything, ever, but when you become a parent, some kind of unexplainable instinct kicks that you can't ignore.
Maybe there have been times I should have trusted my kids more, but the way I see it, I'd rather have that be the case than say "yes" to them when I don’t feel it’s the right thing to do for fear of being that too-strict parent.
Because in our kids’ eyes, we are always going to be doing something to screw up their lives and if me saying “no” more than other parents is my “thing,” so be it. You don’t ignore your gut when you are a parent, especially when your kids reach the teen years.