I did the one thing that the unwritten rules say you NEVER do. Somewhere in the parenting handbook that was NEVER written, it says you “NEVER, EVER, admit that you dont know what you’re doing.”
I broke that rule not long ago. I figured if you can’t pull it off convincingly, maybe it’s possible to win by using good old fashioned “truth.” (I know, odd idea isn’t?)
I realized as I sat in a position of mixed fear and frustration that I needed to just fess up. I needed to fess up before they figured it out themselves.
I have no idea what the hell I am doing. I don’t.
My parents learned how to parent by watching their parents. Their parents learned from watching theirs. That, and common sense, always seemed to be a good, general set of guidelines that could get you through most situations. If push came to shove, pull out the “because I said so,” line and it would be covered. Employing these methods, it always, generally, got the kids raised.
Then came the technology generation. Suddenly that model no longer works. Oh in general the parenting on day to day stuff works fine. How to raise a thoughtful and morally good child is still there. Those basics, while still hard to parent, I do just fine… It’s when it comes to the crazy world of mixed up media and the digital age we live in that I suck at that.
Here. Let me show you what I mean: It was a stupid time on the clock dial and I was sick as a dog. I wanted to stay in bed under my covers, give into my feverish stupor, but I over heard the name of an app that was being used in my house and I freaked out. I had just read an article listing the top 5 apps for parents to beware of teens using. They were deemed dangerous and parents were urged to keep ever watchful eyes on.
I got up from my death bed and attempted a nonchalant, “what’s up” to investigate. I failed miserably at that since I was so dead sick. The fact I found two of the five in my house that weren’t there just three days prior scared the hell out of me. My teens had no idea what they could be used to do and how dangerous they could be to them.
The fact is, even if I wanted to sound all cool and knowledgeable about what technology was floating around me, my teens knew more of it. My teens know way more about it than I do, and admitting it was simply the best choice. They can smell a lie of this nature and tune the information out within seconds of the best intended “non” lecture I can try to quickly conjure up.
So I said, “Hey, listen, I’m gonna confess something to you. I’m not gonna lie and try to pretend to know all there is to know about the subject we’re getting into now, but I AM gonna promise you that this comes strictly from my overwhelming love, and NOT from an “I just want to make your life hell,” point of view.
I told them that I am making this parenting thing up as I go along. I told them that while my mom and dad learned from theirs how to be good parents, and even though I had great parents, there was NOTHING in place to help me know what to do, and how best to handle things other than to figure it out as we went and be honest the whole time. This would be a dialog – not a lecture. I made sure they knew, if I dont understand something, tell me. I wont promise to change the outcome, but it surely will help it and not hurt, as long as we all maintain an air of respect.
So from there we talked about what the Apps were that I was concerned about. We came up with a new way to make sure these kinds of things didn’t happen again. Rules about downloading new apps to tablets that aren’t easily parental controlled like the Apple version (since we are a mixed house of PC and Macs) and worked out knowing what the rules would mean if broken.
Mostly, though? We talked about why these Apps scared the hell out of me. About how they could be turned around and used against them… even make it possible for someone to stalk you and end up in front of your house, waiting on you to come home from school and drive off WITH you. Yeah, it’s the truth that the things that my kids love to play with can be used to stalk and kidnap them. It’s not cool. I wont pretend to have a handle on it, and be anything less than an overbearing mother who loves her kids too damned much to sit by and let it happen. If they hate me for a day, a week, a month, or hell, a YEAR I wont care in the end if it means they are safe, alive, healthy, and growing up still under my nose.
Fact is, there are lots of ways I can screw up parenting. Fact is, I actually do it quite regularly. Total truth here. That said, I made them a pinky promise that night, at 3 a.m., after a 2 hour conversation that went very well, all things considered, and all while feverish and dying slowly from bronchitis. I pinky promised that I would never just say the word NO without explaining my side of it. Not where technology was concerned.
They needed to know all sides of it because this is the age and space they live in and the way their brains are wired. I promised I would always choose to “get it wrong” as a mom as long as their safety was in question. I promised I would never be sorry that I erred on the side of over protective, vs being cool about stuff.
I promised that I would annoy them a LOT in the coming years, since they are 10-13-15. I promised I would get a HELL OF A LOT WRONG. But I also promised to love them, cherish them, support them, listen to them, and be there for them no matter what time of day or night it was, no matter how far away they were, or how far I had to drive to be at their side should they need me. I promised to get THAT right. I can do that with confidence because my parents made that pledge for me and they are still doing it to this day. They still sacrifice for me (and probably my kid brother too) in ways I will never know about, and wont even understand till my kids are grown and they are raising my grandkids like I am theirs.
I promised to get it wrong and in doing so, I got it right. My kids listened. No really… they did. They heard me. They realized that in me being truthful and vulnerable as a parent, the things i spoke about mattered in ways they were not sure they totally really could grasp. They understood that this was about more than them. They got the fact that it was hard to be a parent, and they thanked me for being truthful.
Yes, since that night we have had to revisit the issue, had to enforce the rules we made together, and have even had some anger and mad moments at mom. Always, though, I can cite our conversation and say, “I never said I’d get this right, I only said I’d try crazy hard and probably even get it wrong because I love you.” Then the anger melts for a moment and before they say a word more, the looks on their faces tells me that maybe, in fact, I just POSSIBLY… got it right, after all.