I call my kids to come see this YouTube video of some father in the US who ends his rant against his teenage daughter’s ‘I-hate-my-parents’ Facebook post, by emptying the barrel of a gun into her laptop.
I suppose I’m hoping it’ll dawn on them I’m not such a terrible parent for insisting electronics be shut down at 9pm and they each do one chore a week. Instead they look at each other and roll their eyes. ‘Just proves what a d___head of a father he is,’ my son says in disgust. ‘Tragic,’ my daughter sighs and saunters off to continue the intricate artwork of stitches, hearts, and diamonds she’s been drawing on her left arm with a Sharpie over the past week. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes a permanent tattoo.
Now that they’re teenagers, the exhausting years of claustrophobic motherhood have been replaced with this: me left feeling a bit silly. It’s not like I want to be worshipped or anything. Just respected. I’d even settle for not being dissed. Problem is, I’m not impressive anymore. They used to ask me things and take my word for gospel. Nowadays they know more than I do about too many things. I need their help me with i-Tunes, my iPhone and Foxtel. They snicker, as if I’m some nerd who’s been under a rock and only just emerged into the daylight of popular culture.
At fifteen, my daughter is my height. My husband refuses to fold the laundry anymore after he recently held up a pair of undies and asked, ‘Yours or hers?’ and then, ‘I can’t do this anymore. The boundaries are getting too blurred.’ The other day when a TV ban was issued for rude behaviour, which got doubled for answering back, she icily left us with a, ‘We’re not Nazis, you know.’
‘Don’t come in, I’m filming,’ the twelve-year-old calls down the passage, like he’s Spielberg or something. I have no idea what’s actually going on in his room, except that later there’ll be YouTube downloads of his ‘gameplay,‘ which he then insists I watch – it gives him ‘views,’ which is currently how he measures his self-worth. We nearly came to blows over Call of Duty which I refused to allow in my home (because I’m the boss), even though I was ruining his social life in the process. I held out, through the crippling pressure. Now he’s mining and dodging zombies. For all I know, Minecraft is frying his brain, not creating new neural pathways. And he’s got friends in his room 24/7 on Skype. I miss the good old play date where kids went home eventually.
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Parenting teenagers has come upon me suddenly. One day we were in parks, eating ice creams and playing on the slippery dip, and the next my daughter was telling me to ‘give her a break, she has PMS,’ and my son, remarking that ‘roll-on works better, but aerosol is more manly.’
Time Out and Naughty Corners are obsolete and ridiculous. ‘Eat your broccoli,’ is usually met with a, ‘You eat my broccoli,’ or ‘I’ve decided to give up green vegetables.’ When I insist, my daughter quotes the Convention on the Rights of the Child where she claims her right to eat what she wants has been recognized by the UN. I’m usually too tired to argue and since no-one’s scared of me anymore, raising my voice just makes me look like I’m the one having the tantrum. I’ve had to update my parenting techniques, like a Facebook status. My kids are changing, nightly, by the glow of their computer screens, the click of a mouse, the tweet in the night, and I have to keep up if I want to stay in the game. There’s a Buddhist lesson about impermanence in there somewhere.
My daughter used to love it when people said she looked like me. Now she scowls as if she’s been told she resembles Barney the Dinosaur. When my son sinks a three-pointer, my whoops just embarrass him. ‘Be cool, mum,’ he grimaces. ‘It’s just a basketball game.’
It’s my dignity I miss.
As I search for new meaning in my role as their mum, their need for independence stretches me to breaking point. I have to trust them in the world and the world with them or else cripple them with my neurosis. They may be growing up, but I’m having to toughen up, to withstand the shame of having to ask someone a quarter of my age what LMFAO means, or what a meme is. And when they say, You remember that thing Kanye West did to Taylor Swift…?’ I just nod. Their snappy cool comebacks make me say puerile things like ‘I carried you for nine months of my life, is it such a big deal to carry two shopping bags to the kitchen?’
They’re preparing me. With closed doors, private conversations and peer-secrets, they’re letting me go. They’re shrugging me off like old skin. Right now I’ll settle for a role in their support team, and not to be de-friended by them on Facebook. But I’m slowly expanding my own horizons, and dreaming up that life they keep telling me to get. Who knew of the secret deal between us – that as they grow into themselves, they give me back to myself where I get to watch from the sidelines as they unfurl into funny, opinionated interesting people I like?
- Never take a grunt, a death-stare or a ‘whatever’ personally. That’s hormone-tone. Rudeness is not acceptable. Knowing the difference– now there’s the trick.
- Never be too tired, too busy or too lazy to ‘come see’ whatever it is they want to show you – even if it is another YouTube crazy cat thing or an unfunny over-your-head SMOSH video. Just be grateful you’re still show-worthy.
Knock if their door is closed.
- It’s okay to lie in response to questions about what age you were when you first had a cigarette, drank alcohol or had sex, as in ‘I’ve never smoked/drank or had sex.’
Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?