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If you were online at all today there’s a good chance you saw this post, about how this woman’s sons are not allowed to be Facebook friends with certain girls anymore, because they had posted pictures that she deemed inappropriate. (I could write an entire post about the pictures of her own sons in bathing suits that accompany her post, but enough people have taken her to task for that glaring piece of hypocrisy – so much so that she re-posted the piece with different pictures.)
I’m tempted to write a letter to those same teen girls Mrs. Hall is addressing, letting them know that she’s a bit psycho and they really shouldn’t listen to a word she’s saying. But instead, I’d like to address all of the parents who agree with her. The ones who praised her in the comments. The ones who shared her post on Facebook and Twitter and showed it to their own kids.
When I was in college, one of my suitemates (I’ll call her Julie) came back from summer break really happy to be back at school. Over the summer, at her job, she’d gotten into a photobooth with some co-workers (some male, some female) and they’d taken some goofy pictures. In one of them, she took her shirt off, wearing just her bra. Let’s keep in mind here, Julie was 18 or 19 at the time.
Her mom found the picture. Julie hadn’t really hidden it – she didn’t think it was something she needed to hide. Now, Julie was a great kid by just about any standard: polite, got great grades, helped other people, was a great suitemate. I’d spent a weekend at her house that summer, and her entire family was fantastic.
But after finding the picture, Julie was nearly committed to a mental hospital (I’m not joking). Her mother went ballistic. She berated and belittled my friend, called her a slut, and took away just about every privilege she had. All this over a picture, one that was pretty tame for a college student, from an all-around great person who had never been in any trouble.
She kind-of cut her mom out after that. She didn’t trust her mom to have any perspective anymore.
Now let’s contrast Julie with one of our other suitemates (I’ll call her Brenda). Brenda came from a really weird family. Her parents called her all the time. They asked her probing questions about how she was spending every minute of her day. They were helicopter parents, ahead of their time.
When they visited, Brenda would hide her calendar in my room so that her parents wouldn’t see all of the parties and dates marked on it. She would also hand me a stack of pictures so that her parents would have no hint of her social life.
Brenda’s parents would brag to the rest of us about how perfect their daughter was. How hard she studied. How proud they were of her. How good she was.
What they didn’t know was that Brenda got drunk almost every night and slept with anything that moved.
Yes, she got great grades. I don’t really understand how, given how she spent her time, but that was really the only tangible thing they had to judge her by, so she made sure to impress them. And they were fooled.
So what’s my point here?
I have a few. The first is that the harder you try to control your kids, the more devious they will be. That doesn’t mean you should just turn a blind eye to whatever, but if you’re not raising them with an eye towards pushing them out of the nest, you’re going to find yourself in a shitload of trouble when they go off on their own for the first time. The letting go, the transfer of control from you to them, has to be gradual, with an eye towards letting go completely and hoping that the work you’ve been doing all along – teaching them common sense and courtesy and respect – will bear fruit.
The second is that if you come down on a minor transgression as though it’s the end of the world, there’s a good chance that you will drive your child away and make sure that she never comes to you with a problem or dilemma. Look at behaviors in the context of your whole child, and ask yourself: how does this fit with the direction my child is going in? How does this fit into the trajectory of his independence? Does he still need my hands-on guidance, or is it time to let him figure it out for himself, while I’m still nearby and waiting, should he need me?
The third is that we were all young once. Do you remember what it was like to be a hormonal teenager? I do. Like it was yesterday. Maybe that’s because I’m still with the same guy I was with when I was sixteen, when the backseat of a car was better than a suite at the Ritz. When entire movies went unseen because the theater was dark. I look at him and feel like I’m sixteen again, so yeah, I remember what it was like.
If you don’t remember, then I suspect you’re blocking it out because you simply can’t stand the thought of your own children having sex. And really, that’s unfair to them. Your hang-ups are going to stop you from preparing your kids for wonderful things, because you’re teaching your children that their natural feelings are dirty, and should be suppressed or hidden rather than explored.
The goal is to raise children, not keep them.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.