I'm so thankful it's November. Not for the obvious reasons, MJF's birthday, beautiful fall weather, Thanksgiving holiday... but because October was the month from Hell for me. I am usually, at the end of a hard time, thankful for what I have learned and encouraged by the person I had grown to become through persevering and allowing God to work in and through my experiences; this time, I learned absolutely nothing... some rules on how I interact with my kids were confirmed though and I guess that is a good thing.
One rule, that I learned the hard way was to understand that teenagers will rarely "diss" themselves. Therefore, whether they lie purposely or not, they will rarely share the truth about a bad situation they get themselves into. I'm not even talking about getting in trouble. But if they find themselves in a negative situation that they need their parents to help them out with, especially if their negative situation involves another adult, parents, I am telling you, you will not get the whole story. I have found teenagers, boys AND girls, to be over emotional, easily embarrassed, and lacking realistic perception of their situations.
If they are telling you about something that happened to them with an adult involved and you hear that this adult did "this", said "this", failed to say "this", embarrassed them like "this" chances are you are not getting the whole story. We allowed this to happen ONCE and assumed we were getting completely accurate information and by the time the circumstances were laid out on the table, MJF and I were crawling under it in embarrassment. I am just thankful that the relationship we were dealing with wasn't one of great importance or emotional connection. It is hard to look at your child and explain, in the midst of tears, that before you are going to rise up to their defense, that you want to hear what the calm adult has to say about the circumstances. Many times not only is the problem not as severe as they are making it out to be but more often than not, your precious child isn't giving you the whole story.
These are hard things to read, I know. They are even harder things to write. We all want to believe certain things about our kids but we also have to understand who they are, at least as teens. I have found that understanding my kids' true natures at particular ages has helped me to move them from being "self-focused" to "other focused". When I make it clear that I want the WHOLE story they realize that there were two or more people involved, then they have to look at what part they played in the interaction and not just what someone said or did to them.
I am not saying that I wouldn't stand in front of a speeding train for my kids. I would, in a heartbeat. I am also not saying I would never believe my child over an adult. What I am saying is that I have learned the hard way that "everything is not always as it seems" and I don't want to be quick to sacrifice or damage a relationship because I don't want to admit or realize the true nature of my child. I am still on my child's side - always - I just want him to learn that there are consequences to his behavior and he will have to accept what comes his way based on his words and deeds. I am very thankful that this learning experience took place in a "business-type" relationship. I have found, and am guilty of myself, that friends don't always want to tell you the truth about who your kids are. In this instance, we were given a pile-ful of information on our child, most of which was hard to hear but it explained quite a lot when all was said and done. It was at that point that we determined we needed to take a good look at all our kids. We needed to understand their strengths and weaknesses. We needed to take a look at our parenting and if we were being honest with ourselves about who our kids are and was our image of our children more than it should be. It's not easy to size up your kid but it has helped us, when any of them have been in trouble of any kind, to know for sure if we felt they were capable of doing what they were being accused of. Sometimes we've just responded with a big apology and knew immediately that, yes, they were most likely very guilty of what they were accused of and we knew what had to be done to fix the problem. At other times we were able to say, "No way did our kid do that" and in the end, the truth prevailed. To be honest, I have found very few parents willing or able to do this. I can tell you, it will be worth more than words can say, if you come to terms with the realities of who your kids are. You will never regret it.
Another rule that was confirmed for me in October was one I came to on my own. I had read enough over the years to develop this rule and it surprised me when I vocalized it to someone, only then realizing it was something that was part of how I parented my kids. Never allow your child to become your best friend. Yes, I know, I said Never - YIKES. Aren't we told that "never" and "always" are two words we should stay away from? Of course, so then, OK, to appease some of you - "almost never" - how's that? I guess when they are 60 and you are 80 it's OK. Notice, I didn't say "don't become your child's best friend". That my friend is a different story, maybe equally as problematic but I've not seen the damage from that that I have seen from the other. Why do I say this? Because, they can't handle it. Understand that for most teens and young adults, regardless of how they act toward you at any particular phase in their lives, they adore you! They love you to the point of wanting to defend you and protect you in a way similar to the way you want to do the same for them. By the time they are teens they feel they have the strength and intelligence to be able to do that for you so the "mode" kicks in. But they are still very immature. They rarely understand idiosyncrasies of words, phrases, and relationships and still view many of them literally.
Here's where things get complicated. Ladies, your need for a best friend comes from your need to just dump your thoughts, feelings, emotions, trials, tribulations, etc... If you choose your teenage or young adult child (boy or girl) to share those thoughts with you will find those thoughts repeated to another. Worse, you will find them repeating the thoughts you shared about someone TO that same someone. Here's the rub, most of the times, the thoughts you shared about another won't have been shared in the manner in which you meant then but in the manner in which the teen perceived them. Therefore, what you end up with is, in a negative situation, regardless of how it got there, your teen, in protection mode, throws out your dirty laundry and the comment you made about the adult she is speaking to. Hard to follow? yes, I know, it's hard for me to follow too and I wrote it. But the point I am trying to make is that our teens aren't mature enough to handle the mess that we need to occasionally unload and before you know it, you have found yourself in a situation that in irreparable.
I have to check, often, my conversations with my oldest boys. At 19 and 16 they are good buddies to me. I love taking them to lunch and talking about their thoughts and ideas. But I have learned to rarely share many of mine with them. Not only do I not want them burdened with my "junk" but I also don't want their perception of anyone to be skewed because I have an issue with someone that they may take out of context or even if it is in context, they don't need to have negative thoughts of. Once I plant a seed in their minds, I can't take it out. So I save my deep-seated thoughts and emotions for MJF or Pam or Cyndi. Not only can they separate my issues from their own and not take them upon themselves, but they also know how to perceive them. And I trust that they will not only be honest with me in our discussions but keep them to themselves.
So, for those of you who think that I have some gift at advising you on parenting (that is always questionable) I hope that you chew on these things right now, especially if you have yet to hit the teen years with your kids. Some of you are going to be aghast and will have a hard time imagining a relationship like "best friends" with your child going awry.. if you choose that route, I hope it goes well for you. But although my children will all tell you we are friends, and the two boys, I am sure will tell you we are great friends. There are a lot of things in my heart that they will never know. Even when they are much older. I think it's safer that way for everyone.