“Mom, can I pleeeeaaase go to Regina’s* Birthday party/Sleepover on Saturday?” pleads Miss 14.
“Which one is Regina again?” I reply.
“Remember, she’s that new girl I met at School last week, you know … the one with the hair!” Miss 14 blurts back with attitude, annoyed that I don’t instantly know who she is talking about.
Keeping things neutral, I reply “Ahhh, with the hair…! So I haven’t met Regina yet and I also haven’t met her parents either?”
Defensively Miss 14 shoots back “No … but she’s fine … her Parent’s aren’t Axe Murders or anything and their Nanna lives with them … so they must be nice!”.
Have familiar conversations in your house?
New friends coming into their lives, new activities, new adventures, new rules. Our family is moving through a new transition … moving deeper into the world of Young Teenage-dom.
aka. Further Independence.
No longer are we making decisions between who gets prime poster spot on the bedroom wall … Harry or Niall?
The new questions that have been coming up this year are all about further independence.
- Can I go to the School Dance at another Host School; it only has like 5495 boys?
- Can I go to the Movies without you; I don’t know what Rating it is?
- Can I go shopping at the mall for a Top for Mufti Day without you; I promise it will be decent?
- Can I catch the Train / Bus / Space Shuttle and meet you there?
- Can I go to the underage Paint party / Rave in the city? (~ Ahhh … no, by the way)
- Can I walk from the train station in the dark on a Saturday night down to the Restaurant near Courtney Place with my friends? (~ Ahhh … double no)
There’s this giant minefield of life and decision making I walk each day as we navigate/stumble/crash and burn our way through this new stage of parenting.
It’s as much about protecting her from outside factors minor to major – simply looking both ways when she crosses the road (without earphones on), other people who don’t have good intentions, Travelling in Cars, Disaster, Meteor explosions – as it is from the decisions she has to make for herself everyday about her actions.
It’s also about this Mama Bear letting go at the right times for things when it’s appropriate.
Each decision I continue to make for her as to ‘what is she allowed to do’ is carefully thought through. Trying to keep good boundaries, while being reasonable, keeping with today’s times/challenges, but also not being sucked into “Well it was different when you were young”.
I’m also trying to honestly, not stuff it up!
I question myself, have I built strong enough foundations in her … Self-Respect, Integrity, Honesty, Self-awareness, can she defend herself? Is she a good person? Will she look out for her friends? Does she know how to get herself out of a situation she doesn’t like, regardless of offending anyone? Does she really know there are always people there for her, there are always answers?
Single parenting Miss 14 for so many years puts it ALL on me to hash out those thoughts, to make that decision and then deal with the consequences whatever they may be good, bad or otherwise. I’m finding that some of the decisions I’m making for her recently, are some of the hardest I have ever had to make, as so many of them are about releasing her further into the outside world.
So this is what I have found, helps me in making decisions on what she has asked me for permission to do (both the big and the small):
10 Questions to ask your Teenager – first:
- Who will they be going with/meeting up with?
~ Always a large deciding factor.
- What are ALL the details, what’s the plan, provide ALL the information?
~ I’ll ring the other parent, check/lookup the details and 100% know what she is going into. If I don’t have enough info, it’s a no-go – Harsh but simple.
- What would be the Plan B if something changes?
~ If something changes/goes wrong, is there a suitable Plan B. eg. Go back where they came from and call me. What caregivers/adults to go to if need be. Friend lives nearby; they could go there if they need to.
- Do THEY think you will say Yes, is it suitable?
~ Does it fit with our family expectations on beliefs, conduct, integrity etc.? eg. I might have said yes to the part about a Dance, but say if it’s a zombie theme … then, no. Might seem odd to ask her this, but often she knows the answer already if it’s not quite … right.
Then ask YOURSELF these Questions:
- What was your first instinct when they asked you?
~ First instinct always has some merit, but can’t always be relied on if your emotions are wrapped up in it.
- Have you met that friend they want to go with (Regina*) and are you comfortable with having Regina in your life/house?
- Do you respect Regina and her family and importantly do they have similar expectations of behaviour for her?
~ If I haven’t met Regina or her parents, then I’ll be proactive and meet them first.
- Has your teenager done this event/trip/been before? Did it go as planned?
- Has your Teenager shown you good instinct and behaviour/responsibility in this area before?
- What are the other parent’s thoughts on what they have asked to do?
~ I don’t feel at all swayed by peer pressure. But it sometimes helps to talk it through with the other parents with what they are comfortable with.
- Is your teenager ready for this?
~ Are they matured to that point for that next step they are asking for? It’s different for each kid.
- Or is it too much, too soon? Maybe they can do Part A of what they have asked, but not Part B.
~ eg. She can go to the Restaurant in town, but I will drop her off. Or I will be the parent chaperone/present.
- Is there too much ‘down time’ in what they have asked to do?
~ I totally understand the desire to hang-out, but that should be relative to their age. I am 200% aware, that it was often in the ‘down time’ that is where “I” got up to the most mischief growing up. I try to keep that in balance and not reflect my life on to hers, but I’m also not stupid!
- What’s your second instinct telling you, now that you know more?
Does it sit ok?
~ Yes it might be a new step, but does it ‘sit’ ok with me. When I pray about it, do I have a peace with it?
Sounds like a lot, but most of the time these questions are flying through my mind within 30 seconds flat to make a decision. But unless I can give a 100% yes on the spot when Miss 14 asks at the time, I ask her to leave it with me and let me think it through. She also has more of a chance of me saying yes if she does, as if I’m pushed on the spot, it’s a dead no.
I haven’t had to do it yet. But even if I have said yes earlier, if I gather new information or something just doesn’t sit right. I will pull the plug.
Then if it’s a YES – I give her a kiss and a hug, remind her to make good choices, call if she needs me for anything, tell her I hope she has a fantastic time and send her on her way… all whilst mid-prayer that God makes up for all my short comings and fills the gaps :-).
Sometimes, I long for the days of just simply helping her choose Harry or Niall’s pecking order on her bedroom wall. This new independence is uncharted territory for me and honestly a little scary.
Like every parent out there navigating the minefield, I suck it up, take a breath and welcome myself to the new stage … moving deeper into the world of Young Teenage-dom.
We’re at 14 … age 15 will be yet be another whole … new … stage!!
What’s important to you to think about when you make a decision for your child/Teen?
What questions do you ask your Teenager?
What scares you about their further independence?