First, thank you oh so much, Billy Joel, you monster, for the song that now haunts my subconscious whenever my 14 year old restates his teenage mission statement. Just to show my appreciation, I’m posting your classic song in it’s less happy incarnation: the theme song to to the television show, “Bosom Buddies”. Take THAT, Billy Joel.
While it definitely seems like my son has memorized this song, because I hear most of the lyrics daily, I’m told this is part of the deal when it comes to raising teenagers. I’d probably feel better about it if I hadn’t been dealing with mini insurrections for years already. I’m very keenly aware of it being his life that he’s so desperate to lead without my guidance and instruction, thank you very much. I could be philosophical and be sentimental about how beautiful it is to watch my child grow into a man,how honored I am that I’m part of this experience for him. I should be maybe, but….
…blah blah blah blah blah…
So, this is me, most of the time lately: (Yes, I even do the hand gesture.. such a bad mother…)
The United States wrote a big letter stating their independence to their distant mother, England, over 200 years ago. I can imagine King George the Third making that face and hand gesture as he listened to it read aloud in his throne room. Why? Wasn’t the struggle for American independence noble and just?
Of course it was. And, necessary. Just like a teenager’s declaration of independence is to their development into the adult they’re about to become. But England had a lot more experience at the whole being a country business and they were pretty sure the colonies were rushing things just a little.
So, as I’m sure is no surprise to any of you, as a parent, all I can think when I hear it is, “Kid, you have no idea…”
Dear Potential Boss of You –
I have heard your assertions for independence and have considered them carefully. Unfortunately, your request for complete separation from the family cannot be honored at this time.
This is due in no small part to the following:
1) You have not shown that you are capable of the kind of judgment that would keep you out of trouble and on the road to maturity. Since you are still learning, this is understandable, but regrettably does not show that you are past needing to hear me say “Make good choices!” when you are being given the privilege of being on your own.
2) Part of being independent is the ability to take care of and maintain your belongings in a manner that does not facilitate the replacement of said belongings every two weeks. So, when you keep your room clean, deal with chores as assigned and consider the whole possibility that volunteering to help out around the house instead of sulking when your friends are busy, I’ll know that you’re on the right track.
3) Independence comes at a premium. I know you tried to get a summer job and I was proud of you for it. However, understanding the limitations since you didn’t get a job (being 14) and the fact that I am your mother, not a paid chauffeur is also important. Things like gas, expensive sneakers, movies and meals out cost money, and since I don’t spend movie and meals out money for myself, it’s going to you. That means, when I don’t have it, I don’t have it, OR if I have money and choose to spend it on myself (like that wild and crazy expense of a pedicure now and then) you might want to be super quiet about it.
4) Rules are rules are rules. My house is the training ground for the rest of your life. So…if I say, “no..”, it’s not because I’m a heartless dictator, the worst person ever or whatever other insult you are slinging my way (even though it really doesn’t matter if I’m any of those things). It’s because respecting rules starts at home. If you can do that for the few rules we have, I know you’re capable of it in the real world. Give it a shot and see what happens.
5) Manners matter. That means you eat what I make, help clean up after and don’t complain about it. I’m not a Food Network chef, but I’m not cooking up food poisoning either. You’ll live and if you think you can do better, let me know and the kitchen is yours to make dinner in. Please, thank you and asking nicely for things you’d like or a favor you want me to do is vitally important. I know you forget that quite a bit.
6) None of this, except for this post, is for my personal amusement. I’m not really interested in the complaints you have now about anything. I AM interested in you, always, because I love you and you matter to me very much. I could get into the story of how I could have died from a massive stroke when I was in labor with you, or that labor took 48 hours and I didn’t sleep for 72 hours…but guilt is a blunt object that only works temporarily and only some of the time. Instead, I’m going to refer to you as an investment (since you’re so money oriented) that needs to be cultivated to pay off. My time, effort, tears and stress are to make sure the man you will become someday is a worthwhile, contributing member of society. That is the return on this particular investment in you. It’s long term and slow growing, but worth it in the end. You were not abandoned by the side of the road or on someone’s doorstep. I’ve been with you every step of the way, every day.
7) Being grown up means you’re more worried about the people you care about than yourself. That’s the big trick to growing up and the one that people trying to avoid it try to disguise as the burden of being responsible. Truth is, that’s the gift of growing up. It’s not a burden, but it’s not always easy.
You have great potential. It’s my job to see that you get as close as you can to that potential – keeping you healthy, warm and safe while I teach you the rules. Learning to live your life is a lot like learning to drive a car. You read the rules of the road and practice, practice and practice some more until you’re ready to drive on your own. There will be accidents, big and small, but they shouldn’t stop you from getting back behind the wheel. That’s what life is like and right now, you’re still in the studying the rules of the road part. You talk about your future like it doesn’t matter, but oh boy, son, it matters a great deal. The world is full of people who just don’t care how they impact the people around them. I want more than that for you. I want you to be the kind of person that cares. I’m going to keep talking to you about things that are important. I’m going to keep guiding you in the right direction. I’m going to keep appreciating your talents and strengths, because encouraging you to explore those puts you on the road to a happy future.
Don’t rush yourself along. Take your time.
The Current, With No Plans To Retire, Abdicate Or Give Up The Job Anytime Soon, Boss Of You