Skip to content

Earwax, Turkey Cocks and Bongs Under Blankets

Teenager copyA letter to myself when my children are teenagers.

 

My mother always says the “best” parents are people who do not have kids (or don’t have kids the same age as yours, or theirs are grown). In under five seconds, these people think they can accurately pinpoint and diagnose your parenting failures. Proud of their insight, they are usually more than willing to enlighten you. Their advice often comes, serendipitously, when you really need someone to express what a horrible parent you are, like on a day when your child was up sick all night and you are rushing to the vet, smelling like baby vomit, because the dog went into anaphylactic shock after being stung by a bee.

So in honor of my mother’s saying, and since, like my father, I enjoy giving inexperienced and unsolicited advice, I am writing a letter to myself – 13 years in the future – when I have a 16-year-old and 15-year-old. Here are my guidelines for raising teenagers based on exhaustive research conducted during my seven month career as an algebra teacher and my own experiences from high school. (My future self, I’m sure, was never a teenager.)

Mind you, just like all those other turkey cocks that are doling out bad advice, I think mine is first-class, and that it will be welcomed and pertinent when I am actually in the situation.

Dear Chris,

Do you miss your sweet babies, their soft skin and small feet? Do you miss the hugs, the kisses and the adoration? First I want to ask you a couple questions. Are the boys at least sleeping the whole night in their own beds by now? Did they go through the awkward Sansbury chubby phase right before shooting up six inches? How long have they both been taller than you?

Here are the six things you need to know to raise the perfect teenager:

1. Get a life — I know that all these “The More You Know” commercials say micromanage your kids like you’re the Lead Response Implementation Coordinator, but hovering is not a guarantee that they will never have sex, do drugs or steal a car and do donuts on the high school football field. You need to start getting your own interests going again, becoming who you wanted to be before you had children. This counteracts the (expected) parental hatred that, from what I understand, is a shock when it happens to you. (And you thought you were a “cool” parent.) Play hard-to-get. You need to do this for another reason. They will be out of the house in only three years (yes, they will), and you don’t want to start from scratch then. You’ll be too depressed.

(You always said you were going to go to med schoolvaccinate kids in Africa and go back to the Sistine Chapel on a day that it is actually open. Have you done any of those things? Get busy!)

2. Make independence equal to responsibility — Our job as parents is to properly prepare our children to survive on their own. But I understand that it is a lot easier to just do things yourself than to teach your kids how to do it properly. (I am still chipping pancake batter off the ceiling, the walls and the side of the refrigerator from the last time I let the boys help make breakfast.) Yet they need to practice, in the safety of your home, making and living on a family budget, doing laundry, cooking dinner, paying car insurance, building credit and the myriad of other skills that they will need when they leave the house. So for every new freedom they demand, pick a new duty to pair it with. 

3. Get a go-to adult — Don’t think that your kids are going to feel comfortable coming to you with questions about sex and drugs. Set up an adult you trust to answer those questions. I can sense — even from 13 years in the past — that you are uncomfortable giving up control. If you are worried that your trusted friend will not give the high-quality advice you would, just remember your kids are more likely to ask their friends than you. And you won’t believe what their friends are telling them. Remember what your students told you when you were teaching? “If you put earwax on your finger, and it stings the girl, then you know she has an STD.”

4. Remember, you have already done your job — Most of your parenting is done at this point. If you FUBAR’ed their childhood, get ready to reap the benefits. All you should do now is have a few simple rules. Nicholas Sparks, the author of “The Notebook,” said in his memoir, Three weeks with My Brother that his father only gave his brother and him three rules:

  • Don’t get anyone pregnant .
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Be in by curfew.

I hope you have gotten some sleep the last few years because I assume you will be staying up late waiting for them to come home alive. (At least now you can sleep in.)

5. Just say later — Most kids will try marijuana. And many adults, like me, have had a college friend or two who smoked marijuana and still turned into a successful adult. But, as parents we are scared of our kids doing it because they do it far too young, and it is illegal (or is it in 2024?). Sit the kids down and tell them this: “Your brain is still forming. Wait until you are 18 (and out of the house) before you ever try marijuana. You do not want to fry the part of your brain that makes things seem interesting. Don’t EVER try anything else, and don’t ever carry marijuana on you. Although your best friend’s older brother may have discovered marijuana, (and sex, and rock and roll), police officers know what a six-foot bong under a blanket in the backseat of a Jeep Wrangler looks like (but only because of Google).” Then cross your fingers and say a prayer.

6. No sex till? — (Like a 15-year-old boy, I’ll make this quick.) This is SOO cheesy. You are going to lose respect for me when I say this but I have to go with … The Millionaire Matchmaker. Her rule is no sex (I’m talking all sex, not Bill Clinton’s definition of sex) without monogamy. And by that she means the relationship has been in place at least three months and stays exclusive. And tell those boys don’t ever think that a girl is just having sex with you for fun. The easiest girl, more than anyone, wants you to realize that she is the princess her dad never saw. Now, I hope you have already been talking to them about this. Remember when I asked my students what age they thought was too young to have sex? I was thinking 14. They said 8 or 9.

Maybe I’m hoping for a prude revolution.

See you in 13 years.

Love,

Me

P.S. If you have accidently had a daughter sometime in the last 13 years, Rule Six gets changed simply to: Pray.

Coming Soon: Hot dogs, Spankings and One Million Other Things I Thought I Would Never Do as a Parent.

Reposted from New Port Ritchie Patch

Published inPen Name Jane

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.