I am sitting on the couch remembering it all – the basement wall paneling, U2 blasting from a boom box, and yes, boys and girls making out. Where there are teenagers, there will always be making out. I normally don’t sit reminiscing about making out in high school, although marrying my junior high sweetheart does sometimes bring it back. But tonight, and every day lately, I am reliving the making out years, along with my teenage daughter. Let me explain by bringing you into my world.
I glance upstairs and see my daughter’s room, and the door is closed. I send her a text, “Open the door please.” A few minutes later she opens it. Funny, I didn’t even hear her boyfriend come over. He is here everyday which is strange because she said she didn’t want to get serious, as they are “both going away to college and all.” I try not to think about what “and all” entails and laugh how “not getting serious” must be code for seeing him everyday, and sneaking up to her room, and closing the door. Is there a handbook somewhere translating what teens really mean?
To keep from thinking what they are doing up there, or what they are doing when we are not home or when they are over at his house, I walk into the kitchen. His mom pops into my mind – sure she sounded nice in her text message to me the other day but what if they are “door closed” kind of parents?
Ben and Jerry will help me. They are always such a big help. I don’t know them very well, but they have become my best friends since my daughters became teenagers. The Fish Food calls out to me and I grab a spoon. I sit back down on the couch and dig in straight from the carton. With each spoonful, I try not to think about all those moments of making out I did, or when it became more. I turn on my favorite sitcom and try to focus. Just watch the TV, Beth.
Oh, no. It is a sitcom about teenage girls dating. Seriously? I always believe in the power of the Universe, but my Universe always seems to call me on my shit. Just when I am trying to emotionally drown out my feelings! I eat a few more scoops before giving up, or giving in, I am not sure which it is. I close the lid, and walk into the kitchen, thanking Ben and Jerry for trying. I guess I am going to have to think about his one.
In our house, the rule is – door open. I trust my daughter, but still, the door must stay open. Not that they can’t do whatever it is they are going to do whether the door is open or closed, or whenever they are not here. Our open door policy is not about trust, but rules. Teens need rules. And the rule in our house is, if there are boys in your room, the door is open.
There will always be rules and consistency in our house, and even if she continues to try not to listen, to close the door, twenty times in a row, we will continue to reinforce them, send her a text twenty times in a row, to please open the door. We will not give up, and will do our best to stay one step ahead of her.
Our open door policy is also a symbol for us telling her that we are here if she needs us. That we are here to protect her, and to keep her safe. That we still care about her, even if she is eighteen.
I hope she takes these rules, consistency and structure with her when she walks through the door for the last time, when she goes off to college. I hope as her identity is still forming, and she is trying to figure out wrong from right; what her own integrity entails, she can use our rules to jump off from, like a springboard. That she will have these rules in the back of her mind if she has had too much to drink or when alone with a boy, and there is nobody else around to tell her to open the door. I hope she remembers our constant calling, texting or yelling up to her to keep the door open.
Symbolically, it is also a message to her – that our door will always be open. Yes, you are going away to college, and going off on our own, but we are here. If you need to call, text or visit, we are here. Our door is always open. Do feel somehow this is important for our teens as they grow and test the waters of life, to always feel home is a place they can come home to – no questions asked. There is a saying, “don’t let the door hit you in the ass.” This is the furthest from the truth from how we will feel when our daughter leaves for college. We will hold the door open for her, and leave it slightly ajar for when she needs to come home or regroup.
I know someday, when she is conquering the world, or married or traveling across continents, I will remember the ongoing dialogue about keeping the door open. And I will smile, knowing it was all a part of growing up – for both of us.