Kidding. There is no ‘Parenting 101’. If parenting was written like a manual – if that were even remotely possible – it would not only be the easiest job/role to do in the world, but it would also probably lack in how rewarding the experience would be.
There’s no manual, no instructions and most advice will not work outside the ‘this is how you test if the bath temperature isn’t too hot’ – mainly, it’s about a lot of listening, thinking, communicating and using one’s gut instincts to navigate around obstacles and much growing pains (for both child and parent alike).
Personally, I also rely on my own experience. I try, really, really try (with many failed attempts along the way) to remember what it was like to be my daughter’s age. Ahh… it’s so not as easy as it sounds. Believe me I get more non-parents who think they have the answers of ‘how they would do it’ but until one becomes a parent, they do not realize many answers are not as black and white as they appear. And being an aunt/uncle does not count. Most parents I know understand this – and all they can do is nod with empathy. They may share their own story if they have a similar one to whatever problem I may be facing but it comes with the unspoken words, ‘take what you can get from my story… and good luck!’
Being a parent of a teen girl – and never having the experience of raising a teen – I’ve REALLY had to search back down memory lane to remember all the emotions I went through as a teen. What I have discovered is that being a teen is a bitch. I’ve triggered so many emotions – a roller coaster of them. Oh I am so glad being a teen is just one phase in my life. While I do have some great memories, there are many other eras of my life I’d rather live through again (all of them being past my teen years).
An area I am treading carefully with at the moment, well… is a teen’s love life. I recall how strict my parents were with me. First, I was not allowed to have a boyfriend until I was at least 18 years old.
So what did I do? I had a boyfriend at 14, 15 and 17. They didn’t know any of them because I knew they would not approve.
Then as I approached 18 and was about to prepare myself to tell them about my then boyfriend, I was told I had to wait until I was in university. Seriously?
So what did I do next? I would sneak out at 2am to meet my secret boyfriend.
My mom also told me not to have sex until I was married.
Yeah, well… that wasn’t going to take. While I was still technically a virgin, I definitely was sexually active. I lost my virginity in my early 20’s.
One thing I learned from my own experience growing up as a teen – there’s just such things a parent can not control. We can place rules, curfews and expectations (which really amount to teaching our daughter what team work involves in our household – we all pull our own weight). But to tell them not to have a boyfriend/girlfriend is like asking them to never have a crush or attraction. To tell them when they can be sexually active is like us trying to control their bodies.
My daughter’s friends have extremely strict parents. For example, one of them is not allowed to invite boys over. EVER. Even while the parents are home. So, the daughter does not invite any boys over. However, her parents probably have no idea she has had a boyfriend for most the school year. Even I know who he is (my daughter tells me everything in confidence). I mind my own business. There you have it though. I would prefer not only to know my daughter has a boyfriend – but also have him come over to our house so I can meet him and get to know him. Home advantage is an advantage for a reason.
I am not stupid – I see the stubbornness in my daughter. She comes by it honestly from both my husband and myself. She is strong-minded and she’s going to make her own decisions as she sees fit.
And so I decided to do whatever I can to keep the communication open – I figured so long as she’s aware of the risks she is taking when she decides to have a serious boyfriend, when she decides to be sexually active, etc., she will hopefully make the best decision for her. Much of it in then end involves a bit of faith. And maybe a prayer or two.
As a parent, it’s not even about worrying whether or not she will practice safer sex. My hope is for her emotions to be protected. I want her to be doing it purely for herself and I hope her first time will not be regretted in anyway. Sure I’d rather her wait – isn’t it ideal to wait until one is in love with their partner? It’s not necessary – but personally, it’s what is preferred.
But… I can’t control her future. Just like my parents could not control mine.