Parenting Teenagers (By Learning to Let Go)


My days of diapers, bottle feeding and baby proofing are long behind me. My “babies” are all well into the double digit age range at this point. As my kids grow older, I realize that some of the parenting decisions I have to make are more difficult and important because, well, I have someone logically arguing a case before me. My children never said, “Dear mother, please buy Diaper Brand A instead of Diaper Brand B because it is so much softer on my bottom” for example. Now I seem to be raising a household of little lawyer wannabes making their case for all sorts of things.

My oldest daughter just turned 17 and my older movie buff son bought her her first R-rated movie to own for her birthday, which didn’t really surprise me. When he was around 15, he came to me one day and asked me to watch some R rated movie with him. I was hesitant. I’m not an overly strict, sheltering parent by any means, but I still worry about what my kids are being exposed to. He very rationally pointed out to me that in the not so distant future, he would be 17 and could go see rated R movies in the theater, or purchase them himself, and didn’t I think it would be a good idea to start watching some with him so if he had any questions or concerns, I could answer them for him and help him discover what he could and could not handle on his own down the road? No how was I to argue with that? So I started watching movies with him on occasion. Nothing too “hard R”–I didn’t want either of us scarred for life–but I would occasionally have to remind him that if he wants to watch things like this, he’d have to learn to handle it like an adult. We moved forward and after he turned 17, he seemed to make good choices regarding what he could and couldn’t handle, and now that he’s in college he watches pretty much anything (though there are still things I remind him he wouldn’t want to watch with his mother). I’ve been a bit more lax with my other teenagers. I still regulate what I think they can handle, but I don’t automatically say “No” because of the rating. It’s a tough realization that our kids are growing up and actually can (and have to) handle some of the more adult things that they will see. I’ll be interested to hear what my daughter thinks of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” DVD her brother gave her. I have a strong feeling she’s going to love it.

Another big, scary step in growing up is dating. My daughter has been dating a very nice young man for a little over a year and a half now. When they first started seeing each other, some very concerned people would ask, “Oh, do you think that’s a good idea? Aren’t you worried about what might happen?” Well, I trust my child, as I have raised her to be a smart person. Yes, she’s a teenager and will make mistakes, but that’s part of growing up. I have no reason to keep her away from this young man just because he is of the opposite sex. I have to hope that I have instilled in her the responsibility to date and learn about adult relationships while still making good choices. Thankfully, so far, (knock on wood) that has all gone very well, and in many ways I think it has been good for her. Was it hard getting used to seeing my little girl giving some boy a kiss when I dropped her off? A little. But it gets a little easier every time I drive away. My son who just started high school is beginning to ask about going down that road, and I’ll just have to do my best at deciding when he’s ready to take the wheel.

There are so many other tough calls that come with letting our kids grow up. They want to dress in their own style, cut and color their hair or let it grow long and crazy, get piercings, learn to drive, hang out with their friends in public places without their parents lurking in the corner and spying on their every move, and more. It’s hard to let go and let them grow up. It’s hard to let them make mistakes and help them pick up the pieces when it’s over. It’s hard to let them start making their own way in the world when I just want to bake them cookies and talk about their days and wrap them in bubble wrap so nothing bad can ever happen to them. I know somewhere my mother is smiling and nodding because she’s been there, done that. But she’ll also still tell me to call her when I get home next time I visit because no matter how old we get, no matter how old our kids get, a mother’s job is never done.