By Mindy Gallagher
Am I the ONLY one? No, seriously, am I the only one? That is the question that plagued me throughout much of my kids’ middle and high school years.
First I would be angry. Then later, after the anger, came the guilt and that pit in your stomach that parents know all too well: am I screwing up my kids for life?? Am I doing the wrong thing? Why don’t other parents feel like I do? Am I the only one saying “No”?
It is exhausting being the parent of teenagers. Their demands seem constant. Can I go . . . ? Everyone else’s parents are letting them . . . No one else has such an early curfew . . . Don’t you trust me?
We had rules, curfews, and expectations. Sometimes, it felt like we were either the only parents who did these things — or the only parents who enforced them.
Many times saying “Yes” seemed so much easier. But we stayed the course, even though I doubted and second guessed myself, so often wondering “Is there anyone else out there who thinks like me?”.
Then would come the voice of reason, my husband: “It doesn’t matter what other parents say or do. We’re doing what’s right for our kid. Why do you care?”
Seems so simple now, looking back. Why did I care? Why did I obsess over so many parenting decisions, simply because others weren’t doing the same thing?
Because I didn’t want to be the only one. It’s tough to stand alone.
But I am still standing and so are my kids.
My kids survived. They are fine. All are in college or have graduated (with a job I might add!). They all had friends, participated in school activities, and each was the captain of a high school sports team — yes, really — even though they missed out on all those high school sleepovers!
I remember, as though it was last week, freshman year homecoming. A huge fight with one of my sons over the after homecoming (after the after-party) sleepover because of course homecoming and an “after-party” were not enough. (Seriously, you’re 15! What is this, Hollywood? But I digress). No. We would pick him up at 1:30 a.m., well beyond his curfew I might add. Ugh, the pit in my stomach. The dread of driving up the “after-party” house driveway to pick him up. Ready for the anger, complaints. Be strong. When I asked “So how was it?” The response: “Eh, it was boring.”
Looking back it seems simple. Do what’s best for your child, your family’s rules, values. Simple yes, but easy? Not so much. I admit, it is hard to be called the “Sleepover Ogre” or the “Tech Tyrants” (and those are some of the more polite ones). And I’m sure it wasn’t easy for my kids either.
But we survived and you will too.
Something else I’ve learned throughout the years: You are not the only one. There’s a silent majority out there who stand with you. Honestly, they are there. They’re just, well, a lot more silent. I don’t know why we’re so quiet? Maybe it’s not cool to say you have strict rules, expectations, and consequences for your kid. Or maybe they are like my husband and feel it’s no one else’s business. But they are out there.
I remember sitting in the bleachers for one of my son’s high school games and a friend timidly sharing how she wouldn’t allow her oldest son to drive an hour to a friend’s lake house. “We offered to drive him, but we’re not comfortable with him being a passenger in a car with a group of young drivers.” Guess what, he’s more than fine today. Another friend recently told me how her girls weren’t allowed to watch television during the week. Guess what, they’re fine too.
I know, it’s hard to hear about all the kids who were at the sleepover, or the party, or the concert, except of course your kid. But your kid is probably not telling you about the kids who weren’t allowed to go or had to be home by curfew. But they are out there.
Trust me. You are not alone.
Mindy Gallagher is social media manager for Your Teen Magazine.