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Being a Better Parent (10, 11 & 12)

August 13, 2010

Still working to catch up to the Be a Better Parent Challenge at Motherhood Uncensored, and exploring what these challenges may mean to the parenting of teens, or if they apply at all.  Or whether it’s helpful to apply them.  So far I think they can be applied, with some tweaking.

Challenge No. 10 – “Be the Fun One”

Because it’s summer, I feel like I’m okay here.  Well, maybe for some other reasons, too (i.e., Buffy the Vampire Slayer!)  It’s tough because the girls don’t always define “fun” like their parents do anymore.  And they don’t always define it as anything that involves the parents.

But this summer, I’ve taken them both – on separate occasions – to the beach with friends (leaving me with nothing but a book, but they were good books), WD and I took them to Six Flags (they had a blast), and to the Cape (another blast), and to a few fun and different restaurants.

When the kids are in school, they have so many responsibilities, activities and plans that come out of that –  they don’t have much more time than I do.  They may even have less.  Non-summer “Fun” that we try to fit in:

  • Friday is Ice Cream and Movie night.  For a while, Lemon would turn down plans for the sake of our tradition.  But once she hit 8th grade, I think she was at a friend’s house or at the movies more often than at home on Friday nights.  And once she isn’t planning on being home, Mouse will say, “oh, then I’ll go sleep at ____’s house!”  And then WD and I get movie night, and we aren’t limited to PG-13 ratings (or the occasional “it’s rated R, but by 1985’s standards, so it’s probably cleaner than today’s PG-13!”)
  • Small weekend outings — Lemon loves a sushi lunch.  That is a lot of “fun” for her.  Mouse likes to get a pedicure.  These are quick, easy and local things that I can suggest either on one side of an errand, or just to fill in some time on a Saturday at-home.
  • Large weekend outings — WD and I always fantasize about having one “family time” day on the weekends.  Where we do a day trip – even if just a drive – or we go for a hike, etc.  We have never made this happen on a regular basis, but we have done things like: a walk to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, a bike ride to and along the Charles River, a trip to the Museum of Science to see the Harry Potter Exhibition.  We have ideas for more fun, too.  Hikes, trips to Walden Pond (not too-too far from us), a day kayaking on the Charles river.  Again, their schedules and individual plans are a reason why this is tough.
  • T.V. splurges.  We aren’t huge t.v. people.  We do watch movies, and we do it enough that we felt perfectly justified in a joint Christmas/Birthday gift of a gigantic flat screen t.v. that still occasionally makes our eyes pop at how beautiful it is.  But aren’t people who have the t.v. on all day, and we don’t have a ton of shows that we watch.  So when WD or I pull out a dvd of a show that we think the kids would like, it’s a lot of fun.  One summer is was Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island.  The next was the original Star Trek.  Then Monty Python’s Flying Circussss (Mouse comes out with the best quotes at the most appropriate times …), and now the girls and I are working our way through Buffy.  (Judge away, I don’t care.)

But we obviously can’t always do fun things.  their rooms look like their closet threw up all over them, they have school projects, we have work to get done.  But we try to sprinkle it in, and we try to be sure that all of their fun doesn’t come from their friends – that we can still have it as a family.

Challenge No. 11 – You’re not Perfect

No kidding.  If there’s anything teenagers teach you, it’s that you’re not perfect.

I’ve really never been shy about saying “sorry” if I fly off the handle.  These days, it’s less about “flying off the handle” and more about “jumping to conclusions,” or “making assumptions,” or “deciding without having all the information.”  If I feel that I’ve acted badly, I don’t mind backtracking.  However – again – it can be trickier as the kids are older.  Backtracking because I made a bad decision could be read as “the rules aren’t constants.”  The girls are very logical.  Lemon, especially, can be very creative in her arguments, justifications, and reasoning.  If I constantly let her show me the error of my ways, then I’m being a doormat.

But no – I’m not perfect.  And I have no problem saying so.

Challenge No. 12 – Play What They Want to Play

Does this mean that when my daughter asks me if I will be the parent escort to take a bunch of 14 yos to a rated R movie (MacGruber) that I should say yes?  Or when my younger daughter complains that we don’t ski, and that we should start skiing, that I should agree?

What they want has totally changed from the days where the last thing I wanted to do was play another board game (and even that was the earlier elementary school days).   Or that awful card game Slamwich.

If they do ask to play a game now, I try very hard to say yes.  Because I have this constant feeling that I have all of 10 minutes left with them.  Whether it’s because they will stop wanting to do anything with me, or because they’ll be off at college.

It has also come to where a lot of what they want to do, and ask me to do with them, is watch t.v.  Especially Lemon.  She loves to watch the Office, and 30 Rock.  She also loves SNL, and gets very angry when I can’t stay awake for the whole thing.   And I’m really not down with a lot of t.v.  I’ve said I will allow one “show” that they watch each week (meaning week days).  I don’t think Mouse took me up on it, but Lemon rationalized that if her “one show” should be “one hour,” and she chose 30  Rock and the Office.  If her homework load was too heavy on Thursdays, we DVR’d it, and she watched it later.  But “Mom, can we watch some Buffy!?” is likely less of a “do something with me, Mommy!” and more of a “how can I get more t.v. into my week?”

Only one more to catch up.  I’ll do that later today, after I finish some work!

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