See, elementary school parties are one thing. I can allow total hedonistic revelry for a group of 8-year-olds. At that age, living life on the edge means eating all the icing off the tops of the cupcakes and chasing after each other with sticks. That, I can do.
But we are now entering the age of hormones and rebellion. And as much as I love being the “Cool Mom,” it’s time for me to clamp down.
Recently, a North Carolina couple was charged with aiding and abetting underage drinking when an 18-year-old wedding guest died in a car wreck after consuming whisky and wine at their house. Though they were found to be not guilty, the incident has spurred much discussion about the role of parents as friends to and facilitators for their children.
As a teen, I knew people whose parents could be counted on to buy us beer. They thought it was safer for us to be with them. We thought they were super cool.
I don’t want to be cool.
Not that I don’t understand the impulse. I love my kids and want to be around them all the time. I want us to be friends. But, as their mother, I cannot be their friend.
Children need structure, limits and boundaries. As the adult, it is my job to set expectations and enforce behavioral standards. I am not naive enough to expect that my kids will always do as I say, but I do know that clear rules and consequences are developmental assets required for adolescent growth.
It’s no secret that I grew up in a youth-gone-wild culture. And I’ve seen the fallout from that- friends lost to car wrecks and overdose, suicide and too-young heart attacks. This is not what I want for my children.
So, how does one strike a balance between being close with one’s child and too close? How do we stay involved, but allow them to exert independence? Where do we let them make mistakes and how do we help them manage failure?
What I learned is that, above all else, it is important to create an environment of trust and clarity. They trust you to set limits, and you trust them to abide by the rules. There is a mutual understanding of repercussions for transgression.