|The Goldin Rules: |
Guidelines for Parents Trying to Make It Through the Teen-age Years
By Barbara Diamond Goldin, © 2001
Published in Hampshire Life, March 3, 2000
After six and a half years sharing a house with teenagers, I have collected some "rules to live by" for those who have yet to embark on this part of the parenthood journey, or those who are immersed in it and losing perspective rapidly. And, by the way, this whole thing starts well before your kid hits 13. Try 12, or even 11. Here goes.
Rule #1: Never ask teenagers how they are in the morning. Don't even say good morning, especially if they have just woken up, unless you want to hear them shout, growl, snort, grunt, scream, throw a towel at you or, even worse, their backpack weighted down with schoolbooks.
Rule #2: Never expect teenagers to go to bed before you do. You will just have to get used to waking up every half hour or so and shouting in their general direction, "When are you going to go to sleep already?" until they do, which may be as late as 2 or 3 AM, even on a school night. Do expect to lose sleep as you did when they were babies, but, on the bright side, you won't have to change those poopy diapers.
Rule #3: Do let your teenager sleep in every Saturday and Sunday, snow day, vacation day, etc. until at least noon. (See Rule #1) Also expect your local school system to schedule the high school day to begin at 6:30 AM so that teenagers, who love to sleep in, will have to be the first ones at school in the entire school system. This doesn't help when it comes to Rule #1 either.
Rule #4: Once teenagers have given you a fact as in "Tae Kwon Do is at 7:30-9PM, Tuesday and Thursday nights", never expect them to tell you this fact again. This is especially a problem if you, have reached middle age and must have everything repeated 5 or 6 times. Do carry around a notebook whenever you are around your teenager for reasons stated above.
Rule #5: Never expect teenagers to tell you who they're going to the mall with, or the movies with, or downtown with. The best you can expect is, "With people Mom. Why do you care anyway?" Remember one of their main operating premises is: Keep parents in the dark whenever possible.
Rule #6: Never expect teenagers to share with you what happened at school, after school, in the evening, or any time. The word "share" when it comes from them to their parents is not in their vocabulary. Of course, the concept of "share" from their parents to them, as in money, of the car, is.
Rule #7: Never expect to "share" the family car. (There's that word share again.) And don't worry. You won't be the only middle-aged adult in America who is home on a Saturday night vehicle-less, wishing you could drive over to the convenience store to get a soda or a cup of coffee or a lottery ticket. By the way, you'd better get that lottery ticket, maybe 2 or 3, with the way college costs are skyrocketing. And just think, now you know what it feels like to be a teenager who doesn't have a driver's license yet.
Rule #8: Do not let teenagers ever hear you mention their name when you are talking to a friend of yours on the phone. They do hear everything you say to your friend, though they will not hear a thing you say to them when you are standing directly in front of them talking about such things as their homework, report card, their chores for the week, or how much money they borrowed from you to go to the movies last night.
Rule #9: Never finish your teenager's leftovers, as in Chinese takeout, without permission, even if said leftovers have been in the refrigerator for more than two days. There will be repercussions! And never mind the fact that you paid for them in the first place.
Rule #10: Do go through your teenager's trash before you take it to the dump. Keep a lookout for revealing notes that have been torn up, revealing notes that have not been torn up, the valuable ring your daughter has not been able to find for over a year, and who knows what else. Do not, however, let them know you do this until they graduate from college and/or (whichever happens first) move out. If they ask you what you are doing storing their trash in the hall closet, or what you are doing rifling through it, say you are separating out the recyclables. They know you're a nut anyway!
Rule #11: Do go to all football games, fencing meets, drama club presentations, etc., not so much to watch your teenager do all those things you have paid so much money to support in lessons, equipment, and bake sale goodies, but so you can talk to your teenager's friends' parents and find out what they know about what's going on. Any tidbits are useful since you get no tidbits about much of anything at home. And, if the event goes on all day, your teenager will forget you're there and you can be as close to a fly on the wall as you're going to get.
Rule #12: Do, when you go with your teenager to practice driving, take your inhaler (or whatever means of resucitation you require), especially if you have a stick shift. Do not think that just because you are paying an enormous sum of money to a driver's education company to teach your teenager to drive that you will also get out of driving with your teenager in your own vehicle.
Rule #13: Never expect teenagers to tell you when they start dating. You'll find out one day when you come home from work, see a strange car in your driveway, peek through the living room window, and spot a teenager of the opposite sex sprawled right next to your teenager on the couch. This will definitely throw you for a loop and you will suddenly find yourself hyperventilating. (See Rule #12)
Rule #14: With teenagers, expect things to change rapidly from one minute to the next. (See Rule #13) As in, it's summer. Your teenager daughter comes home from her job as a camp counselor and announces, "I'm exhausted. They never let me get a wink of sleep at that camp. I'm going to bed."
You do an errand and are back fifteen minutes later. She's now sitting at the dining room table asking to borrow the car.
"But I thought you were going to sleep?" you say.
"Oh, I can't," she says. "I have to pick up Gill and Hank and Dan and Stefanie. We're all going roller skating."
Rule #15: If you have two teenagers in the house, do not expect that raising the second will be a cinch. After all, you've been through it with #1, you think. Oh no. Instead, expect the second to do exactly the opposite or at least something very different from the first so you can't rely on past experience for anything.
Rule #16: Think about joining a support group. Parents of Teenagers Anonymous anyone?