If you're wondering what it's like to raise kids these days...stay tuned.
If you're wondering if it's really true that all your child's friends get to (insert completely unrealistic activity), stay tuned.
If you're wondering if it's possible to count down the days until the next teen leaves the nest while also wishing those same days would slow down, stay tuned.
Yes, I now have actual evidence. It doesn't get any easier...apparently ever.
Where was this in the So You Want to Grow People? brochure?
First, let's dispel some myths. Let's dispel them by going back to my own childhood and the number of times my siblings and I probably said to our parents but all my friends do.... While I can no longer remember what all my friends actually did, what I can remember is that I had no real solid idea if my words were actually true. They probably weren't. I didn't live in an age of 24/7 coverage of my friends' lives via Text or Snapchat or TikTok or Discord. I also had no real knowledge of what they did or did not do other than what was whispered down the lane. Still, but all my friends do... sounded super accurate coming out of my mouth as a defense plan. Maybe my friends really did get to do all the things stifled in my own home and maybe I just didn't have the proper proof because when I picked up the rotary phone headset off the wall, there were no videos or photos on the screen to confirm that I was the lone loser.
I have learned, as a parent, that these words still hold a lot of teen perceived value. All my friends get to do it. My friends' parents let them do it. My friends' parents wouldn't care. We have a recent uptick in another line of defense, unrelated to those blessed friends...
J ust to provide some insight into at least one of the My Friends households, let me give some clarity to the rumors. I offer this insight up as your out. When you hear those famous words but all my friends... you can stand up tall and reply Oh, that's not true. I know for sure that the McGillicuttys do not let their kids play with knives while blind folded and walking on a balance beam. My guess is the same thing is true at your house.
But, dang, kids are savvy. They have an innate sense that we parents are all trying to keep up with each other. They know that if they drop that line, we will not immediately back down - instead we will question our own parenting and (they hope) err on the side of teen belief so that we don't look like Little House on the Prairie compared to those hip and trendy households. They know that line can buy them some time - at least until we casually ask another parent if what we heard was on point. These kids know how to play the game. I'm realizing as I write this that there is probably an entire website geared to fall back lines to feed your parents. Suburban Myths?
I'm going to throw out a couple debunk-tions for your parenting pleasure.
Exhibit A: Boy/Girl Sleepovers: No. At our house we do not have boy/girl sleepovers. We have heard the exaggerated stories about other homes hosting boy/girl slumber parties on the daily and that the best ones are on school nights (really?). At our house? Not so much. It is not a never - back in the grade school days, sure. How much trouble could a couple of seven-year-olds get into? As we entered middle school, there was a lot of parental chatter about at what age that would no longer be appropriate. We also wished we'd never set the precedence because we definitely didn't want to have to explain the why of why those slumber parties were ending. We just weren't ready for that hormonal, someday you're going to want to...girls and boys are different conversation. The tweens in our home did not really have much awareness of their developing feelings and we certainly didn't want our words to make either of them curious. Luckily the old because we said so fallback was still available. We skated through middle school with the first child and no further conversation about mixed gender sleepovers - but then the topic came around again when that child started high school. Once again, all the kids were doing it. We passed. Girls only, please.
Did I mention how savvy kids are? Next up was a teen driven lesson on gender fluidity and how a Girls Only policy was just confusing and unfair. We reversed. And then we awoke to find two teens sharing a bed with no real identifiers of whether we had just allowed a girl and a boy to snuggle under the covers. We reversed again. We were called names and deemed phobic. What we were was parents with the right to take a pass on a shared bed under our roof. What we were was parents who wanted to make sure that none of the kids under our roof were put into a situation in which something might happen that they are not ready for.
Same rules apply for child two. He will not be sharing a bed with anyone, on our watch, until he is forty-five. We may back that down when he is well in love (like the real, post-college kind). For now, we are grateful that he has no clue about all the emotions tied up in relationships and he will have no clue for ages about how different those emotions are for girls and boys.
And there's your answer to But all my friends can have girl/boy sleep overs!!!
Nope, not the McGillicuttys.
Exhibit B: Underage Drinking: No. While we don't pretend not to enjoy a cocktail here or there, we don't allow the younger set to participate. Exceptions to follow. Our policy is that, though everybody else's parents (evidently) allow it, we don't. Typically, the juice closet is locked - something that wasn't true in the past because you can trust kids, right? Well, anyway, it's locked now because, yes, you can trust kids and, also, sometimes things happen. No, we do not have an it's okay to experiment as long as your home policy here. And certainly not when there are guest children over. Remember...parenting motto number one: How will it read in the newspaper?
I do love a good exception, though, and here's ours. When child one was about two months away from leaving for college, we began allowing her to have an occasional drink. Yes, while under the legal age. As she was moving into an apartment with of-age roommates, we thought it better to get her a wee bit acclimated to alcohol while safely under our watch. Was it the right thing to do? Dunno. Would we let her visiting friends do the same? Heck, no. Has it caused boundary confusion on her visits home? Yep. The target is constantly moving and generally followed with that statement of I thought it was okay. It's not always okay, my child.
Exhibit C: Devices in the bedroom: No. Phones/computers/handheld games... We are a household full of devices. With two parents working in technology, one of whom is at the forefront of all things blinky and dingy and pretty, it is practically our job to be in the loop which means that we have at least one of everything starting from a T9, a dot matrix, and rabbit ears all the way thru whatever number iPhone we are on now. We have all of them (still) because we've learned that as soon as you throw those rabbit ears away, you will immediately find a need for its guts. The downside is that we are supplied with endless entryways to the online world from an array of portals. It's been a big week for devices in our house. Or maybe just for device infractions. We have recently collected all devices and closed all portals as we ran into this weird confusion that amps up a few times a year of but everybody else is allowed, so I thought it was okay.
Bonus tip: If your child is struggling with an early start, thoroughly check his or her bedroom for electronics. On the fourth day in a row of a late departure for school, I made a visit to my son's room. Of course, I had a cover - I was only going to wash his sheets. But lo and behold, what did I find in the unmade pile of linens? It was a laptop. Which was super odd because, as mentioned before, we have a strict policy of no devices in the bedroom. He immediately denied his cyber bed buddy as having any affect on his ability to get up in the morning - but, objection your honor, when we did the parental math, we realized that the being late trend started just after he'd lost his school night privileges on his gaming computer.
In an effort to collect all portals...we will also be changing the WiFi passwords. Thank you for your support in what will be a very trying time.
Back to my new favorite statement of I thought it was okay. That's not what they mean at all. I do feel a bit behind on this epiphany and blame it on my late entry into parenting. As my elder said just last week - most parents learn all the basics when their kids are too small to remember their mistakes...I had the disadvantage of doing it under the stadium lights. So, passing this tidbit along for the rest of the slow learners. When your child says I thought it was okay, what they are actually saying is Oh, I knew that it was not okay at all, but I wanted to do it anyway and I knew you'd say no, so now I'm going with 'I thought it was okay' so that you'll again question your parenting while I go into witness protection. I have no idea why it took me so long to figure that one out. For approximately half a decade now, I've heard that phrase, I thought it was okay, and sort of went into an internal dialogue of well, is it? And if it's not, do I still ding the child? What do I do here?
I know it being the second child is harder (no, really, I'm the third...I was perfect for a reason). Our second child will never reach the pinnacle teenage level in which he feels confident that he is one step ahead of us. Even his overnights with his contraband laptop were deemed exhausting because he sat there, covers over this head, ultra-paranoid that we were going to stroll into his room at 1:00am. His self-taught life lesson was that it wasn't the laptop that was making him too tired to get up on time - it was the fear of getting caught. And, in reality, we would always knock first before strolling in (teenage boys? hello...always knock). But he doesn't have to know that. All he needs to know is that, yes, as parents, that is our right. We can stroll right into his business whenever we want.
After all, that's what all my friends do.