By Lisa Barr
Outgoing text: 2 p.m. coffee? Miss you xoxo Lis
Reply text: I’m good for 2:30 xoxo Ryan
Oh NO. Damn! I just texted my close friend’s high-school aged son, whose contact information is right under hers. Of course, I did the immediate repair, sending a duo of I’M SUCH AN IDIOT texts out to both Mom & Almost-16-year-old Son. It was a good laugh interspersed with a few jokes. Let me just say, I’ve done this Accidental SEND to someone’s son on more than a few occasions.
I knew that word of my transgression would get back to his group of friends coupled with M.I.L.F. jokes, and then it would finally end up in the lap of his very close friend, aka: my daughter, who will be mortified by her Totally Embarrassing Mother.
(And yes, for the record … that is exactly what happened.)
This little incident made me think a lot about the M.I.L.F. Factor, and even moreso my relationship to my kids’ friends.
In an age of no more “Hi, Mrs. Barr” — but “Hey Lisa” — the casualness of the younger generation to our generation has shifted the Kid-2-Parent dynamic.
I know I’m not alone when I say that we — our generation of parents — would never have hung out/talked to/related to our friends’ parents the way our kids do. The relationships back then were so much more formal.
Case in point: I ran into my old neighbor (from where I grew up) at a restaurant a few months ago. She was a Mom of four kids, and now she’s a Grandma. I said, “Hi, Mrs. Stevenson, how are you?” She looked at me and laughed, “You’re a woman now, Lisa. You can call me Elaine.” I said, “Okay, Mrs. Stevenson.”
I just couldn’t do it.
When we were kids, no one called parents by their first names. As trite as it sounds, I think the demise of the Mr. & Mrs. X Days have led to a level of looseness, and belief that our kids’ friends are somehow our friends; and our kids’ friends think that we are their friends.
And given that we are all “friends” — the playing field is leveled. The result: The hierarchy of respect gets lost in translation.
In an age when Moms don’t look like Moms — let’s be honest, many Moms today in their 40s are smokin’ hot — even better (great shape, stylish, more confident) than when they were in their 20s. Unlike our Moms (who, if they exercised, they either played Tuesday/Thursday tennis matches or did a once-a-week morning water aerobics), we work out big-time all the time, we yoga, we do every anti-aging gig in the book, and we dress much younger than they did at our same age. Hence, first comes M.I.L.F., then comes Cougar, and with it, the emergence of a New Age sexual vocabulary to describe this generation of Moms.
And yeah, it’s flattering, if you happen to hear that someone years younger than you calls you HOT. And yet … how we do we maintain our ageless-ness, and still command the Respect Your Elder amongst our kids’ friends?
The truth is you may want to LOOK like a MILF, but you don’t want to BE a MILF.
It is well documented that the key to Good Parenting is to act like a Parent and not like a friend. Confidante – YES; BFF – No way. And the Cardinal Rule — especially in the Teenage Playbook — DO NOT BE FRIENDS WITH THEIR FRIENDS — especially on the Internet. It annoys and angers them if you “comment” or “like” a photo etc. Your kids don’t want you crossing their lines, invading their space. Yes, they want you to be the cool parent, but not too cool. Yes, your daughters want you to look great, but not to wear THEIR clothes (though they seem to have free rein in your closet). Parenting is such a fine line these days — you can do this, but not too much of that.
I LOVE being the go-to house where my kids’ friends congregate. I did not have this growing up — and I absolutely relish stocking my pantry with crap, and knowing what each of their friends’ likes to eat. A group of my eldest daughter’s high school guy friends love a particular plastic cup I have with a built-in straw. I have at least 30 of these cheapy cups in a rainbow assortment of colors, and when these boys (almost men) come over, they bypass the “grown-up” glasses and go for the stepped-up Sippy Cup with chocolate milk.
A few weeks ago I had an epiphany as four 16 year olds towered over me while slurping milk and asking me advice: I’m not a M.I.L.F., I thought to myself — I’m a M.I.L.K. (Mom I’d Like to Know)!
Here are some of the defining characteristics comprising a M.I.L.K.:
1. A Mom your kids’ friends can depend on.
2. A Mom to whom they can ask advice … about boys, girls, drama, teacher/school issues, whatever … and know they will walk away with something good to take home and ponder later.
3. A Mom who puts safety first. I have two in junior high, and one in high school — an age where drinking and hooking up (HUs in Facebook-speak) is just another day at the office. There are No Eyes Wide Shut here when it comes to the Teenage Experience. My kids and their friends know if they are in trouble, I will pick them up any time of day or night — safety first, consequences after. But I’m clear — no secrets. I will make sure you’re safe, but your parents WILL know what happened.
4. A Mom whose home is open, warm and welcoming. Yes, go raid my fridge and take what you want, and eat the junk in my pantry — it’s meant for you. Hang in my basement, watch sports on my couch. BUT, if you abuse my home (sneak in alcohol, break things on purpose) — this privilege is revoked.
5. If you need a ride, if you are in a bind (can’t get there/can’t get home), and I can do it — I will do it.
A M.I.L.K. knows that kids may want to be your bud, but they need a Parent more. The older the kids get the more boundaries they need. If you are a Parent-Friend — not a Parent-Parent — fuhgettabout it, your kids’ friends will take advantage of you — and by the way, so will your kids. There will be nothing built-in to stop them when they need some internal brakes. The cliched kid fear of “I can’t … My Parents Will Kill Me …” is the one card they should all have, as opposed to “Yeah, let’s do it. My parents are so cool, they won’t care.”
We all desire eternal youth. Most of us do not want to turn into our parents. And yet here we are … So open your home and heart, but act 40 not 14. Give boundaries, even reminding your kids’ friends (no matter the age) to help your kids clean up before they go home (I bring down a garbage bin and say, “Fill it up, guys”) — and they will do it automatically whenever they come over. And the beauty is your kids will return the favor when you send them out into the world.
Truthfully, my mother-in-law is Mrs. Barr (or Grandma), and I’m most comfortable when the kids call me Lisa, but there is a price to be paid with casualness, so be aware.
Yes, as the lyrics go: “Stacy’s Mom Has Got It Going On” … but believe me, NOT for Stacy.
I make mistakes all the time — but I do know one thing for sure: Be a Parent. Priceless.
And MILK it … Share in the fun but lay down the law — and I promise your kids’ friends will not only like you, but more importantly, they will respect you AND your home.< back