I don’t handle change well. It has to chase me like a rabid dog and then I fight it, tooth and nail. But this summer of 2013 is Transition Summer and, as it is with so much that is child-related, I have no choice but to face it, square on.
The tween, soon to be teen, has announced that most of his post-half-day camp time will be spent with his friends. That means away from his little sister and me. That means away from our family “pack.” That means new rules for him and challenges for me.
The family LAW that we’ve decided will guide his teenage years is this: freedom is to be earned. It is not a God-given right. If the freedom is not handled responsibly, much like the boy’s cellphone and computer, it will be taken away. Thus was born Teen Rule #1:
I must know where you are at all times. That will be a destination (i.e. a restaurant, friend’s house, or the town pool) along a specified route (for example, Main Street to 2nd Street). “Walking the town” or “hanging at the 7-11” are not appropriate. You are on call as long as you are away from me. That’s why you have a cellphone. I will attempt to reach you a maximum of three times, either by calling or by texting. If you do not respond, I will come and get you. When I do, I will embarrass you SO badly you will never, ever live it down. (I’ve already done this on a mild basis since it was his first offense. I showed up at his friend’s house and had “a private word with him.” Judging by the fear in the boy’s eyes, I am confident that it won’t happen again. Still, I’ve loaded a few of his baby pictures into my phone…just in case.)
Teen Rule #2: As much as I want your friends around, I am not their primary food source or bank. Kids who come with us to the pool or on day trips should be packing either their own snacks to share and/or have their own money to buy food with. We’ll share some of what we have, but I am not feeding or carrying water for all of your friends. I do not have an unlimited food budget. Similarly, companions should be prepared to pay admission for theme parks, etc. I make sure my son is prepared, I would hope that others do the same. Since I do not know some of these parents, Junior, it is up to you to communicate this to your peeps.
Teen Rule #3: There WILL be a designated end-time to all gatherings. This rule came about recently when two of my son’s friends came over for the afternoon…and didn’t leave. Neither kid asked when he should go. No parents called or texted their kid. Even after my son told his pals that they needed to be picked up by 5:30, no parent came. My husband angrily wound up postponing his dinner to take the boys home. Sorry. As much as I really want my son’s friends to hang out here, this will not happen again. We are not doormats.
Teen Rule #4: Son, you are on a budget. Going out costs moola and we, your parents, are not a bank. I’ll float you $5 a week – after that you’ll have to use some of that well-hoarded allowance we give you.
Rule #5 is for me: let him go. Trust that the boy we’re raising has a good head on his shoulders. His request for freedom is an opportunity to guide him through the murky waters of being a teen. Sure, he’s going to mess up, but I need to let him make mistakes while doing my best to protect him from danger so he can learn from those mistakes. And I need to reassure him that he can always come to me for guidance.
Both Junior and I understand that these rules are not set in stone. They may need to be tweaked here and there. But one thing is clear: my reluctance to embrace change isn’t going to stop my son from growing up. His Transition Summer is also a summer of transition for me as I learn how to give up being the mother of a little boy and become the mother of a teen. It’s an opportunity for both of us to grow.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog.