Monday, November 06, 2006

Just Say "No"

If you remember being a teenager, which you probably do, then you’ll remember how many things you tried to pull off without being caught by your parents or – heaven forbid – the police. These things included, but were not limited to, smoking, drinking, drugging and canoodling with the opposite sex.

It has been said that our generation of parents have tried to be more friend than foe with our children. Guilty as charged on some accounts. My head was more in the sand that out with my two older ones, but only up to a point. Around the time that Kenny turned 14 I suddenly chucked friendly mode for Gestapo.

If he would announce his intentions to go to a party, or even just that he wanted to go to a friend’s house after school, I would call the home of his proposed appointment to make sure an adult would be present. This would cause major embarrassment and much sulking on his part. But I’m blonde, not stupid. I remember keenly what I was doing at that age; hanging out in a parentless dwelling was Nirvana. I wouldn’t have the sins of the mother (or father or step-father for that matter) visited on the son.

This is not to mean that he wasn’t successful on occasion. If one wants what one wants they’ll get it somehow. But I tried my best, even through his senior year at New Canaan High, to remind him about rules, responsibility and the rage of a mother nearly-fooled.

I now have to be Rambo-mom to Janet. Technically, eighth grade was a very long time ago for me, and yet, having a 13-year-old daughter keeps it quite green. She hosted a party recently and I probably made my presence known to her guests more than I should have, but as I said, she keeps my memory sharp. She vacillates between being Teen Wolf and Teen Angel, so when I announce that I will be calling so-and-so’s parents to make sure they’ll be home for whatever party or small get-together she wants to attend, the Angel pretty quickly grows fangs. Good thing I’m not afraid of the big, bad wolf.

Of course there will be a time or times when even the good kid is in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that they will inevitably make the off-center decision. As we have done as parents since toddlerhood, we can assure them that we will be there should they fall, even if a consequence needs to be handed down.

We have to learn to say “no” early on. “No” to the trip to the toy store; to the third play date of the week; to the ice cream; to the extra half hour before bed. Then it’s “no” to the second sleep-over of the weekend, or wandering aimlessly around downtown; to constant IM-ing; or chauffeuring to and from movies in Norwalk or Wilton every weekend. And “no” to un-chaperoned gatherings at other person’s homes.

New Canaan CARES addressed this issue for middle school parents yesterday – “Navigating the Teen Party Scene.” For first-time parents of teens, navigating the whole stretch of teenage years can be fraught with fog and stormy seas. Yet having made the treacherous journey twice already, I can report that eventually the water calms and the sun does come out again.

But just for the record-- and previous teen parenting experience aside -- I am so not psyched about doing it all again, two more times. There’s not enough grey hair-ridding coloring in the world!

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