So, the teen years, am I right? I tell you, we just started, this is our first year. And it’s not fun. Not fun at all. And I started thinking a lot about it because when we had the girls, we took a very different perspective than I think a lot of young parents do, which is that we knew that teen years were going to be challenging. So, we knew we had to parent with a purpose. What do I mean by that? I remember still being pregnant, and this was before I was put on bed rest.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of my friends and her teen daughter. And as I arrived at their home, they were in the front yard, and they were arguing. This was a full-blown argument. You would’ve thought it was two adults speaking to one another. I had never seen anything like this, okay? Mom was yelling at the daughter; the daughter was yelling at the mom. The words just kept escalating more and more and more. And the whole time I was thinking, “Holy Shit! It was like two adults, head to head”.
Now I had never seen that in my house, okay? Yes, I have two sisters. One challenged mom more than the other, and I was “Ms. Goody Two Shoe,” which meant that I basically didn’t do anything that I got caught for. Not that I didn’t do things, I just didn’t get caught, ‘cause I had this I’m-a-good-kid kind of thing, and you never really knew what I was doing. But the one thing that we didn’t do is we never dared to yell at our mom. It just didn’t happen! Our dad would’ve killed us! Hell! Our mom would’ve killed us! And I didn’t know quite how to react to this yelling match between a twelve-year-old (she wasn’t even a full-blown teenager) and my friend. And I have never seen my friend lose it like that either.
This wasn’t the only time I saw something like this, okay? I saw it over and over. When the girls were getting into the pre-teen years, we saw one of our friends, one of the dads, arguing with one of the kids. And it was, “I’m going. No, you’re not. I’m going. No, you’re not.” And dad’s pulling, and the kid is pulling in the opposite direction. And again, all I can think is, “Holy shit! Are you kidding me? It comes to this!”. We never saw it in our home. I mean, frankly, I was too deathly afraid of my father. But I was also deathly afraid of my mother, and my mother only spanked me three times in my whole life; she laid her hands on me.
But I grew up with this idea, in Mexico, you hear a lot of this, “If you touch your mom, your hand will wither, and it will fall off!” And they tell you this stuff since you’re a young kid! So, I think that’s a little bit of parenting with a purpose, meaning they were planning ahead by the time you can get into a physical altercation with your parents, you wouldn’t dream of doing it.
But that was certainly not what I’m seeing among our friends. I was seeing among our friends that those altercations were getting crazier and crazier as the kids got further and further into the teenage years. So, my husband and I got into this conversation and said, “You know we need to nip some of these behaviors in the bud from the beginning. What can we do now, when they’re young, when they’re still willing to listen, so we don’t have to deal with these problems later on?”
Now, I’m going to be very honest with you; my kids are not perfect. Nobody’s kids are perfect. We love to tell you that they are, but they are not. I mean, kids are kids. And the teen years are very difficult because you are going through that individuation process, you’re separating from your parents, you’re trying to find your own political views.
I mean, my house is kind of interesting. My husband is a staunch republican. I’ve always been an Independent; there have been times that I voted for Republicans, times when I voted for Democrats. And in today’s political climate, where politics have become so polarized, and there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground, my daughters are trying to figure out who they are politically. And so I said, there are some interesting heated discussions. But there is no lack of respect.
My husband and I have never cursed at one another. We have never cussed at one another. Maybe mentally, you know, you get messed up, you think things. But they don’t come out of our mouths because we wanted to live by example, and that was one example that we wanted to set for the girls. It’s not appropriate to talk that way to your partner (from our perspective). It’s not appropriate for parents to use that language with the kids (from our perspective again). You know, every family is different.
Our kids know there’s a time and a place, and they know no matter how heated the discussions become, they’re not allowed to use that kind of language with us. We also made it very clear early on there were not going to be any physical altercations. There never has been between my husband and me. There’s never been between the kids and me. I remember very early on, Andy was giving us, oh my gosh, that girl she was a hellion. And the fact that she has ADHD, she was hyperactive. Imagine a hyperactive hellion, it’s like the Tasmanian devil, okay?
And I did spank her once. Once! We had this playset in the backyard that was really very tall; it was like five-feet tall. And she very much on purpose pushed her sister, who could have broken something and become injured. And I remember checking her inside and explained I’m going to spank you because you did this, that and that, and so I spanked her. Her bottom was pink.
And then I thought, what am I going to do next time she does something wrong? Am I going to spank her? How am I going to get through to her? Am I gonna escalate the spanking? Then and there, I decided, “You know what, this isn’t for me. I don’t wanna do this. I don’t want to spank my children.” My father spanked us, and it was three times with a belt. And we couldn’t sit for weeks. You know, we would get welts. He never drew blood, but these welts were horrific. And my husband supported that because he also came from a spanking family. They had a wooden paddle, and they drew holes in the paddle so that when the wind dragged, there wouldn’t be any resistance, and the pain would be greater. So, at that point, we decided, we spanked her once, and we’re done. We’re done.
So, we took the love and logic approach, which I highly recommend. It’s a really good program, and it’s based in Denver, Colorado, I believe. And there are some great love and logic books out there (that is the actual name of the program), which is basically learning through consequences. Now, I’m gonna be very honest with you, we worked on the program for many years. We were really good at it.
One of the key signals was, “Oh, bummer.” Man, the kids hated hearing those words! You can just see their whole face change! People will come into our house, and if we ever said, “Oh, bummer, that was not a good choice.” And we said it like that really nicely, right? And they would see our kids react like, “Oh my God, the world is coming to an end.” And our friends would laugh and say, “What the hell was going on?!”. And it meant, that was a consequence. And it was usually a natural consequence.
One of the hardest ones we ever did was we were at Disney, Andy would not behave. She was in her full, I’m gonna do whatever I want and you people cannot stop me mode. And we had just gone to lunch at CC’s, and she’s been acting up the whole time, and we were planning to go Putt-Putt Golfing at Disney at the Disney course. And so we said, “Oh, bummer,” and her face just froze, and we said, “You know, you’ve been making so many bad choices today, and unfortunately you’re not going to go Putt-Putt Golfing at Disney.
And I don’t think she believed us because the whole family had been really looking forward to this. So she’s thinking, “Well, you know, are they really going to do this to my sister? Are they really going to do this to themselves?” and the answer was, “Yes. Yes, we did.”
Sister and daddy got to go golfing at Putt-Putt Golfing at Disney while mom sat and listened to music in the car, and Andy wailed in the back. She just screamed and cried and carried on for about ten minutes! Because, well, I wasn’t rushing my husband and my other daughter; she didn’t do anything wrong. And about ten minutes into it, when she realized she wasn’t getting a reaction from me, she decided she had enough. She asked me for a drink of water, and then she said, “I did make some bad choices, mom.” And I said, “Yes. Yes, you did. She said, “I’m really sorry you made those choices. I really would have enjoyed going Putt-Putt Golfing, but you know, maybe it was just something you needed to get out of your system.” And she’s, like, “No Mom. I just wanted –” I don’t even remember what it was she wanted. She was very upfront.
So, we did start early on. It hasn’t always been easy, and on that, I’m also being upfront with you. It hasn’t always been easy. They’ve made mistakes; we’ve made mistakes. We might be older parents, but these are our only children. Right? I think the only one that has an advantage here is Bug, our five year old. Because when we had the twins, and Dora came in at the same age level as the twins, so they’re kind of, like, in that we’re doing trying new things for the first-time situation. But Bug gets the benefit of the other kids. He’s the only one there.
Teen years, they haven’t been disrespectful. They do know that some things are not appropriate. They do know that there’s some kind of language that is acceptable to use with their friends and is not acceptable to use a home. They also know that it’s not okay to raise their voices, raise their hands to us, or to one another, okay? So, so far, so good.
I think our biggest challenge has been lying, okay? And Andy’s the one that pushed that envelope. She’s really pushed it. Emmi, she gets caught, she’ll come clean ‘cause she knows it’s only going to get worse if she doesn’t. If she accepts responsibility, we can move forward. Andy doesn’t. I don’t know what it is, she’ll lie, and then she’ll lie again, and she’ll try to keep it going. And I’m looking at her going, “Really?” And I’ll even say, “You know, I am going to give you an opportunity to come clean.” Which should be a big clue I already knew you lied. But no, she pushes it. Now granted, none of the lies have been big lies or anything really significant. But I don’t understand why she has to do it in the first place, and I find it really frustrating.
Dora has also challenged me because she would just put it out there, you know. It’s not like she’ll hide what she’s thinking or feeling. I think the most shocking one was that she had done something wrong, and I asked her, “Why did you do this?” and she said, “Cause being mean is fun.” I was like, “What? What are we thinking here?!” But we haven’t experienced that in-your-face verbal altercation, that tug of war that we’ve seen other parents that become embroiled in with their pre-teens or teenagers. And I think that’s because we started working on those boundaries very early on. We were conscious not only of the impact it could have on the kids but on the fact that we’re older parents, okay?
Like, look right now with my accident where both of my knees got messed up. It would be so easy for me to end up on the floor on my knees again. I already know that I would need a knee replacement, but that doesn’t mean I need to re-injure my knees or that I need to go and have surgery during the middle of the pandemic because I’ve been in an accident again. And the girls are conscious of it. My husband is still a big guy, and he’s still a strong guy. But the girls know that that’s not a place to go.
I think that the most physical of the kids is Bug. You know you to give him a hug or tickle him, and he gets a little bit more physical than he needs to be. I don’t know if that’s because he’s a boy, because of the age. We’re working through that because we’re definitely going to be older when he’s a teenager. So, he really needs to have established boundaries by then.
The other thing that we did is we admit to mistakes. We make a mistake, we admit to it, we apologize. I think it’s important to be honest with our kids that we’re not perfect, that we don’t always have all the information, that sometimes we get really upset and we are unwilling to listen to the information. There have certainly been situations where I haven’t been as patient as I would like to be. Or frankly, where I don’t know what the hell to do! It’s like how do they come up with these things? Once I calmed down, and I remember I came up with these things too when I was a teenager. I was very imperfect as a teenager. I didn’t get caught doing a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t do them. And I also understand that my kids are different.
I never bothered treating my kids the same because they’re not carbon copies of one another, okay? Emmi has certain behaviors. Andy has certain behaviors. Dora has certain behaviors. Bug has certain behaviors. Completely different personalities. Completely different challenges. And it’s always been like that since the twins were babies since Dora and Bug came to live with us. They’re different children. So, the rules are not the same. If you show me you can be trustworthy, then you get more privileges. If you make poor choices, you get fewer privileges. And when they come to me and go, “Well, she gets to –” Don’t even go there. She’s not you. You’re you. Your situation is yours. Our relationship as parent and child is one. Our relationship over here as parent and child is entirely different.
And that’s another thing that I’ve watched my friends experience that we knew we were going to nip in the bud. The, you don’t treat us the same. You’re not the same. We’re not going to treat you the same, and it’s always been like that. Do they like it? Not when they get in trouble, not that they want to do something that their sibling can do, and they don’t get to do. But of course, when they get that privilege, they’re in hog heaven! And they like to lord it over the one that doesn’t have it. So it was just the way that it is, right?
I called it parenting with a purpose because our purpose was to be cognizant of the fact that as older parents, we were going to be physically weaker than our kids. And frankly, we were going to be mentally weaker too. One of the things I noticed once I went into surgical menopause is that my memory isn’t what it used to be, okay? I have a semi-photographic memory. Unfortunately, post-surgical menopause, what happens is, I have a perfect picture in my head but somehow, it doesn’t come out of my mouth. And I don’t remember things the way that I used to. I mean, oddly enough, I remember things the further they get away, but in the immediacy, there’s so much going on that I don’t remember anything. (Well, not anything; I do remember lots of things). It just so happens that most of the time, when they ask for instant recall, I don’t know what they were talking about.
And before you think, “Oh, you should go see a doctor. Maybe you have early-onset dementia.” Well, all of my girlfriends my age have early-onset dementia. We all seem to be struggling with the same issue post-menopause. Our memories are not as good as it used to be. So when it comes to really important things, you know what, I take advantage of technology. I write it on my phone. I promise such and such a thing, on such and such a date.
And one of the things that we also did when the girls were young was if we promised something, we went through with it. But at the same time, very early on, we also taught them that even though we might promise something, and we might have the best intention to carry it through, things might happen that keep us from fulfilling those promises. I mean for their thirteenth birthday we wanted to take them to see Hamilton, the musical show.
This was a big deal for us, you know, it would be their big, they’re turning into-teenagers’ gift, and it’s also a big family trip (New York is expensive!) And we got the Hamilton tickets, and the pandemic hit, and we couldn’t do it. And while I saw some of our friends’ kids have some real challenges, screaming fits, crying jags over things that they were not able to do, our kids didn’t do that. Our kids were like, “Well, the situation changed. There’s nothing that you guys could do about it.” We were really disappointed, but unfortunately, it is the way that it is. And hopefully, once things settle down and over we’re able to do a trip.
One of my daughters even said, “You know, what happens if Hamilton isn’t on Broadway anymore? We’ll never get to see it.” It’s unfortunate, but it’s out of our control. The best thing that we could do is when it came out on Disney Plus, we all sat as a family, and we saw it together. And we had a lot of fun. And our co-op put in a little virtual Hamilton musical (an homage to Lin Manuel Miranda, and Alexander Hamilton of course).
So, parenting with a purpose. It was just parenting, keeping in mind that we were going to be a lot older than your average parent when the kids enter those difficult, challenging years, the teen years. I have to keep you posted and let you know how it’s going. So far, thirteen hasn’t been too rough. But hey, it’s just the beginning! Right? We have six more years to go! So excited for that! And then when they’re done, it’s Bug’s turn. And we’ll definitely be ancient by then!
Hey! You know how it can be lonely to be an older mom. I still get lots of moms that joined our Facebook group that says, “This is the first place that I’ve been to that has moms my age with kids my age.” Well, help me create and grow that safe place by sharing our journey when you share the link to our show, either Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. And if you have time, you can share them all three.
If you share an imperfect journey to motherhood, please subscribe to our blog or podcast. For links and resources please visit our website. Till next time… Toddles….