I am by no means going to preach to you the virtues of my parenting. Far be it. In fact, I probably would get a scolding from Dr. Phil from time to time. For example, when Owen was 18 months, we let him sip beer. I’m not kidding! James always let him sip from his beer. Owen loved it. Now to a man named Gallagher, there was some pride in his son liking beer, I guess. But then when my girlfriend Ginhee asked me, ‘when are you going to stop letting your toddler drink beer?’ I realized, we were not getting any parenting awards and it stopped being cute. In fact, we might have been called in by CPS.
So forget what you just read, and now I’m going to give you my tips on parenting- Ha just kidding! What I am going to explain is my gut instincts and my firm belief in being a ‘parent’ first and ‘friend’ second.
This has never been more relevant than now as I head into the teen years with Emma.
Emma has always been, say, precocious, even as a toddler. People have always warned me that I would have my work cut out for me when she got older. And yes, I do. But let’s face it. She’s been giving me a hard time since breast feeding. But now as she sits on the brink of teenagedom, she has far more access to social events, hanging out with kids I don’t know the parents of, and technology. Oh boy, technology. But I am grateful for cell phones. They are a gift more than a curse in my book. It’s Youtube I don’t like. Google is bad too. Once when she was doing a project for school and she Googled ‘invertebrates’. She got images of ‘inverted nipples’.
When I tell Emma she can’t go to the ice rink at 9:30 on a Friday night with a bunch of her friends from school, or that she can’t walk the busy street to the Walgreens with two girlfriends, I get the ‘why do you have to ruin my life’ phrase. And you know what, I know that I would rather her hate me, than be a feature on Dateline.
I can appreciate my mom now more than ever when she told me no. Don’t you hate those phrases in your head, “you’ll thank me when you’re older.” Oh good grief! How I hated hearing that. Now I say to my kids, you’ll thank me when you don’t end up dead in a ditch. Which is kind of true. There’s a lot of horrible possible things out there. And I’m not talking just for kids- grownups too. Heck I’m scared of public restrooms and dark movie theaters. I don’t care if I’m over protective. And I don’t think I am really. Am I?
My rule is, if I feel uncomfortable, or in any way that her safety is at a risk or possibly at risk within the realm of my active imagination, then my answer is no. She’s good at making me feel bad about it too. She can spill tears down her cheeks so fast, and then she gets all quiet. I hate the quiet part. I know it’s better than screaming. But I’m a talker. And if I’m talking and she’s quiet, that’s punishment for me. But I try to go about my business, and ignore her. Eventually when she is talking to me again, I don’t bring it up. I make her noodles. Or something she likes. (I don’t need to be her ‘friend’, but I can still cheer her up.)
She’s really good at manipulating and conniving me. It’s hard for me to not let her push my buttons. Owen is so straight forward, no bull.
That’s why he’s my favorite. It’s so much easier with boys.
I don’t always make the best parenting choices. My kids don’t make their beds (I don’t make my bed for crying out loud!) and they watch a lot of TV. (I watch a lot of TV too!) And sure I let her wear lip gloss and some mascara to school sometimes. I know she’s only 11. We watch Glee together and Twilight movies. I like being her friend then. I’m so glad she enjoys that stuff with me. But will I aim to please her so that she wants to be my friend all the time? No. Is this common sense and completely simple parenting 101? Yes. But do I need to remind myself of it when I feel like devil mom after upsetting her in front of her friends? Hell yes!
(Why am I writing this- because this blog is cheaper than therapy.)
I’m a pleaser and a person that needs to be liked. I’m like Sally Field getting an Oscar. “You like me, you really like me.” It makes me happy to be liked. Do I hate it when I make my kid sad? Absolutely. But I’m growing a thicker skin and reminding myself, ‘they don’t NEED to like me’. They just need to leave the house when they go to college and make enough money to pay for my nursing home.
I will try to always know where she is and who she’s with. Parents of older kids, I know you are snorting through your nose at this, rolling your eyes and saying out loud, ‘good luck with that Rebecca’. I used to always call my mom and I didn’t have a cell phone, so I know it’s possible. (Heck, I still call my mom like everyday- I still tell her where I am.) So if I get her in the habit of checking in with me, it should last right? Oh great, I just realized what a wreck I’ll be when she gets her driver’s license and starts dating.