Here’s what the mom of a teenage son promises him. Filled with wisdom and love, these promises transcend parenting styles.
Among other things, my 15-year-old has three tests today which translates into the kind of stress that makes a 15-year-old irritable and cranky, and because his internal clock tells him that he should be sleeping until noon, it’s challenging for him to get his shit together by 7AM. It’s not surprising then that this morning he forgot his tennis racket at home. I’m about to bring it to him because I can. It’s really that simple. If I could not bring him the forsaken racket, there would be no guilt in that. We all do the best we can.
As long as I am convinced that my teenage son has not intentionally left his stuff at home simply to anger me, I’m not going to spend another second analyzing the damage I’m doing to his burgeoning independence by rescuing him from himself. And, I’m not going to concern myself with whether I’m a “helicopter” mom, a “tiger” mom or a “no rescue” mom because I assure you that when it comes to parenting there will always be someone along the way who says, “Whoa-wrong way lady.”
This is what I can promise my teenage son:
I will endeavor to be the best parent I can be, every day.
Some days my best is going to suck and some days my best is going to be a sparkling moment in model parenting. I want you to learn, by watching me, that you can have an epic fail one day and a glorious success the next. Yes, two consecutive days can be that widely disparate.
[More on parenting teens here in “Note to Self”]
I will resist the inclination to label the way I parent.
Parenting defies pithy labels, because like individual personalities, it is far too variable and nuanced for any kind of simple characterization. I have come to realize that you will need me to be a different parent depending on the circumstances and your level of maturity. Sometimes you will need a helicopter, sometimes a parachute, and sometimes a tiger mom who will push you to be your best self without pushing you to the brink of self-destruction.
I will do my best to instill my values in you and I will follow my parenting gut by backing off when you need to have your secrets and by being in your face when that is what you need.
When I am confronted by an issue with which I have no experience, I will not pretend that I have the answers but I will be honest about my ignorance and work hard to find the answers that you need.
[More on the book, “The Gift of Failure” here]
I will try to keep you out of harms way, not just physically but out of any behavioral pattern that will do you irreparable damage.
I will guide you by trying to give you the long view of things. I promise that I will try to figure out the best way to help you succeed with the understanding that you are uniquely you and that your success may look different than anyone else’s. I will not take credit for your accomplishments but neither will I take the fall for your failures. I will do my best to remember that I have had my life and my opportunities and that you own your success as you own your failure. I will love you for who you are and not for who I want you to be.
What I will not do is give up on you, EVER. And, I will never be punitive for the sake of being punitive.
But, here is the real reason I am bringing you your tennis stuff; your grandfather, my deeply beloved father was a relentlessly kind person, brilliant, lovable, and chronically forgetful. I too am a forgetful person. If I call home because I’ve forgotten something, I would very much appreciate, if it’s possible, that someone help me out by bringing me the forgotten item. That is what families do for each other.
I’m going to rescue you because I love you and because it’s a kindness that I hope will seep into the very marrow of your bones. You will learn that the world can be hard but you need not learn it from me.
More by Helene Wingens:
To the Moms of Grown Sons: What We Want Them to Know
Dear Parent Freshman, You Need to Know This About Your Student
Crushing Culture of Parental Expectations
College Applications: When It’s Time for Your Kid to Decide
How a Parent Portal Undermines Kids’ Academic Success