I am one lucky single mother. I have a 17-year-old daughter who values her studies and excels in school. I guess it is the fruit of being supportive to her in what she does even at an early age. She was able to enter a state university, which offers quality education with low tuition and inexpensive dormitories. It was a big relief on my part and a big achievement for her when we got the news of her acceptance.
Since it is school break, she stays home most of the time now. It was not much difference though when she was at the school dorm. Our communication was non-stop with text messages going back and forth except when she has classes. She would tell me what she eats, where she is and almost everything she does. From school works to sightings of students with unique fashion sense and hairstyles, she would tell me. It came to a point that I have to tell her that I needed to go to sleep now, otherwise she would awaken me just to tell me she saw something funny in the internet.
I never obliged her to inform me about everything – but because I have made it a point to let her know that she is very much a part of my life, not only when I am not busy – she also reciprocated it by letting me in on her teenage life even when she is away from home. She was very happy because she was making a lot of friends and the new freedom made her more confident.
My daughter had grown to be a very jolly and opinionated but polite kid. I have always encouraged her to tell me everything and anything. I let her speak her mind about her dreams and plans. I never laugh at the silliest dreams she had. I just say nothing wrong with that, “in time you will know what you really want- and I will be here to support you”. If there is one person in this world – who will always be on her side, it is me. I have made sure I am always available and ready to listen to her.
One thing that I have been conscious about in our home – is to keep a happy atmosphere. We try keeping a happy disposition all the time. I made a rule on – no bad mood, if you can’t help it do not take it on me or anyone – let’s talk about it.
We respect each other’s space – but being mom, I still have the last say. Teenagers are very sensitive to their own space. And teenagers will not go anywhere if they know they have their own space at home – no matter how small. They would appreciate home if it is pleasant and love is abundant.
We sometimes stay up late nights just telling jokes. There was one time we stayed up till 3 am laughing because we cannot get over a funny video on Youtube. At the mall when we see something hilarious – we would squeeze each other’s arm and end up giggling.
I can say I have brought up my daughter to be on the conservative side as I am a little conservative too. Sometimes I could see that she has taken it to a certain degree. She would not wear shirts that show her collarbone, her upper arm, and shoulders. I sometimes joke to her if she wants to be a nun. Maybe it will change in years to come.
I am happy that we have a very close relationship and we can talk about any topic that is age appropriate for her. They say action speaks louder than words, but sometimes some of our actions are misinterpreted by our kids and that’s when the talking should come in. Parents are not perfect – we get upset, we make mistakes, and we worry. The reason we worry is because we love our children and that – I made sure she understood. Some teenagers think that when parents do not allow them to do certain things or be allowed at a certain hour, the parents are just being mean to them or do not trust them.
Last summer, after she had just graduated from high school, she asked if she can attend a bible study with her classmates at the mall. I know her friends, they are all good kids. It is supposed to start at 6 pm and will end at 8 pm. I said, “Okay you can go, just go home early”. Early for me means not two hours late, and she knew that.
My brother who has a car was visiting on that weekend. I did not worry when 9 pm came as my daughter was sending text every twenty minutes. The “Mom, will be home soon”, did not relax my nerves unless I see her in my front door. “Mom, will just have ice cream in Kim’s house”, was the next message. Okay, nothing wrong with ice cream at night – I just hope she gets home soon. My brother was already telling me to just relax as more of such will be a regular thing now that she is entering college.
The next text message made me and my brother flew to the door and to his car. They were stuck in front of the school where they attended high school and could not get a ride. We got there after three minutes. The street was dark, quiet with everything sleeping, and no one there but three teenagers standing waiting for a ride. I felt chills in my bones. I asked her what she was doing there. She said we decided to take the short cut because we like to walk and talk some more. At almost midnight – I think to myself. I was getting upset. I think somehow teenagers think they are indestructible and the world is an open place even at midnight on an empty street for active kids like them.
I was upset at her and I let her know about it. “What if some drug crazed men pulled you in their car – where in the world will I look for you?” She said I was just paranoid. I told her, “if you would be like this, how can I trust you?” I had a firm but low voice. I knew I just dampened the supposedly fun evening she had with her friends. She looked so down when she went to bed. She even said, “you do not seem to be the mom I know.” That hurt.
The next day I knew she still felt bad as well as me. But it was more of sadness as I felt I seem to have pushed her away. I sat down and apologized to her and explained why I got mad at her for not keeping on her word not to be late. She said mom nothing happened. And the big question came – “How come all my friends get to go to malls by themselves without their parents, and how come they can go even in the evenings? I am old enough. You don’t seem to trust me.”
I believe that for children to have self confidence – they should be given reasonable trust and age appropriate respect. Correct them when they make infractions. Teach them to respect elders and authorities. Give them freedom to explore the world around them. I knew I trusted my daughter, but it was never been put to test until now. I myself learned something important that night – parents need to let go at some point.
Teenagers tend to compare themselves to other kids their age – mostly it is about how much freedom they have. Parents are always caught angry when confronted by this question. If you know well your kids’ friends and you know how they behave outside – that would be a good factor whether to let them go or not. The frequency of such activity would have to depend on the purpose. If they want to be with their friends – they don’t need to do it all the time because they also see them in school. A special occasion would be a good time to allow them – say a birthday they want to celebrate at a restaurant. It should not be a regular activity – because such should be spent with the family.
If your child spends more time with friends more than family – the moment she has her own, her family will take a back seat in favor of friends. I have seen that many times. But let them have as many friends as they want – that way they will be able to adjust to different kind of personalities. When I say different, I mean people who can contribute to her growth as a person.
“My child, life is about choices. What you eat, what you say, places you go, people you love and even people you hate will affect your life. I will not be there to make choices for you all the time as you will be an adult yourself. You will have to make them even if I will always be available for you. You can enjoy life without putting yourself at risk or exposing yourself to danger. People are basically good – but there are also unhappy people in the world – do not be in their way. “
“When you do things – think also of the people who love you. What they will feel and how it will affect them. Do not give time if you do not intend to keep them. Do not make people wait – it is rude. Honor your word – so that people will take you seriously. You are my daughter and I want you to be happy – practice sensibility and sensitivity all the time.”
Teenagers will listen when you talk to them, but not all will listen with their hearts. When I saw her face lighten up – I knew she understood me. You do not start talking to your kids when they are already teenagers and expect to be understood. You have to start being a parent and a friend at an early age of two. Bond with your children everyday – do not just be a weekend parent. Be there 24 hours for them. Be interested in their young life.
There are no tough topics for parents when they are not strangers to their kids.