“If you cross your eyes they will stick like that.” “If you keep rolling your eyes at me I will knock them into the back of your head.” “Do you want me to give you something to cry about?” “What did I just say?” “There are starving children that would love to have this food.” “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “If your friends all jumped off a bridge would you do it, too?” “I don’t care if (insert friend’s name) mom lets her do it.” “Do you want me to wash your mouth out with soap?”
Let us not forget the centuries old, “because I said so!”
In reading each phrase I hope that you begin to smile and could instantly hear these words, and the tone in which they were said, in your mind. With each phrase I thought of I could remember many of the scenarios in which they were said. For instance, when tongue piercings were all the rage in the mid to late nineties, I asked my mom if I could get one, too. After explaining all my teenage reason and logic of why it was important to me, I finally said, “Well, Dana’s mom let her get one!” Without skipping a beat, my mother said, “I don’t care if Dana’s mom let her do it. You will not be getting your tongue pierced.”
In hearing the finality of her words and tone in her voice, in predictable teenage fashion, I gave a guttural “aaaaargh” stumped my feet down the hall, into my room, and slammed the bedroom door. I mean, she damn well knew I was right, and that she was being unreasonable and uncool. It was only a stupid piercing. About a year later and in the wake of unrelenting attempts my mother finally caved and let me pierce my tongue. My uncle paid for my piercing and our neighbor, with is newly earned piercing certificate, pushed a gauged needle into my tongue while in the middle of his dining room. The pain, stiffness, and lisp talking was well worth the ability to tap it against my teeth and stick my tongue out with my badge of bravery and badassness. That was all at age 14.
In looking back to those numerous moments of teenage angst, poor choices, and the shit my mom said, I consider what will I be like as a mother as my daughter approaches her 14th birthday? So far, I think I have done a pretty good job of walking the tightrope that is being her mother, and being her friend. In the moments of being her mother, have I actually used those anger inducing phrases? You bet your ass I have! Let’s check the list off the list so far…
“What did I just say?” Check. “There are starving children that would love to have this food.” Check. “If your friends all jumped off a bridge would you do it, too?” Check. “I don’t care if (insert friend’s name) mom lets her do it.” Check. However, the one phrase that I have yet to use, by design, is “because I said so.” Has it been a phrase that I have wanted to use? Absolutely, and more times than I can count. The truth is, that I hated when my mom used it on me, and it really was a stupid answer. Now, would I have believed every legitimate and rationally explained answer? Of course not! However, it would have meant more if she had taken the time to try.
So, let me take you back to the moment that I knew I would never use the phrase, because I said so. No matter whether you love or hate him, Dr. Phil has some very reasonable parenting advice. In fact it is mainly common sense, but there are a few people in society that need those little reminders (insert eye roll). As a newly pregnant 20 year old mother to my first child, I could not believe that I was going be given a tiny human to take home and keep alive. “For the love all things holy, I don’t know how to be a parent,” was the message that my mind kept saying. So, what did any respecting impending mother do? Watch every episode of bad kids Dr. Phil had to offer. In watching the show I learned many things that I continue to use today, fourteen years later. However, the one statement Dr, Phil made that has impacted my parenting most was this,
“You are not raising children, you are raising adults.” (mind blown)
In hearing Dr. Phil say this, it change the way I have chosen to parent ever since. I have always wanted an open relationship with my daughter. To have the tough conversations, and explain why or why not. Please, do not misunderstand that I love my mother, and we have fantastic relationship. In fact, we have coffee together every Monday. However, in the time of my teenage years, as an overworked single mother, I can understand why time was not a luxury on her part, and so explanation was not a luxury either. In growing up, raising my own daughter, I knew that I had the time and luxury to have those important conversations and to explain why. From the time my daughter could talk, explanations, patience, and time have always been given to explain life, choices, decisions, and the world around her.
From the beauty of the smallest butterfly, to why ice cream is not a good breakfast, and all the things about puberty and sex. Dialogue has been the basis of my parenting, well our parenting, my husband included. In treating our daughter as intelligent as she is, sharing with her legitimate answers, and being honest with her no matter how bad things are (all within age appropriateness), we have found that she does the same for us. In have this type of relationship, she has began to confide in me about her thoughts and feelings about her friends, school, crushes, music, art, media, and life. It is one of the things I hold most dear about our relationship.
Am I a perfect, mom. Of course not. But what I have learned in spending time with my own mom; I have learned what type of mother I want to be and what type of mother I don’t want to be. The lessons learned in my mothers strengths and faults are lessons that have made me a better mother myself. In knowing all of that, I know that my strengths and faults will allow my daughter to be a better mother also. I mean, let’s face it, none of us are leaving childhood and adolescence unscathed from our parents shortcomings. Really, it’s our jobs as parents to screw our kids up a little bit, right? I does build character after all.