Thursday, August 16, 2012

Winging It With Teens

       Motherhood is a work in progress; a lifelong dedication to on-the-job training. Our children aren't born clutching Owner's Manuals, so as parents, most times we are winging it when it comes to raising them.

My oldest daughter, who goes to college out of state, is home for the summer. She did a lot of growing up this last year while she was away at school, and I am bursting with pride for her. Straight A’s her freshmen year, can you believe it? But she also balanced books with her share of fun, too. Frat parties, football games – the whole nine yards.

        I'm thrilled that she is home right now and I get to play at being her mom again. But quite frankly, I'm a little confused about my role with her.  She is in that “tween” stage again -- nearly 19 years old, but not quite a legal adult.  Or, as she says, "I'm old enough to vote, watch porn and go to war.  But I can't drink."

She still asks for my permission to go out at night, for which I feel both grateful and extremely guilty.  It’s nice to know that, in her eyes, her mom still has some control over choices she makes.

But should I ‘fess up? If she only knew that when I was her age, there is NO WAY I would have ever sought my mother’s permission to go out with my friends.  I had my own car, made my own money, my own apartment.  I had completely vacated the nest. 

If she only knew how easy it would be to declare her independence. All she has to say is, “Mom, I’m 18. I can do what I want.” Part of me -- that young girl who was 18 at one time, too -- wants her to play that card; but another part of me hopes she doesn’t quite yet.  I still worry about her and foolishly think that I can still protect her.
Tonight she wants to go out with some old high school friends who are back in town for the summer, too.  A reunion, no problem there.  But there’s a catch:  They are going to a gay bar downtown. See, one of her friends is gay, the rest are straight, and he has convinced them it would be fun to hang out at a gay dance club.
She asked me if she could go. (Again, she really didn’t need to.)  So I played the “mom role” expected of me. I grumbled incoherently about it not being a good choice, and that I was concerned about her being out that late.  She said they just wanted to go dance and have fun.  
I had to repress every ounce of my mother’s instinct to say, “OK,” but I really don’t have much of a say here at all.  The reality is, my daughter is all grown up, and I need to trust her to make good decisions on her own.

Yes, as parents we are winging it most of the time.  But there comes a time, no matter how much it pains us, when we need to push our children out of the nest so they can take flight, too.

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