As a single parent of three teenagers, I constantly struggle with decisions about limits and boundaries, as you might expect. For the most part, I have made the boundaries clear, but somewhat flexible. I have my reasons for this, and I will explain.
In my experience, parents can be broken down into three groups: the overbearing, overprotective group; the I don’t give a shit what my kid does- “what’s my kids name again?” group; and the middle of the road group.
I know quite a few overbearing and overprotective parents. Usually their kids are the maladjusted kids, the extremely religious kids, the super nerdy kids with no friends, but more often, they are the kids that are sneaking out of their windows at night, lying about staying at a friend’s house, all the while, they are out engaging in dangerous behavior. They are not concerned with the danger because they figure that if they get busted, life as they know it is over anyway.
I have a friend who is so restrictive, she reads all her son’s text messages (she usually has his phone anyway because he crossed some ridiculous line), spies on all his computer activity, and really doesn’t let the poor kid out of the house much. As a result, he sneaks out or lies about where he’s staying. He sneaks out more than anything else because she checks up on him too much for him to lie about staying at a friend’s house. Because of this, he spends many nights running around God only knows where and what towns, sleeping around with questionable young ladies, and it’s just a matter of time before he gets into big trouble.
My kids have a several friends whose parents are never home or just don’t care what their kids do because either they are fighting their own demons, or they are just assholes. I often find myself acting as a surrogate mother for some of these kids, and I’m okay with that as long as they are respectful and don’t try to bullshit me.
The boyfriend of one of my son’s friend’s mom kicked the friend and his sister out of the house violently on a whim. They were 16 and 15, respectively. After a week, Mom got them a room at a ramshackle motel, and left them there for over a month while she two-timed her boyfriend to find another boyfriend who bought her a house. He lives out of state and only comes to visit every month or so. The kids moved into the new house, Mom stays with the old, abusive boyfriend at his house until new boyfriend comes to visit. Oh yeah, she has a third boyfriend too, but I’m not sure about his role. I’ve done what I could for the kids, but coming from that kind of background, I’m not sure how they will come out of it.
Now the middle of the road parent; that’s me. I don’t let my kids do whatever, but I give them a lot of freedom and later curfews- on the condition that they are honest with me, tell me where they will be, and we establish that they have a DD. I decided long ago that there was no way I would be able to keep them from going certain places and doing certain things, so I decided the best thing would be to make sure they were safe about it and that they knew I would be monitoring their activities. My two youngest are usually the more sober ones amongst their friends.
Some of you will have read a previous post and know that my oldest son drinks too much and that it concerns me a great deal. Things have improved since then. Maybe it’s because he has started college now, has a steady job, and the careless days of summer are over, but I’m sure it will be an issue again off and on. You might say it’s because of my lenience that he has become this way. Maybe, but I don’t think so. I think the result would be the same or worse had I been stricter.
I came from a strict beginning, but my parents divorced when I was 16, and after that, my mom didn’t care much what I did. She bought me booze, let me and my friends party at my house, and I had no curfew. It was a messed up time. She drank too much, had loud, all-night parties at our house on nights when I had school in the morning. She would sometimes call me in the middle of the night, drunk off her ass, to tell me she was going to drive home now.
I won’t say that I turned out okay, because who knows what okay is? I have struggled with drinking at certain times in my life and will again, I’m sure; I have serious bouts of depression, severe anxiety; the works. But who’s to say that my tumultuous adolescence had anything to do with that. I don’t know how my kids will turn out and if my approach to raising them is right or wrong, but I can say that I know where they are, what they’re doing, and who they are with most of the time. We had to work at this trust relationship; it didn’t just happen. My daughter has tried on several occasions to step outside the loose boundaries I set, but she usually gets busted, so now she’s pretty much on the level with me all the time.
I guess it’s a work in progress and maybe someday I will be able to say I took the right course in my parenting. For the most part, my kids stay out of trouble. One thing I can say for sure, that many of their friends cannot, is that they know they are loved and that I care about what happens to them, and I know they feel they have it much better than most of their friends.