Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
I don’t know about you, but I think the teen years suck! I mean, what happened to our beautiful children? They went from being kind and caring into being total jerks! I believe the stickier point in these teen years has been that my daughters, all of a sudden, have decided that they’re equal to my husband and me. They argue. They literally argue we are equals. Which honestly is completely ludicrous! I don’t know why any mother would put up with that argument, and if you do, I’m going to give you permission not to! Okay? We are not equals. We have never been.
What do I mean by that?
My daughter said, “Well, aren’t we both human beings?”
“Yes. We are both human beings. We deserve respect as human beings, but that still doesn’t make us equal.”
I think the use of the word “equal” is overstated and underestimated. So, let me tell you how it works in our home. In our home, the parents are the final authority. That’s it! It’s all there is to it. And certain behaviors are never acceptable.
Like the other day, I watched American Housewife, one of my favorite episodes, and the daughter’s screaming at the mother. That never happens in our home. It’s never been acceptable. It will never be acceptable. My kids do not yell at me. They are not disrespectful. Not because I threatened to bash their faces the way my father would have done but because it’s never been tolerated. There’s going to be a serious consequence through the loss of privileges. So they know better. It just does not happen.
Now, before you go thinking, “Well, your kids must be different, or you’re giving us the “niceties,” but you’re not giving us the “uglies.”
Nope! Look. My kids don’t yell at me, and they know better than to be disrespectful to my husband or me, and they certainly would never yell at their father. But they’re your average teenagers. They lied. That seems to be a thing for teenage years. They all lie at some point or another. And they start hiding things, things that they used to share freely, silly things sometimes. They now hide them. And we accept that these things are not that big of a deal. They’re part of the individuating process, part of them disconnecting from us to become their own persons. We get that. We’re not offended.
But, even though teens are respectful. They always do want to argue about equality. They want to be equal to mom and dad. They’re not. They’re not, and it’s not even up for discussion. It simply isn’t. We’re not equal, and it’s not debatable. It doesn’t mean that we have an easy time when the kids start.
It’s annoying. It’s frustrating. Because let’s face it, being an older mom with teens is not easy. Sometimes it seems easier to give in, but this is not one of those times. At least, not for me. It’s one of my non-negotiables. We’re not equal, and it’s not up for debate.
Why aren’t we equal? Because parents are the responsible party. Okay? It’s not just that we’re responsible for their basic needs like food, shelter, safety, and medical care. It’s that we have to weigh the consequences of every single decision.
I don’t know about you, but I believe in vaccines. But let me tell you right now, with the new Covid vaccine, I spent countless hours trying to figure out if having a vaccine is a good choice. I typically wait a year or two when some new vaccine comes out before I’m willing to give it to my children. So, I have to weigh the risk of the vaccines with the risk of getting the disease.
Now, I fully understand. I fully understand that kids’ COVID risk is not as high as the risk for older people and older people with medical conditions. But the truth of the matter is that this particular disease is strange. My elderly father, who is in very poor health, and my elderly father-in-law, who is also in very poor health, survived it like it’s nothing! They were up and running in a matter of weeks. But you have some two-year-old that’s not supposed to be at high risk that passed away in a matter of hours, and a thirty-year-old that was physically fit passed away in a matter of a few days.
So, my husband and I spend a lot of time weighing the vaccine’s pros and cons. Our children don’t have the knowledge, experience, maturity that you had to have to make those kinds of decisions. They just don’t. And because they don’t, they are not our equal. In other words, they can’t contribute equally to the burdens and the challenges that a family entails. They can’t. It’s our job to carry that burden for them, to delegate that responsibility to them. I think it’s a travesty. I know it’s trendy for parents to do it, but I think it’s a travesty.
As someone who had to deal with those kinds of responsibilities at a very young age, I think it’s terrible. I mean, I remember having to make, literally, life and death decisions about my siblings at the age of ten because my parents were not around. Or my father was drunk, and my mother was chasing after him, trying to control him or trying to clean up after him. I had to make those decisions. And frankly, I look back, and I think it’s a miracle that none of us ever got seriously injured or hurt. I would never do that to my child. Ever!
And a teenager is a child. We forget that because they no longer look like children, but they are. Emotionally, physically, and mentally, they are not finished maturing. Talk to a doctor, talk to a behaviorist, they will tell you that the part of the human brain, which understands consequences, is not fully developed until the mid-’20s.
Why would you allow a fourteen-year-old, a thirteen-year-old, or a twelve-year-old to participate in making decisions with long-term consequences when they can’t understand those consequences? It’s just insane. It’s insane!
And look, accepting that they are not our equals, it’s part of adulting 101. We all had to go through a process in which we learned our place in this adult world. We were not equal to our boss at work. We were not equal to the super talented Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory type student, or maybe we were. But the bottom line is, at any given point in our adult lives, we have to accept that we are not equal to someone else.
I’m a good mom. But let me tell you, I’ve met moms that are better mothers than me. Where I’m sitting there, and I’m thinking, “Holy cow! How did they manage to do all of that? Do it so well and so effectively and with such positivity?”
I don’t always have that positivity. I admire it in other people, but it’s not me. It’s not me.
I was a great student. Absolutely fabulous. I had excellent grades, but I had to admit I was not the best student. I had to work full-time. And so sometimes, there were things that I couldn’t do to get the perfect grades. So, I had to accept someone who had higher grades than I did. I didn’t like it, but that was the reality. And we don’t do our children any favor when we bring them up in this crazy belief that everybody’s equal, everybody’s the same. No… No!
People have different levels of maturity, diverse talents, different skills, different experiences. Sometimes higher or better than us. Sometimes lower or not as good as us. And we have to understand where we fall on that pecking order.
One of my girls recently said that she wanted some clothing or accessory, and I said no. In part because we’re going through this process where I’m not buying them things anymore. They are starting to earn their own money, and they’re starting to have to deal with their own expenses. (But that’s the next episode.)
And she said to me, “Why not?”
Now, you know, there are days when I will sit there, and I will explain, “Well, we have this going on, or we have that going on, or I just bought this for you.” Or whatever the case might be.
But there are also days when it’s just, “I’m not discussing it with you. Decision made. I’m in charge of the budget. We’re done.”
But in this case, I said, ‘Well, you know we’ve had a lot of house expenses recently.”
And her response was, “Well, you just got a new pair of boots.”
Do you know what I do when they do something like that? I go into their closet, take their favorite item away. Sometimes I give it away, and sometimes I return it when they become more appreciative of what they have. Why? Because let me tell you, she doesn’t have the level of responsibility that I carry in this household. And more than 95% of the time, I will give up purchasing something for myself that I need or that I want to get something for them that they want. Notice, I said “want” not “need” because they have everything they need. That’s always a priority.
So, I’m not going to have her question me or disrespect me. So, if she questions why I got a pair of boots? Well, guess what? She just lost her brand new pair of boots. I still haven’t decided whether she’s getting them back or not.
And of course, they’re going to say, “It’s not fair!”
They don’t go as far as to say, “I hate you,” because they know there’s no coming back from that one. If I was going to take one pair of boots away and donate them or give them a vacation… If they yelled, “I hate you,” I would be taking some other thing for the I hate you and some other item for the yelling. And let me tell you, for the yelling? They definitely would not be getting it back.
So, don’t get trapped by your kid s’ inflated opinion of themselves. Remember, they’re just starting out the teen years. They are going to get out of line. That’s okay. But it’s your job as a parent to bring them back in line, to bring them back to reality.
I mean, can you imagine going to work and saying to your boss, “It’s not fair that you have a better chair than I do!” Go and try it and see where that gets you. So bringing them back to reality is preparing them for adulthood. But that doesn’t mean put we should put or teens down or bring them down.
Look, when I was my daughters’ age, I was for sure one hundred percent certain that I could solve global problems. Issues that society has not been able to solve for hundreds, thousands of years, since the beginning of time. But I was confident that I had the solution. I was certain that if my father only listened to me, he wouldn’t have an alcohol problem. I was certain that if my mother only listened to me, she wouldn’t be depressed because my father had an alcohol problem.
In this world where the media continually tells our kids that everybody’s opinions are the same as fact or reality, everybody’s views are equal, our kids can get really carried away. And think that they know how to budget, they know how to make decisions for the family, they can solve global warming. And somehow, magically, they’re going to get everybody to agree to their solution. And I’m smiling because I just remembered a story from my childhood.
My aunt had bought us all these boots. My mom had told us not to put on these boots anymore because they were like two years old, but we all love them. One of my sisters decided to put on the boots anyhow. The zipper got stuck, and we couldn’t get these boots off of her.
My younger sister comes out and goes, “I have a great idea!”
And well, my first impulse was, “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
I thought to myself, how many times have my parents said something like that to me. So I allowed her to share her idea.
So, she says, “I can go into the kitchen, get a knife, we’ll cut off her foot (this is a true story), then we can peel off the boot and then glue the foot back on.”
Yeah… True story! Isn’t that an amazing solution?
It also brings me back to mine when I had a grease fire in the kitchen and almost burned the house down. Why? Because I thought in my teen mind that the way to put out a fire was to throw water on it. So, what do I do? I throw a glass of water on this grease fire, and it goes… Kaboom! And the curtains catch on fire, and the kitchen is starting to smoke out. Lucky for me. One, my father was sober. Two, he was there, and he was in a good mood, and he rushed in, and he put a cover on the pan, and the moment was saved.
No matter how tempted we are to turn over the reins to our kids because they’re mature or intelligent, we have to factor in the lack of experience and naivete. None of those things have changed. That’s what makes the teenage years so challenging both for the kids and parents. The kids are trying to individuate, and they think they understand more than they do.
I was a very mature teen. I was a very responsible teen. I didn’t have a choice. But there I was, I almost burned the house down, and that was nothing more than lack of experience. Today if I were to see a grease fire, put a cover over it. Not a big deal. I wouldn’t even give it a thought.
So, it’s not right to ask our teens, even though they’re asking us to allow them equality, because that equality is not real. What is real is that when you fight with your child, you weaken your own authority. And some things should be non-negotiable. I firmly believe that this is one of them.
I’m not going to burden my child with the responsibility of an adult. I’m not going to delegate my responsibility as an adult to my child. It’s not going to happen. And frankly, those types of arguments never lead anywhere productive. They’re just going to spiral out of control. You’re going to get yourself in the situation where you’re going to yell at one another, which diminishes your position. But I do get why some moms do it. Cause here you have your kid driving you crazy, you have so many things going on, and you’re lull into a false sense of security.
I have a very responsible child out of my three teen girls. She’s responsible. She’s mature, and she handles bad situations better than the others, at least on the surface. The reality is this child also suffers from social anxiety. This child’s also a people pleaser. And because of those things, she can be pressured into doing something or making decisions that are not right. Now, as she’s gotten older, she’s gotten better, but she’s still not there yet. She still needs time.
And the teen years are part of childhood. They’re not adults. Remember that. They’re not adults just because they look like adults. It’s okay that we forget sometimes. We all make mistakes. But the bottom line is, they’re not adults. We have to remain the captains of our families. And while the teenage years are part of a transition that gives our teens more power, we can’t just turn it all responsibility over. It’s a process in which you slowly give them more and more responsibility and more freedom as they show more maturity and the ability to handle both those freedoms and those responsibilities. Because let’s face it, with freedom comes responsibility. Ultimately there’s nothing genuinely free in life.
So, not turning over the wheel to our kids is part of adulting for older moms. No matter how tempted we are. No matter how crazy they’re driving us. We can’t turn over the wheel just yet. We have to walk a road with them to help them mature as they acquire more freedoms and responsibilities. We have to help them become self-sufficient, independent adults if we want them to be happy. I don’t know if any mom out there doesn’t want their kids to be happy, have a good life.
So, when it comes to certain things, my husband and I always have the final word, and our kids know it. We make the decisions on safety. We make the decisions on health issues. We make the decisions on education, and we make the decisions in their preparation for adulthood. We’re always willing to hear their opinion and discuss their feelings about those movements forward. But the final decision is on us because we’re the ones with the emotional, physical and mental maturity to understand the consequences and the fact that we can’t always protect our children despite our best intention, despite our research, despite our maturity level. We are the ones that have to take that responsibility on, not them. Not them.
Can you tell I feel strongly about this issue? That’s because I do. Childhood is a very brief period in time. Teenage years are the transition from childhood to adulthood. And I really believe that our kids need the appropriate amount of support and guidance in order to navigate these years successfully.
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