If you’re wondering what it’s like to raise kids these days…stay tuned. If you’re wondering if it’s really true that all your child’s friends get to (insert completely unrealistic activity), stay tuned. If you’re wondering if it’s possible to count down the days until the next teen leaves the nest while also wishing those same days would slow down, stay tuned. Yes, Underground Mom Network, the rumors are…it doesn’t get easier, apparently ever. Where was this in the manual?
First, let’s dispel some myths. Let’s dispel them by going back to my own childhood and the number of times my siblings and I probably said to our parents but all my friends do…. While I can no longer remember what all my friends actually did, what I can remember is that I had no real solid idea if my words were actually true. They probably weren’t. I didn’t live in an age of 24/7 coverage of my friends’ lives via text or Snapchat or TikTok or Discord. I also had no real knowledge of what they actually did or did not do other than what was whispered down the lane. Still, it sounded super accurate coming out of my mouth as a defense plan. Maybe they really did get to do all the things stifled in my own home but I just didn’t have the proper proof because when I picked up the rotary phone headset off the wall, there were no videos or photos on the screen to confirm that I was the lone loser.
I have learned, as a parent, that these words still hold a lot of teen perceived value. All my friends get to do it. My friends parents let them do it. My friend’s parents don’t care. We actually have an uptick in another line, unrelated to those lucky friends… I thought it would be okay.
So, moms…just to offer some clarity into at least one of the My Friends households, let me offer some clarity to the rumors. I offer this up as your out. When you hear those famous words but all my friends… you can stand up tall and reply Oh, that’s not true. I know for sure that the McGillicutty’s do not let their kids play with knives while blind folded and walking on a balance beam. My guess is the same thing is true at your house. But, dang, these kids are savvy. They have an innate sense that we are all trying to keep up with each other. They know that if they drop that line, we will not immediately back down – instead we will question our own parenting and (they hope) err on the side of teen belief so that we don’t look like Little House on the Prairie compared to those hip and trendy households. They know that line can buy them some time – at least until we casually ask another parent if what we heard was on point. These kids are savvy. I’m realizing as I write this that there is probably an entire website geared to fall back lines to feed your parents. Suburban Myths?
I’m going to throw out a couple debunk-tions for your parenting pleasure.
Exhibit A: Boy/Girl Sleepovers: No. At our house we do not have boy/girl sleepovers. We have heard the exaggerated stories about other homes hosting boy/girl slumber parties on the daily and that the best ones are on school nights (really?). At our house? Not so much. It is not a never – back in the grade school days, sure. How much trouble could a couple of seven-year-olds get into? As we entered middle school, we had a lot of parental chatter about at what age that would no longer be appropriate. We also wished we’d never set the precedence because we definitely didn’t want to have to explain the why of the why those slumber parties were suddenly ending. We just weren’t ready for that hormonal, someday you’re going to want to, girls and boys are different conversation. New tweens don’t really have much awareness of their developing feelings and we certainly didn’t want our words to make either of ours curious. Luckily the old because we said so fallback was available. We skated through middle school with the first child and no real further conversation about mixed gender sleepovers – but then the topic popped up like a (no, Jyl, don’t say it) – but then the topic came around again when she started high school. Once again, all the kids were doing it. We passed. Girls only, please.
Then we passed on that, too, as we started floating down the river of gender fluidity and the four thousand available labels for whom you were attracted to. For us, the ending of sleepovers came when we awoke to a very awkward discovery of maybe it wasn’t just the boy/girl sleepovers we needed to be weary of. Side note story for those parents on that raft… you can say no. You can say no, period. It doesn’t make you phobic. It makes you a parent with an ability to take a pass on a shared bed under your roof. Our first child hung with a crew who identified all over the map, including flip-flopping from different types of sexuality. We got a bit frazzled out of the gate in navigating the appropriate combinations of gender/sexual identification for a sleepover. We were met with huffs and rolled eyes often while we tried to figure out who was who (name changes were common) and who carried which types of, well, undercarriages. We were eventually brave enough to just lay it out quite clearly – if their assigned sex was female and there was no sharing of rooms, yes. You may think that makes us assholes – but what it actually makes us is parents who want to make sure none of the kids under our roof are put into a situation in which something might happen that they are not ready for, including guests.
Same rules apply for child two. He will not be sharing a bed with anyone until he is forty-five. We may back that down when he is well in love (like the real, post-college kind). For now, we recognize that he has no clue about all the emotions tied up in relationships and he will have no clue for ages about how different those emotions are for girls and boys.
And there’s your answer to but all my friends can have girls/boys overnight!!! Not at the McGillicuttys.
Exhibit B: Underage Drinking: No. While we don’t pretend not to enjoy a cocktail here or there, we don’t allow the younger set to participate. Exceptions to follow. Our policy is that, though, everybody else’s parents (evidently) allow it we don’t. Typically, the juice closet is locked – something that wasn’t true in the past because you can trust kids, right? Well, anyway, it’s locked now because, yes, you can trust kids and, also, sometimes things happen. No, we do not have an it’s okay to experiment as long as your home policy here. And certainly not when there are guest children over. Remember…parenting motto number one: How will it read in the newspaper?
I do love a good exception, though, and here’s ours. When child one was about two months away from leaving for college, we began allowing her to have an occasional drink. Yes, while under the legal age. As she was moving into an apartment with of-age roommates (thank you, Covid), we thought it better to get her a wee bit acclimated to alcohol while safely under our watch. Was it the right thing to do? Dunno. Would we let her visiting friends do the same? Hell, no. Has it caused boundary confusion on her visits home? Yep. The target is constantly moving and generally followed with I thought it was okay. It’s not always okay, little one, but one day at a time. More on that gem later.
Exhibit C: Devices in the bedroom: No. Don’t be weird – you know I’m talking about phones/computers/etc… We are a household full of devices. With two parents working in technology, one of whom is at the forefront of all things blinky and dingy and pretty, it is practically our job to be in the loop which means that we have at least one of everything starting from a T9, a dot matrix, and rabbit ears all the way thru whatever number iPhone we are on now. We have all of them (still) because we’ve learned that as soon as you throw those rabbit ears away, you will immediately find a need for its guts. The downside is that we are supplied with endless entryways to the online world from an array of portals. It’s been a big week for devices in our house. Or maybe just for device infractions. We know we need to collect and close all portals, as we seem to run into this weird confusion several times a year of everybody else is allowed.
The story of the week includes some backstory. Zack has been having a struggle being ready to go to school on time. This child is a last-minute-er in all things. If he’s got a project due at 3:00pm, he will start working on it at 2:55pm. If his chores need to be done by noon, he will get out the mop at 11:57pm. And if the car is pulling out for school at 8:30am, he will set his alarm for 8:27am and, currently, will then hit snooze several times and send the whole house into a tailspin of starting late while he casually hops into the car. On the fourth day in a row of this last week, I swung into his room, after returning from drop off, to do a super nice (and brave) Mom thing and wash his linens. Lo and behold, what did I find in the unmade pile? Don’t be weird. It was a laptop. Which was super odd because, as mentioned before, we have a strict policy of no devices in the bedroom.
Obviously, he immediately denied his cyber bed buddy as having any affect on his ability to get up in the morning – but, objection your honor, when we did the parental math, we realized that the being late trend started just after he’d lost his school day privileges on his gaming computer. Our conclusion: his response to that loss was a laptop that tripped and fell into his bed. He has now gone totally Amish for two weeks (and is learning that his beloved driving lessons will be halted as…yes, anything with a plug or battery is included in this punishment). I have to say, he is resourceful (and super honest). His very calm well, what happened was was that he’d realized weeks ago that if he just did his homework when he was supposed to be asleep, he could use his homework time for other things. The cherry on top was a clashing of situations in which we ended up being down to one car on a day that I had an 8:45am appointment and Zack needed to be at school by 8:30am. Perfect, he just had to be ready to roll at 8:10am. Except he wasn’t. And he wasn’t at 8:15am. Nor at 8:25am. I left the house just as Rich woke him up with a boy, you better get yourself to the end of the driveway, you just missed your ride. He did get himself to the end of the driveway. Just in time to see the bus heading in the wrong direction. Thankfully, the Underground Mom Network was able to save the day.
Spoiler alert: In an effort to collect all portals…we are about to have a change in Wifi Passwords. Thank you for your support in what will be a very trying time.
A final note – one that recently hit me like a ton of oh-now-I-get-it bricks – that familiar child excuse of I thought it was okay? That’s not what they mean at all. I do feel quite behind on this and blame it on my late entry into parenting. As my elder said just last week – most parents learn all the basics when their kids are too small to remember their mistakes…I had the disadvantage of doing it under the lights. So, passing this tidbit along for the rest of the slow learners. When your child says I thought it was okay, what they are actually saying is Oh, I knew that it was not okay at all, but I wanted to do it anyway and I knew you’d say no, so now I’m going with ‘I thought it was okay’ so that you’ll again question your parenting while I go into witness protection. I have no idea why it took me so long to figure that one out. For approximately half a decade now, I’ve heard that phrase, I thought it was okay, and sort of went into an internal dialogue of well, is it? And if it’s not, do I still ding the child? What do I do here?
I know it sucks being the second child (no, really, I’m the third…I was perfect for a reason). This poor kid is never going to reach the pinnacle teenage level in which he feels confident that he is one step ahead of us. Even this midnight homework runs were deemed exhausting because he sat there, covers over this head, ultra-paranoid that we were going to stroll into his room at 1:00am. His self-taught life lesson was that it wasn’t the laptop that was making him too tired to get up on time – it was the fear of getting caught. In reality, we would knock first (teenage boys? hello…always knock) – but what we tell him is that, yes, as parents, that is our right. We can stroll right into his room whenever we want.
After all, that’s what all my friends do.